Joe: I want to keep Fuller for good

IPSWICH Town manager Joe Royle today confirmed that he wants striker Ricardo Fuller available to him next season.He would like the 26-year-old Jamaican international to be part of his front-running force in 2006/07.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Town manager Joe Royle today confirmed that he wants striker Ricardo Fuller available to him next season.

He would like the 26-year-old Jamaican international to be part of his front-running force in 2006/07.

But the Town boss fears that this may not be possible.

“We will have to weigh up the financial implications,” said Royle. “Ricardo is on Premiership money at Southampton and we cannot afford to get into any tight financial corners.

“It will be a decision that might have to be dictated by finance.

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“I have seen enough of Ricardo and would love to have him on a permanent basis.

“I would be more than happy to go into next season with a squad including the strike force of Ricardo, Alan Lee, Sam Parkin and Nicky Forster.

“Plus we have the promise of Danny Haynes, Billy Clarke and Dean McDonald.

“There were signs at Preston on Tuesday that Ricardo and Alan can form a potent partnership up front, and this is what we need.

“I know I was a front player, but they are the strength of your team.

“We have used 20 strike pairings this season. I am not a manager looking for excuses, but at a conservative estimate we would be ten points better off and very much in the play-off mix if we had enjoyed the same fortune as last season when Darren Bent and Shefki Kuqi missed very few games.

“And when Shefki missed matches we lost three on the bounce that effectively denied us automatic promotion.”

Fuller will have a vital part to play tomorrow when the Blues visit one of his former clubs Crystal Palace in the last throw of the dice as far as Town's promotion from the Championship is concerned.

Defeat and any hope of ending in a top-six play-off place will surely be finally laid to rest.

Fuller's loan from Southampton runs out after next Saturday's home match against Hull when a decision on his future will be made.

Fuller and Lee are set to be in partnership tomorrow at Selhurst Park, with the latter expected to overcome a bruised foot that saw him miss training yesterday.

Acting skipper Jason De Vos also missed training, but Royle is convinced that a cut over his left eye will not stop the Canada international from starting against Palace, while Jimmy Juan and Ian Westlake are ruled out.

Chris Casement, 18, comes into contention for his first appearance in the senior squad, with Richard Naylor having been sent off at Preston on Tuesday. Clarke, McDonald and Vemund Brekke Skard could all feature on the bench.

“I will take 17 players maximum,” added Royle, who expects a tough match.

“Palace are playing well and have consistent goalscorers. They are a strong side who have brought in players after relegation from the Premiership.

“We have a wonderful fan base at Ipswich and will be playing for them and to keep ourselves in play-off contention.

“We plan to give Palace as many problems as they give us.”