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Joe: It's going to be tough

PUBLISHED: 09:00 30 June 2005 | UPDATED: 05:57 02 March 2010

IPSWICH face an even tougher task to win promotion next season, boss Joe Royle insisted today.

But Royle's reasoning is based on his view that the Championship will be a stronger league, rather than the fact that his first team squad has been depleted.

IPSWICH face an even tougher task to win promotion next season, boss Joe Royle insisted today.

But Royle's reasoning is based on his view that the Championship will be a stronger league, rather than the fact that his first team squad has been depleted.

The Town manager has seen SIX senior stars depart and has so far

managed to sign just TWO new players in strike pair Sam Parkin and Nicky Forster.

“We are still short in numbers,”

conceded Royle, his hands tied, as ever, by the club's inability to indulge in a

pre-season spending spree.

Signing Parkin in a £450,000 deal means Royle can only add further

reinforcements on free transfers or loan deals.

A Portman Road board meeting tomorrow will address the problem and Royle admitted: “When it comes to making any more signings it will all be down to budget.

“I am very pleased to have signed the front men and I am now looking at strengthening the defence.”

Royle confirmed his interest in bringing back David Unsworth, who played 16 games for Town on loan from Portsmouth last season.

The Town boss said: “I haven't spoken to David as yet, but that doesn't mean I won't be.

“Ideally, I would like to sign two defenders and there's another player I also have in mind.”

Royle then turned his thoughts to the forthcoming campaign when, after promotion near

misses in each of the last two seasons, he will hoping it is a case of third time lucky.

He said: “I see it being a stronger league this year, for a number of reasons.

“Firstly, both Crystal Palace and Norwich have come down as stronger sides than when they went up the previous year. They have both made new signings.

“Leeds seem to be spending freely and then you have teams like Wolves, who finished very strongly last time, and Leicester, who are expected to be stronger.

“Also, you have the usual

suspects - Sheffield United, maybe Preston and Derby again, and Reading - and when you look at the promoted clubs there is strength there too.

“Luton and Hull stayed out in front in League One virtually all the way through and Hull have tremendous resources.

“It's the same for the other club who came up, Sheffield Wednesday.”

Some of the gaps in Royle's squad will be occupied by younger players yet to make an impact at Portman Road.

The Town boss has high hopes of Monaco midfielder Jimmy Juan, who is ready to extend last season's five-month loan stint and spend the entire 2005-2006 campaign in Suffolk.

Ex-Arsenal wing ace Dean McDonald, an 18-year-old who wowed reserve crowds and forced his way into the senior squad at the end of last term, is close to signing a one-year deal.

And few fans have seen another exciting teenager, Canadian international Jaime Peters, who chose Ipswich ahead of Premiership giants Chelsea and Manchester United.

Old heads Fabian Wilnis and Jim Magilton are on the verge of committing themselves for a further year, but the Town side could still have an unfamiliar look come August 6 and the season's opening game at home to Cardiff.

Royle added: “We will have virtually half a new side, but while there are still maybe one or two gaps in the squad I can promise supporters we are gearing up for another crack at promotion.

“It looks like being a stronger league, but every one of the players is looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead.”

n Shefki Kuqi finally completed his free-transfer move to Blackburn yesterday, signing a three-year deal at Ewood Park.

The 28-year-old Finland international, last season's top scorer at Portman Road with 20 goals and the fans' Player of the Year, rejected Ipswich's offer of a new contract.

But he said: “I had a great

season at Ipswich and the fans gave me a lot of support, for which I am really grateful.

“I really enjoyed my time there. Ipswich is a great club to be at and I wish them every success.

“But I felt it was time to test myself in the Premiership and I am delighted that Mark Hughes has offered me that chance at Blackburn.”

Ipswich will break new ground when they travel to Hungary for a two-game tour next month. They will face Ujpest on July 22 and Diosgyori two days later.


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