Joe: Prove you can do it

IPSWICH star Shefki Kuqi will be going nowhere until boss Joe Royle secures a replacement.Royle's striker search continues, despite yesterday's dramatic events when the Finnish international changed his mind about a move to Bundesliga outfit Hansa Rostock.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH star Shefki Kuqi will be going nowhere until boss Joe Royle secures a replacement.

Royle's striker search continues, despite yesterday's dramatic events when the Finnish

international changed his mind about a move to Bundesliga outfit Hansa Rostock.

After first indicating he would fly to Germany to discuss a transfer - and Town confirmed they would not be looking for a fee - Kuqi indicated to Royle that he preferred to stay put for the time being.

Royle said: “Shefki decided he didn't want to go out there on trial and that's his prerogative. There is no chance of us doing a deal until I can find a replacement.”

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Clearly, with the big kick-off just three days away, Royle wants to keep disruption to an absolute minimum.

He said: “When I spoke to Shefki about going to Daewoo Royals in South Korea, which he also turned down, it would have left me four or five weeks in which to sign another striker.

“Since then one or two avenues have closed, for a number of reasons including injuries to players I had in mind, so things have changed.”

Kuqi will be in the squad for the opening game of the season at home to Gillingham on Saturday and has been challenged by Royle to hold down a regular place.

The Town manager added: “Shefki has been playing well and I have told him that if he continues playing the way he did against Newcastle last week there will be a place for him in the team.”

One report suggested Sunderland might be interested in acquiring Kuqi's services, which was news to Royle, who said: “I'm not sure I would let him go there on a free.

“You have to look after number one, so why should we help one of our rivals?

“Shefki actually loves it here, but he was disappointed that he wasn't in the side at the end of last season.

“What I have said to him is this 'Give us the form you showed when you first came here and you'll be in the team'.”

Royle has players in mind to reinforce his attack and Kuqi's decision will not stop him pursuing various other avenues of enquiry.

But it will probably mean that French trialist Pascal Nouma will be returning home at the end of the week without a contract offer.

The 32-year-old made a 30-minute appearance in Town's 2-1 defeat of Osasuna on Monday and has been training with them since then.

Without a suitable fixture in which to give Nouma another run, however, Royle is in no position to offer him a full-time deal.

Meanwhile, skipper Jim Magilton is struggling to be fit for Saturday's eagerly awaited opening-day clash.

A scan has shown his thigh injury to be more serious than first thought and Royle explained: “Jim is our biggest doubt. He can train but cannot really kick the ball long.

“We must decide whether to use him in a limited way or to give him the full ten days. We have 46 league games to play, so we won't be taking any risks.

“Jim is a massive influence for us and he won't play unless he is totally happy with his situation.”

New boys Kevin Horlock and Jason De Vos were both forced off on Monday with knee problems and Royle reported: “Kevin is a lot better and confident he will be fine for Saturday.

“Jason's knee is still swollen and sore, but we are certainly not ruling him out, and although Matt Richards missed the Osasuna game he trained with the squad yesterday.”

Full-back Richards suffered a gashed ankle in last week's game against Newcastle, but the indications are that he will be back in action against Gillingham.

Meanwhile, Ipswich reserve keeper Lewis Price, 20, has been named in the Wales Under-21 squad for a game against Latvia in Riga on August 18.

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