Joe's tribute to old pal

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle today paid tribute to childhood pal and management foe Steve Coppell.The pair will be in direct opposition on Sunday when Town travel to take on high-flying Reading at the Madejski Stadium in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle today paid tribute to childhood pal and management foe Steve Coppell.

The pair will be in direct opposition on Sunday when Town travel to take on high-flying Reading at the Madejski Stadium in front of the Sky Sports cameras.

But that won't affect a friendship that stretches back to their time as pupils at Quarry Bank Grammar School in Liverpool.

Theirs is an alliance that has stood the test of time, unaffected by the fact that they were on-the-field rivals in several Manchester derbies.

City, and Royle, may have enjoyed senior status in those days, but right now ex-United star Coppell is looking down on him from a lofty second spot in the Championship.

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And the Ipswich chief isn't the least bit surprised to see the Royals tucked in behind leaders Sheffield United in pursuit of the two automatic promotion places.

He said: “Look at Steve's career in management and he has a very impressive record. His teams are always well organised and wherever he's gone he has done well.

“The only exception is Manchester City, but he only stayed for six games 10 years ago so you can hardly count that!

“Steve's teams get the ball down and pass it. They were just one place off the play-offs last season, mainly because they fell away at one point when they suffered through a lack of goals.

“When they went out in the summer and signed Leroy Lita from Bristol City for £1 million, and bearing in mind they still have Dave Kitson on board, logic said they would again be in the frame.”

Royle and Coppell are just two of several well known Quarry Bank former pupils, with John Lennon, comedian Les Dennis, actor Derek Nimmo and Football Association chief executive Brian Barwick among their other famous old boys.

But reminiscing will come second to the quest for valuable league points when the pair are reunited on Sunday.

Reading, whose unbeaten league and cup run now extends to 13 games, will be firm favourites.

But Royle is in upbeat mood ahead of the game as he indulges in the rare luxury of considering his selection options.

He said: “We are going into this game on the back of a good result, if not a great performance over the entire 90 minutes, in our last game against Crewe.

“We are still on the tails of the leading few teams and the feeling within the club is that we haven't had the continuity you need to have any chance of achieving consistency.

“But the squad is that much stronger now that injuries have cleared up and new players have come in.”

As you would expect of someone who started out in management 23 years ago, Royle is not kidding himself into thinking his team are entirely problem-free.

Indeed, they have a bit of catching up to do. With 17 points banked from their first 12 games of the current campaign, they are seven adrift of last term's tally at the same stage.

But given the close season disruption and the early-season injuries that further decimated his squad, Royle is optimistic of better times ahead.

He added: “We are still looking to carry more of a goal threat, but the return of Nicky Forster and the arrival of Adam Proudlock will give us that.

“Take away the Preston game, where we had to put out a weakened back four, plus the one at Burnley, where their three goals came from a deflection, a free-kick and a corner, and we have defended better.

“We've still made what I consider to be a very good start to the season. There's definitely something to build on.”