Joe seals extension to Mahon Deal

LOAN star Alan Mahon is set to extend his stay with Ipswich.Clever use of the rule book will enable the injured Blackburn midfielder to play more games than was at first imagined.

By Mel Henderson

LOAN star Alan Mahon is set to extend his stay with Ipswich.

Clever use of the rule book will enable the injured Blackburn midfielder to play more games than was at first imagined.

The Premiership club will recall 25-year-old Mahon while he recovers from the hamstring tear that has seen him sit out Town's last two games.

Once he is fit again, he will return to Portman Road and complete what remains of the permitted 93-day loan spell.

Ipswich boss Joe Royle said: "I have to talk to Alan, but basically this will enable us to get the very maximum out of him.

Most Read

"It will also mean that we are receiving full value for money by getting more games out of him.

"Blackburn have been terrific about this. I'm not just saying this, but they are one of the nicest clubs, a dream to deal with."

Town chairman David Sheepshanks and Rovers chief executive John Williams are tying up the loose ends of the arrangement.

It is not a new idea, with Sheffield United's loan deal for Fulham full-back Jon Harley taking a similar twist.

Mahon was injured early in the live-on-Sky home clash with Stoke on October 18 and latest estimates suggest he will be sidelined for about another month.

His loan spell is now likely to stretch into 2004, meaning the East Anglian derby against Norwich at Portman Road on December 21 will be one of several "extra" games in which he will be able to appear.

Royle added: "It will, in effect, be a new loan and when it restarts we can keep Alan with us until the 93 days are completed.

"We are still talking with Blackburn and we need to see how Alan feels about it, but we are hopeful everything can be agreed."

The arrangement will allow Republic of Ireland international Mahon to receive regular treatment at Portman Road prior to being recalled for a second loan stint.

Meanwhile, Royle is in no hurry to speak to Charlton boss Alan Curbishley and his Sheffield Wednesday counterpart, Chris Turner, about Chris Bart-Williams and Shefki Kuqi.

Both players are on three-month loan deals, with Bart-Williams' position reviewed on a monthly basis, but Royle said today: "We've got time on our hands."

There remains a possibility that Town will retain the services of all three loanees on a permanent basis, but that will depend on the club's financial position at the time.

Further success on the field – Ipswich have only lost one of their last ten league games – and a cash jackpot from the forthcoming share issue will undoubtedly help.

Foreign stars Georges Santos and Pablo Counago, along with Kuqi, are currently enjoying a few days back home in France, Spain and Finland respectively.

Royle said: "They hadn't been home in a while and, to be honest, I thought it would do them good. There won't be many training today – we'll get serious tomorrow."

Fit-again pair John McGreal and Martijn Reuser are likely starters in tomorrow's reserve game at Watford, while Royle may also decide that Tommy Miller would benefit from 45 minutes at Vicarage Road.

Darren Bent should resume full training next week, while Drissa Diallo won't be far behind, but Chris Makin remains at least a fortnight away.

Royle admitted: "In terms of fitness, poor Chris has moved to the back of the queue."