Joe sounds Kennedy warning

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle fears one of his old boys will return to haunt him at Portman Road tomorrow.Back in 1999, when he was manager of Manchester City, Royle signed Mark Kennedy from Wimbledon in a bargain £1 million deal.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle fears one of his old boys will return to haunt him at Portman Road tomorrow.

Back in 1999, when he was manager of Manchester City, Royle signed Mark Kennedy from Wimbledon in a bargain £1 million deal.

Two years later, soon after Royle had been surprisingly sacked, City cashed in on the Republic of Ireland international and doubled their money by selling him to Wolves.

Royle said: “Mark had his disciplinary problems at City but he was never a bad boy. He comes from a lovely family and I got on really well with his father.

“He is such a talented player. He was only 18 when Liverpool paid Millwall £2m for him and that said how special he was. It was a big burden for the kid at the time.”

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Ten years on, one-time winger Kennedy is now operating in a central midfield role and captaining a Wolves side Royle believes are equipped to return to the Premiership after a two-year gap.

The Town boss added: “Mark has the talent to get on the ball and control a game. He was outstanding for me the season City were promoted to the Premiership.

“I still have a picture at home of him coming over to celebrate with me after he scored a goal on the last day of the season at Blackburn to clinch an automatic promotion place.

“His understanding with Shaun Goater was amazing. When Mark was on the ball out wide The Goat would come running, knowing the delivery would be just right for him.

“I am pleased for Mark that he appears to have got his career back on track. There is still time for all that wonderful ability of his to come to the fore.”

But despite his high regard for Kennedy, the Ipswich manager will not ask any of his players to carry out a man-marking job on him.

Royle said: “I'm obviously aware of Mark and what he can do. He's a very talented boy, but we will have to do what we are good at and go out to win the game.”

With doubts surrounding so many members of his squad, Royle will wait until the last possible moment before naming his line-up.

Ipswich have just one win from their last nine outings and three points at the expense of Wolves would give Royle & Co a tremendous lift.

But he refused to use his side's bad luck on the injury front as an excuse for their indifferent form, adding: “I don't want to keep bleating about that.

“Our loyal fan base expects more than they have been getting from us and rightly so. We've got to go out and entertain them.

“We haven't had much chance to put out a settled side this season. There has been very little in the way of continuity but expectation has continued to rise, although our transition is still not complete.

“But one thing that hasn't changed in my time here is the ambition that still burns within us all. We are all working tirelessly to get back to the Premiership.”

While Sam Parkin and Jay McEveley are long-term casualties, Ian Westlake and Owen Garvan again miss out, Kevin Horlock (knee), Nicky Forster (knee) and Jimmy Juan (calf) are all rated doubtful.

The failure of Fabian Wilnis' appeal against the red card he received at Cardiff, which leaves Town short of recognised defenders, opens the way for youngster Scott Barron to rejoin the squad.

Of all the casualties, Forster has the better chance of being fit in time, although Royle admitted that 17-year-old Billy Clarke and on-loan Adam Proudlock are both contenders for a striking berth.

Wolves have earned a reputation as draw specialists since boss Glenn Hoddle, for whom tomorrow's game will be his 50th in charge, arrived at Molineux just under a year ago.

They come to Portman Road on the back of two successive goalless stalemates, bringing to 24 the number of games they have drawn under the ex-England manager.

Hoddle's team have lost just one of their last eight games and have kept clean sheets in each of their last four, while only the Championship's top four sides have lost fewer games.

Scottish international striker Kenny Miller has returned to training after tearing a hamstring in the 3-1 defeat at Watford in October, but tomorrow's game is likely to be too soon for him.

Former England star Paul Ince, 38, has not played since August because of a thigh problem, while nine-goal top scorer Carl Cort is still nursing the knee injury that saw him sit out his side's last seven games.

To add to Wolves' woes, Scotland international defender Jackie McNamara will miss the rest of the season after picking up a McEveley-style knee injury just nine games into his Wolves career following a free transfer summer move from Celtic.

But Hoddle was boosted when midfielder Rohan Ricketts, who missed nine games with an ankle injury, made his comeback in a midweek reserve fixture and did well enough to earn a recall to tomorrow's squad.

IPSWICH: Price, Sito, Naylor, De Vos, Richards, Williams, Juan, Horlock, Currie, Magilton, Forster, Proudlock, Bowditch, Peters, Clarke, Barron and Supple.

WOLVES: Postma, Edwards, Craddock, Gyepes, Lescott, Naylor, Kennedy, Cameron, Huddlestone, Anderton, Ganea, Ndah, Clarke, Ross, Ricketts, Olofinjana, Seol and Oakes.

Referee: Keith Stroud (Southampton).

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