Joe: We're not forcing Santos to go

IPSWICH defender Georges Santos could be Watford-bound – but boss Joe Royle today insisted: "He's not being pushed out."The two clubs have agreed a free transfer deal that would see the relegation-threatened Hornets take over the French star's contract, which still has 15 months to run.

IPSWICH defender Georges Santos could be Watford-bound – but boss Joe Royle today insisted: "He's not being pushed out."

The two clubs have agreed a free transfer deal that would see the relegation-threatened Hornets take over the French star's contract, which still has 15 months to run.

The next move is up to 33-year-old Santos, who was apparently surprised to hear of Town's willingness to allow him to move on ahead of Thursday's transfer deadline.

Royle said: "If Georges decides to stay it is not a problem – he is not being pushed out. I have five senior centre-halves available to me, so I have said that Watford can speak to him.


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"If he goes it will give him a better chance of playing regular first team football, but the final decision will be his."

Santos only heard of the proposed move early last night, once Royle and his Vicarage Road counterpart Ray Lewington had chatted on the phone.

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Royle added: "Ray spoke to me after our game on Saturday, but it was the briefest of chats. It only lasted about 20 seconds and he just wanted to know about Georges' position.

"We spoke again yesterday and Georges is free to discuss things with Ray if he wants to."

Santos was signed last summer after he accepted an invitation to join the club's pre-season tour to Scandinavia, having rejected the offer of a new contract at Grimsby.

The former Tranmere, Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion player initially agreed a two-month deal, but subsequently signed a two-year contract and has so far made 33 first team appearances, scoring once.

Santos is one of many players represented by a company for whom Ipswich legend Mick Mills works.

The former Town and England skipper was today ready to take the player to Watford in order to hear Lewington's proposals first hand.

Royle added: "We have recently added Matt Elliott to our defensive options and we also have John McGreal fit again.

"Then there's Drissa Diallo – he's also fit – and Richard Naylor who is getting fit. We also have Aidan Collins and even Fabian (Wilnis) can play at centre-half.

"Georges has done well for us. He's done fine, up to a point, but the situation has changed with Matt coming in and others being fit."

Royle also admitted that removing Santos from the wage bill might make it possible to add a new face to the squad before the deadline.

He said: "It's still looking unlikely but if Georges went it would certainly help. If one of the players I've been interested in suddenly was available, for example, it would make it a little easier for us."

But the odds remain stacked against Ipswich being able to add to their squad, with Royle using tomorrow night's reserve clash against Watford to give several senior stars a run-out.

Fit-again pair Chris Bart-Williams and Alun Armstrong will join Diallo in the second string – as well as Santos if he decides to stay put.

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