Kneesy does it for Royle

BATTLING Joe Royle today brushed aside pain from the umpteenth operation of a lifetime in football to declare: “I'm ready to give my all to get Ipswich Town back to the Premiership.

BATTLING Joe Royle today brushed aside pain from the umpteenth operation of a lifetime in football to declare: “I'm ready to give my all to get Ipswich Town back to the Premiership.”

The Blues supremo, who underwent pioneering surgery on a badly-damaged right knee last week, was relaxed and confident as he spoke exclusively to The Evening Star from his hospital bedside in Suffolk.

Royle, 56, was in typically upbeat mood and cracking jokes with hospital staff after undergoing delicate surgery to replace a knee joint. Next year he will return to have the other one done.

Town fans have long worried about football legend Royle, the last English manager to lift the FA Cup, whose walks to and from the dugout have become increasingly laboured and painful in the last year.

But the Town manager, due to be handed back into the care of his devoted wife, Janet, at their Ipswich home any day now, swept aside concerns for himself.

“I am focused on the job of getting Ipswich back into the Premiership and I'm raring to go. It's no secret that I believe the Championship will be a tougher division this year but we have some good youngsters breaking through and I have a lot of faith in our new strikers, who will bring us goals,” he said.

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In the transfer market, Royle's hands are tied by continuing tight purse-strings after the club's fall into - and escape from - administration following their last exit from the Premiership, but both he and ITFC directors will keep their options open, particularly if a deal can be struck for the right type of defender.

Meanwhile, he's looking for some of the club's exciting youngsters to make a first-team breakthrough - and for those who have recently joined the first team squad to take on bigger roles after the departure of some Town's star names in the early summer.

On his own current plight Royle said: “Give me a week or so and I'll be up and about again. This is no big deal.

“I'm no stranger to the operating theatre. I must have had dozens of ops over the years, some when I was playing and others after I quit to go into management.

“My knees packed up some time ago and I have just been waiting for the right time to go into hospital and have the first one done.

“It's a bit stiff at the moment, which is to be expected, but I'm already feeling a lot better than I was a few days ago.”

Royle has put on a brave face since he arrived in Ipswich in October 2002 as George Burley's successor.

His happy-go-lucky personality camouflaged the considerable pain and discomfort he was feeling in both knee joints.

Doctors inspected the damage before deciding he would need plastic replacements and Royle is now half-way to becoming his old self again.

He grinned: “I'm especially looking forward to walking along the touchline at Portman Road and not feeling the pain, but it is kneesy does it for a while.”

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