Mahon crosses the loyalty gap

THERE will be no divided loyalties for Alan Mahon today as he makes his debut against the club he would have loved to have signed for permanently.The 25-year-old Irish wing wizard will bury all his feelings for Ipswich Town as he looks to fire Wigan nearer to the Premiership in a live-on-Sky match that kicks off at 5.

By Derek Davis

THERE will be no divided loyalties for Alan Mahon today as he makes his debut against the club he would have loved to have signed for permanently.

The 25-year-old Irish wing wizard will bury all his feelings for Ipswich Town as he looks to fire Wigan nearer to the Premiership in a live-on-Sky match that kicks off at 5.35pm.

Mahon completed his switch from Blackburn to Wigan yesterday and told the EADT he hoped Ipswich would join his new club in the top flight next season.

He said: “There is no secret about how I felt about Ipswich and I would have loved to have stayed. But it was not to be, I spoke to Joe (Royle) on Wednesday evening and he wished me well and I really hope Ipswich go on to be promoted.

“In a perfect world Wigan will finish top and Ipswich second, that would suit me just fine.

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“It is one of those funny quirks in football that my very first game for Wigan should be against Ipswich.

“I made some great friends at Ipswich and will enjoy seeing them again. I hope the Ipswich supporters appreciate that as a professional footballer when I cross the line then I will be doing my best for Wigan and looking to take all three points.”

Although Mahon has joined the Latics initially on a free transfer, Rovers will pick up £750,000 should Wigan be promoted.

Backed by wealthy sports entrepreneur Dave Whelan, Wigan were also able to offer Mahon a three-and-a-half year contract, something Ipswich were not in a position to do.

Mahon said: “I understand the situation, they could not afford a package, that was all. We all know about the situation there. It was not down to me at all. I was not looking for the highest bidder or anything like that.

“I told my agent I wanted to be at a good club, playing regular football and Ipswich would have been ideal. But in many ways Wigan are a similar club. They have a great stadium and passionate fans and in Paul Jewell they have a manager I totally respect. They came in for me and offered me a good deal so now I'm looking forward to the challenge.

“I'm excited about playing regular first-team football for a long period and I can see a great future here.”

The former Tranmere and Sporting Lisbon winger made a big impression during his dozen games for Town and he hopes the Ipswich fans will be sympathetic when he trots out at Portman Road today.

He said: “The Ipswich supporters were terrific to me when I was there, as were many people, so I hope they are understanding about the situation.”

Town manager Joe Royle said: “At another time and in another place, I'd love to have signed Alan (Mahon).

“I don't think this game is necessarily set up for him. I don't believe in that sort of thing. I don't care how Alan plays, as long as we win.

“I'm sure he'll get a good Portman Road welcome. He was very popular here.

“He'll get a mention in my team-talk, but not a lot more,” added Royle.

Town are likely to once again start with a three-man back-line with Georges Santos recovered from a shin wound which forced him off at half time at Coventry City.

With Fabian Wilnis out for up to a month with a shoulder injury, Jermaine Wright will go to right wing-back with Matt Richards on the left.

Royle admitted yesterday that he had asked about Birmingham City full-back Jeff Kenna, but he has been playing in the first team recently and it is unlikely that he will be tempted to make a loan move to Portman Road.

Dean Bowditch has been added to the strikers, although it is unlikely Martijn Reuser will start up front again.

Darren Bent, who celebrated his 20th birthday yesterday, is fully recovered from a hamstring problem while Pablo Counago has hit eight of his 12 goals at home.

Chris Bart-Williams has recovered from a back problem and should start, while fellow midfielder Tommy Miller has a very good chance of playing, despite suffering from a recurrence of a thing strain.

Royle said: “Tommy (Miller) did not train yesterday, but we expect him to be fit.”

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