New deal for captain Jim

JIM Magilton is set to cap a magnificent season as Ipswich Town skipper with a new 12-month contract.The midfield general, who will be 35 in May, is expected to stay with the Blues until the summer of 2005 at least.

By Elvin King

JIM Magilton is set to cap a magnificent season as Ipswich Town skipper with a new 12-month contract.

The midfield general, who will be 35 in May, is expected to stay with the Blues until the summer of 2005 at least.

And if his efforts on the field help lead Town to promotion the former Northern Ireland international could have another campaign of Premiership football.

Magilton, who signed a one-year deal last close-season, has found a new lease of life since taking over from Matt Holland as Ipswich captain.

His influence and urgings on and off the field have impressed everybody at Portman Road and a new one-year deal is due to be put to him.

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He is held in such high esteem that an offer of an extension to his contract is almost inevitable.

Manager Joe Royle said today: "There is no doubting Jim's worth to our club. He is a very influential player.

"There are few players who can influence matches in professional football these days and very few in the First Division. Jim is one of them."

Magilton was left out of the starting line-up for the first time this season when Ipswich beat Derby County 3-0 in the FA Cup last Saturday.

The match was heading nowhere until Royle brought on Magilton and Shefki Kuqi early in the second half, with the former immediately having a hand in Richard Naylor's opening goal with a perfectly-placed free-kick.

"It was obvious that we were missing some order in midfield without Jim," added Royle. "I thought I would have to fight him to leave him out as he so wants to be involved all the while."

Magilton is certain to return to the Ipswich team for Saturday's game at Reading when Ipswich could well be without striker Darren Bent.

The foot injury Bent suffered against Derby is worse than first feared and he is rated less than 50-50 by Royle.

Dean Bowditch will be in contention after impressing Royle when he came on late against Derby, but Pablo Counago and Kuqi are the likely frontrunners if Bent fails to make it.

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