Premiership now for Town?

IPSWICH Town finished 2006/07 with a bang, but Blues fans will spend the summer wondering whether they can keep it going next season.Will manager Jim Magilton be able to move the club a big step forward and seriously challenge for a Premier League place?

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Town finished 2006/07 with a bang, but Blues fans will spend the summer wondering whether they can keep it going next season.

Will manager Jim Magilton be able to move the club a big step forward and seriously challenge for a Premier League place?

Or will it prove to be a third disappointing campaign in a row and another mid-table Coca-Cola Champ-ionship finish?

The last 12 games - after the Ipswich management sat down and put plans into operation to ensure last season did not just wither away - have been encouraging.

Any lingering doubts about relegation were extinguished and a total of 62 points were accrued - six more than 2005/06.

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Blues fans have generally remained loyal and they provided an exciting atmosphere for what was little more than a mid-table end-of-season squabble with Cardiff at Portman Road on Sunday.

It brought memories of what it could be like with something concrete to celebrate.

A rocking Portman Road is something to behold - and it will happen again.

The public are right behind Magilton and there are reasons to be cheerful.

He has taken to managing like a duck to water, not quite in the Roy Keane manner, but not too far behind.

From classroom pupil to headmaster in one move is a big jump.

He has assembled a squad that is hungry, keen and right behind him.

They all have the potential to improve - apart from a few exceptions - and with the addition of the likes of Francis Jeffers and Richard Wright, there is cause to believe that the current optimism will be proved correct.

However, it will not be easy. The Sheffield Wednesdays and Plymouths of the Championship world also finished well - and they will be feeling just as positive about 2007/08 as Town currently do.

The biggest drawback to clubs like Ipswich is the extra wage bills that clubs relegated from the Premier League will be able to boast.

This gives them a terrific advantage with a £12million budget as opposed to a £6m one.

Therefore, there are plenty of obstacles to overcome.

Compared to 2005/06 when, on reflection, Town had a rather tired feel about them, last season was a definite move forward.

History confirms Ipswich are likely to spend three or four years every decade in the top flight - and if they don't make it next season the one after is a good bet.

To be frank, it would be asking a hell of a lot to have Town players parading round the streets of Ipswich this time next year with promotion secured.

However, inside two more seasons the Cornhill will be filled with blue and white and Magilton will have the right to be considered in the same light as other great Town managers - Sir Alf Ramsey, Sir Bobby Robson, John Lyall and George Burley.

The Town boss today reflected on this season and said: “We finished on a high but now we must back it up.

“We must work hard during pre-season and ensure we are fully prepared to start next season as we

finished this one.

“I am sure we will continue to have our ups and downs, but with a number of additions during the summer I am optimistic about the future.

“My first season saw us riddled with inconsistency, and we finished where we deserved.

“I am not happy about that, but I am encouraged by the signs.

“If we had the belief we now have for the whole of the campaign, we would have finished higher - and this is what we must ensure happens.

“It was a case of missing too many opportunities, but we can take heart from sending our supporters away for the summer in positive mood.”

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