Royle axes Armstrong and Bart-Williams

IPSWICH will make new offers to seven of their nine out-of-contract stars.The exceptions are midfielder Chris Bart-Williams and striker Alun Armstrong, who have played their last games for the club.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH will make new offers to seven of their nine out-of-contract stars.

The exceptions are midfielder Chris Bart-Williams and striker Alun Armstrong, who have played their last games for the club.

Armstrong's departure will not come as a shock, since he has been available on a free transfer for some time.

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Bart-Williams, who will be 30 next month, was initially signed on loan from Charlton in September last year.

His arrival coincided with Town crashing to the bottom of the First Division, but he played a leading role in the revival that followed.

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The former Leyton Orient, Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest player helped the club climb clear of the drop zone and head towards the play-offs.

He created such a favourable impression at Portman Road that Ipswich made the move permanent in mid-December, taking over his contract until the end of the season.

But Bart-Williams managed only a handful of senior appearances after the turn of the year when he was laid low with back trouble.

He made a total of 28 first team appearances, the most recent of which was in the home leg of the play-off semi-final against West Ham, and scored twice.

Town boss Royle will now await answers from skipper Jim Magilton, vice-captain Jermaine Wright, Fabian Wilnis, John McGreal, Chris Makin, Richard Naylor and teenage goalkeeper Lewis Price.

Royle said today: “All the players who have been offered new deals have until June 30, when their current contracts expire, to decide.”

The Town boss also revealed today that he has already made moves to bring in two new players for the 2004-2005 campaign.

Royle, who is planning a series of face-to-face meetings with players, said Ipswich are no longer in a position where they will have to unload players for unrealistic sums.

He said: “There were a lot of good things about last season and while we're certainly not financially flush it's a fact that we are no longer vulnerable to silly offers.

“There is a wind of change continuing to blow through the game, with chairmen, managers and players all having to take a common sense approach.

“I have made preliminary approaches for two players I would like to take on board next season, but that's not to say that anyone is definitely coming in.

“It is still very early days. I have spoken to the agents of two players to register an interest and we will see where it goes from there.”

Royle has spent the last few days, since Town's play-off KO by West Ham last Tuesday, working on plans for the new campaign.

His decision to offer new deals to the bulk of his out-of-contract players is no surprise, although there is no guarantee that all will accept.

While most will be happy to extend their stays, Wright must weigh up Town's proposal against any others that come his way.

Premiership outfit Southampton are said to be keeping tabs on the 28-year-old midfielder and I understand they are not alone.

There is no way that Ipswich can compete financially with top-flight clubs, so it is possible that Wright has played his last game for the club.

Royle was offering no clues as to the identity of the two players he has short-listed as possible reinforcements, but last week he said his priority for the new campaign was to bolster his squad with a central defender and target man.

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