Royle backs Bent for World Cup place

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle is backing ex-Town striker Darren Bent to clinch a place in England's World Cup squad.

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle is backing ex-Town striker Darren Bent to clinch a place in England's World Cup squad, writes Mel Henderson.

Royle believes the 22-year-old will win his first senior cap in tomorrow's international friendly against Uruguay at Anfield and that he is capable of going all the way to Germany in the summer.

Bent moved from Ipswich to Charlton last summer in a £2.5m deal and Town stand to net a further £200,000 if he makes a competitive appearance for his country.

Royle said: “At the moment I would say Darren has one foot on the gangway. It is now up to him to take his chance when it comes and book his seat on the plane.”

Bent has featured in Sven Goran Eriksson's squad on previous

occasions this season after making an impressive start to his Valley career.

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He has averaged a goal every two Premiership games - 13 in 26 - this season and claimed a further four in six FA and Carling Cup appearances.

Bent's overall total of 17 for Charlton is only two short of his tally in the entire 2004-2005 campaign for Ipswich.

Royle added: “Darren is certainly worth his chance on his record this season. He has proved himself to be a top-class finisher.

“I'm sure Sven has it in his mind to take a look at Darren tomorrow. He is one of a few fringe players that the manager will be keen to see in action.

“He knows what other players can do. If Michael Owen is fit I am sure it will be him and Wayne Rooney up front for England, but we are not over-blessed with goalscorers.

“The jury's still out on Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe doesn't seem to play regularly enough for Tottenham. There is a chance there for Darren.

“We are all very pleased for him - and proud too. He's done a little bit better than I expected to be honest, but he got off to a good start and although he has slowed down when Charlton have stuttered a bit you can't argue with his record.

“Darren stays relatively injury-free and with his pace Sven could see him as an ideal substitute to bring on against tiring legs. He has always been good in the air. We used to get on at him to be more aggressive and to attack the ball in that area, and I've noticed he has scored a lot of good headers.

“If the delivery is right, Darren has shown he can score goals at a high level and tomorrow's game is too great an opportunity for Sven not to give him a chance.”

Meanwhile, back at Portman Road, three senior Town stars - Fabian Wilnis, Richard Naylor and Jason De Vos - will not join in training until Thursday as they nurse injuries.

Wilnis came off worst in a collision of knees with Naylor in the first half of Saturday's 2-0 home win over Leicester and the Dutchman is rated the most doubtful of the trio.

De Vos has an arthritic toe, which requires rest from time to time, but both he and Naylor are likely starters when Town travel to take on play-off rivals Preston this weekend.

With on-loan striker Ricardo Fuller suspended for that game, Royle is hoping that hamstring victim Alan Lee will be available, although he admitted today: “It's only an outside chance.”

n Town reserves are in action against Southampton tonight at Staplewood, kick-off 7pm.

n Town striker Dean Bowditch has agreed to a second month on loan at League Two outfit Wycombe Wanderers, where he has so far scored one goal in seven league appearances, two of which were as a substitute.

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