Royle closes in on loan signing

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle was today closing in on a loan signing.The Town boss said: “We're as close as we've ever been - I'm just waiting for a call to say whether we have a deal or not.

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle was today closing in on a loan signing.

The Town boss said: “We're as close as we've ever been - I'm just waiting for a call to say whether we have a deal or not.”

Royle was reluctant to identify the player, although he admitted: “It is someone I have been talking to, as well as his club and his agent, for a few weeks now.

“The reason I don't want to say too much is that if it comes to nothing it just looks like a puff of dust and we're no further forward.”

Royle has been keen to bring in reinforcements for several weeks, but has been unable to secure deals for any of the players he targeted.

Last summer he made no secret of his admiration for Liverpool youngster Neil Mellor, who later moved on a season-long loan to West Ham.

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But the 21-year-old striker left Upton Park last week to return to Anfield, having netted twice in 19 league appearances, ten of which were as a substitute.

Frustrated by his lack of first team opportunities, Mellor said he would prefer to return to Liverpool and Hammers' boss Alan Pardew reluctantly agreed.

Royle is hopeful of a positive development that could see a new face in Town's line-up against promotion rivals Millwall at Portman Road on Saturday.

He added: “There are meetings at lunchtime today between the player, his agent and his club. I am waiting to hear the outcome.

“It would be nice for the last quarter of the season - the home run if you like - to bring in a new player who can have a big impact in that time.

“I would like him to come in this week and stay through to the end of the season, but it is more likely to be an initial one-month deal.

“But we've been close before and it hasn't come off, so I don't want to name names at this stage. The best I can say is that I'm hopeful we can sort something out.”

Still reflecting on what might have been in Sunday's East Anglian derby defeat at Carrow Road, when Ipswich upstaged First Division leaders Norwich in a one-sided first half, Royle believes seven wins from their remaining 11 games will secure his team a play-off spot.

It would be a bonus if one of them was achieved this weekend, since FA Cup quarter-finalists Millwall are on the same points tally as Town with a game in hand. They are sixth by virtue of a superior goal difference, but the margin is so slender that any home win will guarantee Ipswich rejoin the top six.

Royle said: “Seven wins will put us right in there with a good chance of promotion - and it is achievable.

“We all need to stick together. We are all united and have not given up hope. No one should.”

Midfielder Chris Bart-Williams is unlikely to be fit to face Millwall on Saturday after missing the last two games with a back injury.

Royle said: “Chris is resting more than anything else and while we'll look at him on Thursday it is more likely to be next week.”

Defender John McGreal, who was absent at Norwich with a knee injury, is not being ruled out of Saturday's game, but he will not return to full training until Thursday, at which point his fitness will be assessed.

Skipper Jim Magilton, who required lengthy treatment after a first minute tackle by Marc Edworthy at Carrow Road, is nursing a sore foot, but Royle said: “It's nothing that will keep him out.”

Long-term injury victim Chris Makin is waiting to see a specialist after his return to action in last week's reserve game at Coventry was cut short at half-time.

Royle said: “Up to now Chris's injury has baffled us. We thought an injection was the answer and it worked for a while, but it hasn't been able to stand up to a match situation.

“We are now sending him to see the country's top hip specialist to see what the next move should be - and it's by no means certain that it will be surgery.”