Royle hits back at Counago

ANGRY Ipswich boss Joe Royle today hit back at Pablo Counago's claim that his absence from the first team is “not about football”.The Spanish striker netted his third goal in as many reserve games in last night's 2-1 home defeat by Norwich.

ANGRY Ipswich boss Joe Royle today hit back at Pablo Counago's claim that his absence from the first team is “not about football”.

The Spanish striker netted his third goal in as many reserve games in last night's 2-1 home defeat by Norwich.

Then 25-year-old Counago spoke of his frustration at being unable to hold down a place in the senior side when he said: “Something is happening that is not to do with football.

“The manager doesn't want me here and everyone can see that. It is really hard for me to know what to do.”

This is the second time this season that Counago and Royle have become embroiled in a war of words.

The Town boss, who would probably prefer to keep his thoughts private, said: “I cannot allow Pablo to make nonsense statements in public without having to respond. I honestly think he is deluded.

Most Read

“I repeat - if Pablo works hard and plays well there is no problem and he will be in the team. There is absolutely no question of there being a bias against him.

“Pablo's a nice boy with a lot of talent but I don't know what he is thinking with this latest statement. The time has come for him to look long and hard at himself.”

Counago's outburst after last night's defeat continued: “It is hard knowing that even if I score and do well the manager doesn't want me and won't pick me.

“A lot of people can see what is going on and it is a difficult situation for me.

“I don't really understand why I'm not getting the chance. I have started just two games and I have come off the bench, but it doesn't matter if I score or do well I will always be taken off or left out next time.

“I know it is not about my football. I'm fit, I'm scoring, I'm training well and I'm doing well when I play in the first team.”

But Royle, who watched last night's reserve fixture after returning from a brief break at his holiday home in Majorca, strongly refuted the player's claims.

Royle added: “Pablo can ask any of the staff or, indeed, any of the players and they will tell him he is not fit enough and has to change his attitude.

“When we reported back for pre-season training he was 20 per cent down on the previous season. In a run he came behind a 53-year-old coach (Willie Donachie) who was struggling with a calf strain.

“I saw Pablo score an outstanding goal last night but there are times when he seems to think that running is not in his contract.

“It is there for all to see that you cannot play in the modern game unless you are properly fit.

“Pablo receives all the same encouragement that everybody at the club gets. There is no bias against him.

“He has been available on a free transfer for the best part of 12 months now and we have not had one single enquiry from clubs in Spain or England about him.”

Counago is in the last year of a lucrative contract, believed to be worth around £20,000 a week, which he was awarded when he was signed on a Bosman-style free transfer from Celta Vigo in the summer of 2001.

It is no secret that Ipswich were keen to remove him from their wage bill as they continued their financial recovery.

But Royle insisted: “The money is not an issue. Pablo is not in the first team because he is not playing well enough to justify a place. The money only becomes an issue when he is not in the side and giving us nothing in return for his salary.”

Royle was also keen to emphasise that there is no personal issue between himself and the player, adding: “I have tried talking with Pablo. But the facts are there for all to see. It's not me - any member of the staff, or any player, can see that Pablo's fitness and attitude isn't right.”

Counago has started four of Town's 14 first team games this season. He has made a further five appearances as substitute and scored two goals.

Ironically, he might have been in line for a recall in Saturday's home clash with Burnley after Darren Bent was forced out of today's England Under-21 clash in Azerbaijan - kick-off 1pm - with a hamstring problem.

Bent, who has netted in all four of his country's under-21 games this season, remains hopeful of being fit for the weekend.

Royle said: “We don't think it's too bad, but the very fact that Darren cannot play for England today must make him a doubt for the Burnley game.

“The physios have spoken on the phone about the extent of the injury but we won't really know how Darren is until we get him back here to work on him.

“It's not the first time this has happened. His hamstring is tight, so it was decided not to play him today as a precautionary measure.”

Royle is maintaining his search for loan reinforcements and refused to rule out the possibility of a new face in the team to face Burnley.

He added: “It is unlikely at this stage, but not impossible. For example, if we were to discover that Darren is unable to play it might mean we would try to do something.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter