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Royle may head for the Hills

PUBLISHED: 19:00 10 April 2003 | UPDATED: 13:43 03 March 2010

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle today refused to rule out a swoop for Blackpool left-winger John Hills.

Royle was reacting to rumours that the player he once signed as a youngster is on his summer shopping list.

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle today refused to rule out a swoop for Blackpool left-winger John Hills.

Royle was reacting to rumours that the player he once signed as a youngster is on his summer shopping list.

Hills was just 17 and a trainee at Bloomfield Road when Royle signed him for Everton in November 1995.

He failed to establish himself at Goodison and, after loan spells with Swansea and Blackpool, he rejoined his home-town club in February 1998.

But Hills, who will be 25 later this month, will be a free agent in the close season and is also being linked with Plymouth and Wigan.

Royle said: "I know Hillsy well. I signed him as a kid but I have shown no interest in him so far.

"I don't want to say there's no chance of John Hills coming here, because you never know. All I can is that it's not something that I've done anything about at this stage.

"I like Hillsy, but he's a very similar player to Matt Richards, who has been doing very well for us. Matt's displays have taken away a bit of the need to look at the left side of the team."

Hills was Blackpool's player of the year in 2000 and again last season, but he has had an injury-hit campaign and his relationship with Blackpool boss Steve McMahon has become strained. He turned down the club's first pay

proposal, then rejected an improved offer, and has been frozen out since informing them of his intention to move elsewhere.

Royle has been unable to reinforce his squad due to a lack of funds and, since the club slumped into administration in February, a Football League transfer embargo.

He laughed: "It's nice to be talking about us signing players, but to be perfectly honest we won't be doing anything until we know where we will be playing next season."

Should Town miss out on promotion to the Premiership, however, they are likely to be in the market for free transfer players.

It will be a vital part of their strategy in reducing the annual wage bill from £24million, as it was last season, to the £5m figure targeted by chairman David Sheepshanks.

High-earning stars will be shipped out, players whose contracts expire in June will be offered reduced terms to stay and there will be minimal funds for new signings.

Meanwhile, Royle could be without experienced midfielder Jim Magilton at Coventry on Saturday.

The Town boss admitted: "Jim has a groin problem and I would say he is a bigger doubt than Thomas Gaardsoe, who has been out with a similar injury."

Gaardsoe, who missed the 4-3 home defeat by Nottingham Forest, is optimistic about being able to return at Highfield Road.

The absence of either player would be an additional blow to Royle, who has already ruled out top scorer Darren Bent for the next fortnight.

But the Town boss, while agreeing his resources are stretched, is in no mood for excuses and said : "We'll just get on with it."

He refuses to write off his team's chances of finishing in the top six, insisting: "We are six points short with five games to play - and there have been bigger turnarounds than that this season.

"If you look at the table five games ago, and see where teams are now compared to then, it will surprise you."


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