Royle ready for final-day drama

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle is no stranger to last-day drama.He said today: "I can't think of two seasons in my entire career as a manager when I've gone into the final game of the season with nothing at stake.

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle is no stranger to last-day drama.

He said today: "I can't think of two seasons in my entire career as a manager when I've gone into the final game of the season with nothing at stake."

Considering he took charge of Oldham 22 years and 984 games ago, Royle is entitled to approach Sunday's crucial home clash with Cardiff in been-there-done-it mode.

While play-off fever grips the club, the town and the fans, the Town supremo will be taking the weekend visit from Lennie Lawrence's team in his stride.

And he will also be making sure that his players' preparations follow exactly the same pattern as those for the 45 league fixtures they have fulfilled so far.

Royle added: "We will be keeping things as normal as possible. The lads have had a couple of rest days and will be back tomorrow for the rest of the week.

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"We will be preparing for Cardiff in our usual fashion, but we know it's big and we know what's at stake.

"It's about a fine balance, realising the importance of the occasion for the team, the club and everyone involved, but also staying calm and playing with controlled aggression."

Royle recalled an occasion when he saw his Oldham side relegated from the Premiership following a last-day 1-1 draw at Norwich.

At one stage that day the Latics looked set to survive in the top flight, then a mixed set of late developments elsewhere saw them take the plunge.

And he has not forgotten the events of May 2000, when he was in charge of Manchester City and they pipped Town for the First Division's second automatic promotion place.

He said: "We won at Blackburn and it meant that Ipswich, even though they beat Walsall at Portman Road, finished behind us.

"But I also remember coming to Portman Road a year later – it was Ipswich's last home game of the season – and they relegated us.

"That's what happens and there is a lot to be decided this weekend up and down the country.

"Even if we lose to Cardiff we could still end up in the play-offs, although that's not something I wish to contemplate.

"A draw could do it, but we will be going all-out to win it in our usual fashion. That is the only way to approach a game like this."

Royle also dismissed the likelihood of 11th-placed Cardiff, currently locked in a bitter cash dispute with a number of players, providing weak opposition.

He said: "Be wary of sides playing without pressure. They have been scoring goals all season and we'll have to earn the win – they will not be coming here just to roll over."

There is still some doubt over Tommy Miller's fitness ahead of the weekend after he was forced off in Friday's 1-1 draw at Sheffield United.

Royle added: "It's more sciatica than hamstring and it's not as bad as we first feared. He's having treatment and manipulation, so he should be in with a good chance."

Senior stars Alun Armstrong, Drissa Diallo, Georges Santos and Chris Bart-Williams are all down to play in tonight's reserve fixture at Southampton.