Royle relishing play-off challenge

PUBLISHED: 20:00 15 April 2003 | UPDATED: 13:45 03 March 2010

LATE-season drama is nothing new to Ipswich boss Joe Royle.

He has experienced more than his fair share since entering management with Oldham back in 1982.

LATE-season drama is nothing new to Ipswich boss Joe Royle.

He has experienced more than his fair share since entering management with Oldham back in 1982.

Have no fears – Royle can cope with the pressure as Town's play-off challenge comes to the boil over the remaining four games of what has been a traumatic campaign.

He laughed: "I'll take this pressure – it's preferable to my early days at Oldham when it was an annual struggle to survive because we had to keep selling players."

It was regarded as a minor miracle that Royle, 54, not only took the Latics into the top flight but kept them there for three seasons.

He remembered the 1992-93 season when Oldham were written off as relegation certainties, only to preserve their Premier League status against all the odds.

"We needed to win our last three games to stay up and we did it," recalled Royle, whose team secured victories at Aston Villa and at home to both Liverpool and Southampton in a memorable six-day period.

Royle also has experience of success via the play-offs with previous club Manchester City, who got the better of Gillingham in a penalty shoot-out at Wembley in 1999.

One year on and City were back in the Premiership, clinching automatic promotion with a last-day win at Blackburn.

"We were 1-0 down at Ewood Park and eventually won 4-1," he remembered of a game that Ipswich were praying City would lose.

Had City slipped up, Town's home win over Walsall would have seen them promoted rather than having to negotiate their return route via the play-offs.

Royle added: "I've had plenty of dramatic weeks in football. The game's about drama. We know what we have to do and the players are firmly focused.

"Would I have it any other way? Well, I'd be happy to swap places with either Portsmouth or Leicester, that's for sure!"

Meanwhile, Royle will wait until Thursday before testing Richard Naylor's injured knee for the following day's key home clash with a Pompey side who can clinch promotion to the Premiership with a home win over Burnley tonight.

The Town boss said: "Richard won't be training for the next couple of days and must still be rated doubtful. But he has the heart of a lion and is desperate to play."

If Naylor misses out, fit-again John McGreal will not come into the reckoning with Royle confirming: "He's not in contention yet and won't be for a couple of weeks.

"John will have half a game for the reserves tonight and he'll need further reserve games. He thought he was okay the last time he came back and wasn't, so he needs a bit longer this time to make sure."

Striker Alun Armstrong, recently laid low with a broken wrist, will partner 16-year-old Dean Bowditch in attack against a West Ham side that could feature senior stars Paolo Di Canio and Michael Carrick.

Ipswich squad: Pullen, Mitchell, Boardley, Hogg, McGreal, Collins, Westlake, Bloomfield, Abidallah, Murray, Armstrong, Bowditch, Flack, Chaffey, Peat, Reid and Atay.

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