Royle's Ashton interest

HE'S big, strong and extremely versatile.A two-in-one player, equally adept at stopping attackers in their tracks as he is at upsetting defenders at the other end of the pitch.

By Dave Allard

HE'S big, strong and extremely versatile.

A two-in-one player, equally adept at stopping attackers in their tracks as he is at upsetting defenders at the other end of the pitch.

Commanding defender or bustling striker, it doesn't matter to Darren Royle, a real chip off the old block.

You've got to agree, there's an unmistakable resemblance to the man who has been plotting Ipswich's return route to the Premiership.

While dad's priority is to ensure Town at least make the First Division play-offs, Darren is happy playing part-time for Ashton United.

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The two clubs at least have something in common – they were both formed in the same year, 1878.

Now, of course, they are worlds apart, although father and son share their love of the game.

At the weekend, after watching his in-form Ipswich side dismantle Preston 3-0 at Portman Road, he

listened to 28-year-old Darren's hard-luck stories following Ashton's 4-1 Unibond League defeat at Stalybridge Celtic.

Ashton, as high as third recently, have dropped to ninth in a table topped by former Football League outfit Accrington Stanley.

Darren, who has netted twice this season, has scored 11 goals in 141 appearances for the club located in the Greater Manchester area.

Joe's appointment as Town boss means he is rarely able to watch his middle son in action these days.

Royle senior, a former Everton, Manchester City, Bristol City, Norwich and England front man, once had Darren in his youth squad when manager at Oldham.

As a 13-year-old he used to play in the same junior side as Chris Makin, the former Oldham defender and now a Royle stalwart with Town.

"Darren loves his football and combines it with a good career in the pharmaceutical business," said Royle.

"In between leaving Manchester City and coming here I used to take in Ashton games quite a bit, but of course it's not possible these days."

Darren, who stands 6ft 5in, played for Altrincham earlier in his career and was capped at international level by England Universities.

Royle's eldest son, Lee, once played for Oldham Schools and youngest son Mark was also a keen player, but neither plays regularly these days.

Royle senior will not be returning to his native Liverpool tonight to take in the Reds' Worthington Cup semi-final, second leg clash with Sheffield United, Ipswich's FA Cup fourth round opponents at Bramall Lane on Saturday.

He said: "I'll be watching it on television and we're well informed on Sheffield United, having played them not so long ago in the league and taking in some of their other games.

"As always, it's about us and how we play. The way we're going at the moment I would fancy our chances against any side and we certainly have no reason to fear anyone."