Royle's transfer headache

SEARCHING for a shooting star is no easy job for Ipswich Town manager Joe Royle.A new striker is high on Royle's priority list after a pre-season that has so far produced just two goals in three matches.

SEARCHING for a shooting star is no easy job for Ipswich Town manager Joe Royle.

A new striker is high on Royle's priority list after a pre-season that has so far produced just two goals in three matches.

But Town fans should not expect the experienced Town boss to pull a really top name out of the hat.

He will be dealing with free signings or loans unless he can persuade a Premiership club to help out with wages for a talented player who might be surplus to the big club's requirements for a season.

The situation regarding Manchester United's Michael Stewart (pictured inset) highlights the problems Royle faces.

Despite failing to make the grade at Old Trafford, Stewart is still earning £12,000 a week, wages even Scottish giants Rangers, who are keen on the midfielder, are unable to match.

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Pablo Counago is the last big wage earner on Ipswich's books and if he did move on the situation might alter, although there has been no interest shown in the Spanish striker from home or abroad.

The names of Ashley Ward and Shaun Goater have been mentioned as possible newcomers to the Town ranks, players who are known and admired by Royle as Town seek to improve their goal output.

Royle showed interest in both last season. Ipswich has put a £5million ceiling on the players' wage budget this season and this is just about being adhered to.

Chief executive Derek Bowden has gone on record as saying that Royle will have to take a player off the wage bill before bringing in a new face.

“Things might change, but I am having to create spaces for any new long-term players,” said Royle. “I am looking for a striker who can hold up the ball and also a midfield player if possible.”

Although the wage spiral that made many football millionaires at the turn of the century has been controlled by the bottom falling out of the transfer market, the situation is still difficult for a manager in Royle's position.

Stewart provides an example of this. He is surplus to requirements at Manchester United, having made only 14 appearances for the club since his debut in October 2000, but still has two years left to run on his £12,000-a-week contract.

Rangers are interested in signing him but Stewart would have to take a wage cut to seal a deal with the Scottish giants.

Stewart was loaned to Nottingham Forest last season, but made little impact in the Nationwide First Division.

Rangers manager Alex McLeish has sent Stewart back to Manchester United to consider his future.

McLeish said: “He has been out of the first-team picture and he might have to make a sacrifice.

“He'd be on lower wages at Rangers but that's something he might have to do.”

If Rangers, with gates of around 50,000 every other week and European income, cannot afford a run-of-the-mill performer what chance has Royle got of bringing in a diamond?

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