Saints and Boro in race for Clapham
PREMIERSHIP pair Middlesbrough and Southampton have targeted Ipswich star Jamie Clapham. They have been alerted to his possible availability as he struggles to hold down a regular first team place at Portman Road.
By Mel Henderson
PREMIERSHIP pair Middlesbrough and Southampton have targeted Ipswich star Jamie Clapham.
They have been alerted to his possible availability as he struggles to hold down a regular first team place at Portman Road.
But neither club is in a position to make a firm cash bid for the ex-Tottenham star, whom Town are likely to value at around £2 million.
In both cases, they would have to sell before they can buy, but there could be activity in the next few weeks.
Saints are under pressure to hold on to sought-after star Wayne Bridge, with whom Leeds have been linked, and see Clapham as the ideal replacement.
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Boro, meanwhile, have made him their main target to fill the problem left-back position at the Riverside, where Colin Cooper is seen as a temporary stop-gap.
Ipswich have yet to receive a firm bid for Clapham, the supporters' Player of the Year in 1999 after his first full season with the club.
He originally joined Town on loan from Tottenham in January, 1998, and two months later completed a permanent £300,000 move. He has made 182 appearances and scored 11 goals.
Ipswich boss George Burley said: "I can assure you there has been no contact with any other club about Jamie Clapham.
"He is like a lot of players at this club in that he is fighting for a first team place, which is something we need in this division."
But Town, in common with a number of Premiership clubs, are not in a position where they can disregard offers for any of their players.
And 25-year-old Clapham, frustrated at his lack of first team opportunities this season, may welcome the chance of a fresh start elsewhere.
First Division under-achievers Birmingham are also interested in Clapham, but the player would undoubtedly prefer to stay in the top flight.
Last season, when he helped Ipswich to take the Premiership by storm, he was performing so consistently that he was being touted for England honours.
But this term he has only started three of the club's nine games, although he has appeared as a substitute in a further four.
Ipswich, desperate to preserve their Premiership status and maintain squad strength, are still not in a position to disregard offers for any of their players.
Burley added: "Jamie is no different to any other player. He is in a first team squad of 20-22 players.
"He is not appearing as regularly as he did two years ago, perhaps, but we have a bigger squad now and he has still played his part."
Asked how the club would react if a firm bid was made for Clapham, the Town boss replied: "In that situation it's up to the player as well."
That infers Ipswich would be reluctant to hold on to any player unsettled at Portman Road, exactly the circumstances that saw James Scowcroft join Leicester in a £3 million pre-season deal.
Meanwhile, defender Wayne Brown may also be on his way. He has been on loan at Wimbledon since last month and the Dons are thought to be keen to make the move permanent.
Burley said: "Wimbledon have not been in touch since Wayne joined them, but it is an ideal opportunity for him to play regular first team football.
"It would have to be down to Wayne what happens next. I can't guarantee him first team football at Ipswich, but I would still like to keep him at the club.
"I would need to speak to Wayne to see how he feels. If Wimbledon made an offer I would have a chat with him about things."