Scouts target Town stars

FORGET the transfer window, Premiership clubs could buy Ipswich Town stars today and play them this season.This news can be a two-edged sword for the First Division club currently in administration.

By Dave Allard

FORGET the transfer window, Premiership clubs could buy Ipswich Town stars today and play them this season.

This news can be a two-edged sword for the First Division club currently in administration.

It will make accountants and creditors rub their hands at the thought of a nice juicy cheque or two dropping into the Portman Road letter box.

In contrast it will knock supporters' dreams of a return to the top flight via the play-offs at the end of this season.

I can reveal today that the Blues are classified as a club in distress.

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Consequently, they are regarded as a special case. Any offers the club's current decision makers consider fair from Premier clubs can go through now with players being eligible to play for their new club from the word go.

This is despite the embargo that began on February 1 regarding moves to the Premiership and could considerably relieve financial pressure on a club close on £50million in the red.

Town manager Joe Royle confirmed this morning: "Unfortunately we may lose key players at this vital time.

"I became aware of the position last week and some Premiership clubs may fancy coming in with a bid.

"It is a cross I have to bear and goes with administration. We are five points away from the play-offs and are still going all out for a top six place.

"In an ideal world I would like to keep all my squad, but it looks as though it could be out of my hands."

The waiving of the embargo has the backing of the Nationwide League and clubs have been circulated with news of Ipswich's position.

Other clubs who have been in administration, like Leicester City and Bradford City, are believed to have also been regarded as special cases when it comes to transfers.

The availability of Town's stars was there for all to see at Selhurst Park last night when the Blues gained a 1-1 draw thanks to a second-half headed equaliser against Crystal Palace by former Eagles striker Marcus Bent.

Representatives of nearly half of the Premiership sides were at the South London venue to cast an eye over potential buys in an all-white Town strip.

Scouts and managers will be looking at any potential bargains buys. But much will depend on how the administrators running Portman Road view the situation.

Tottenham, Chelsea, Newcastle, Southampton, Everton, Charlton, West Ham, Manchester City and Liverpool all had representatives last night with their main targets teenage striker Darren Bent and young midfield man Darren Ambrose, who had to go off injured early on.

But I understand ever-emerging Dane Thomas Gaardsoe is also a big target for some of the Premiership onlookers. Charlton boss Alan Curbishley has been watching him repeatedly and did so again last night while West Ham and Southampton are also big admirers.

After the transfer window closed Newcastle came in with a £3m offer for both Darren Bent and Ambrose. This was turned down by the club administrators.

At the time the thinking was that had Newcastle taken them they could not have played. And there was a school of thought that believed the Geordies would let them return to Portman Road on loan for the remainder of this season.

That could not have been the case. Under their present restrictions, Town cannot take players on loan.

It has now transpired that where a club like Newcastle to bail Town out with some much-needed cash their purchasers can immediately play for them.

A top London agent for footballers told me last night: "Ipswich are a club in distress and for that reason would-be payers would have to be encouraged by the incentive of being able to use players right away.

"This is my understanding of the situation and there are many Premiership managers looking at Ipswich with a view to possible moves."

While Town hope to keep their team together and make a go of the play-offs the anxiety among members of staff at the club continues to grow.

There was alarm at one stage earlier this week when all telephones were cut off for a period. They came back on but it was a disconcerting situation with members of staff having to use mobile phones.

The phone system was restored and a club insider said: "Whether it was something to do with the financial situation or what I don't know, but it certainly got everybody thinking."

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