Town boss praises loyal fans

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle today praised supporters for their tremendous show of faith in his team.Season ticket sales have burst through the 17,000 barrier ahead of the big kick-off tomorrow week, when Gillingham are the visitors to Portman Road on the opening day of the new campaign.

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle today praised supporters for their tremendous show of faith in his team.

Season ticket sales have burst through the 17,000 barrier ahead of the big kick-off tomorrow week, when Gillingham are the visitors to Portman Road on the opening day of the new campaign.

And with Town showing excellent pre-season form, there could be a further box office stampede over the next few days.

Royle said: “It is terrific news that we will have the backing of so many regular fans - it really is a massive show of faith in the players.

“We have been delighted with our results since coming back and we have only lost once, to Aalborg on our Danish tour.

“Obviously, it is not the serious stuff yet, but this definitely beats sitting here wondering where the next goal is coming from.

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“We have a bit of confidence behind us and the lads were really buzzing after the other night, when we beat a Newcastle team full of internationals.”

But a seasoned boss like Royle knows not to get carried away by pre-season form and admitted: “Beating Newcastle will not necessarily help us when we play Gillingham.

“They will not be coming here thinking 'This lot beat Newcastle' and worrying - they will be ready to have a go. They have won here in each of the last two seasons and will be looking for a hat-trick.”

Town have one more pre-season game, against Spanish outfit Osasuna at Portman Road on Monday, to wrap up their preparations for the real thing.

Midfielder Ian Westlake missed the Newcastle game and is now out of hospital after an operation to remove an infected wisdom tooth.

Royle said: “We'll see how Ian progresses, but there is no rush as far as Monday is concerned. We got him in for the operation to make sure he would be ready for the start of the new season.”

Skipper Jim Magilton picked up a thigh strain against Newcastle, while Matt Richards had an ankle gash, but neither player is at risk of missing the start.

Meanwhile, French defender Georges Santos is finally expected to sign for QPR after a busy week of negotiations between the two clubs, the player and his agent, Ipswich legend Mick Mills.

Royle said today: “There was a bit of a stumbling block that has been removed, so it is up to Georges now.”

Santos, 33, scored in last night's reserve win over Histon and is set to sign a two-year deal with the newly-promoted Londoners.

His departure will help ease Town's wage bill and assist Royle in adding new faces to his squad, should he feel the need.

The Town boss has made Arsenal youngster Justin Hoyte his number one target and developments are expected in the next few days.

Hoyte, 19, is an England Under-21 defender with four first team appearances for the Gunners under his belt. He can play at right-back or in the middle of the defence.

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