Town have no cash to splash

HARD-UP Ipswich cannot afford to splash out on summer signings.Despite the threat of losing the star quartet of Kelvin Davis, Tommy Miller, Darren Bent and Shefki Kuqi, boss Joe Royle will have to replace them on the cheap.

HARD-UP Ipswich cannot afford to splash out on summer signings.

Despite the threat of losing the star quartet of Kelvin Davis, Tommy Miller, Darren Bent and Shefki Kuqi, boss Joe Royle will have to replace them on the cheap.

If all four players move on - Davis and Miller are as good as gone already - Town will be losing the best goalkeeper and midfielder in the Championship.

And they could be forced to start the new season without an outfield trio who contributed an amazing 54 goals between them last term.

While Miller and Kuqi are out of contract, making them free agents, both Davis and Bent have another year of their Portman Road deals to run.

But the bulk of the cash received will go towards reducing the club's massive debts, still in excess of £30 million.

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While Town will operate on a wage bill of around £5m in the 2005-2006 season - it was a whopping £24m when they were last in the Premiership - they are also committed to a number of outgoings.

The repayment on the 'mortgage' of £25m, which funded the club's ambitious rebuilding plans, was restructured and currently stands at approximately £1.5m per year.

Town must also fork out £500,000 to Barclays, as part of an agreement to repay their overdraft over several years, and find a further £366,000 for preferential creditors.

Add another annual figure of £68,000 to the Bank of Scotland, from whom the club borrowed £1.4m to pay for a revamped training ground, and it means a sum of over £2.2m going straight out of income, which is provided mainly by season ticket sales and commercial spin-offs.

Promotion to the Premiership, which is reported to be worth in the region of £25m, would have been the answer to Town's prayers.

But with at least one more season in the Championship, and even allowing for booming season ticket sales of 18,000-plus, they must continue to watch the pennies.

They should be able to pull in close to £4m for Davis and Bent, although 50 per cent of the keeper's fee will go straight to MK Dons, previously Wimbledon.

That was agreed when Ipswich prised Davis away on a free transfer in the summer of 2003.

Bent is on his way - it is simply a matter of where - while there remains a question mark against Kuqi's future in Suffolk.

Much as the Finnish international is quick to credit Ipswich, and in particular Royle, with reviving his career, Premiership money could yet sway him.

Royle is busy compiling a contingency list of players as possible replacements for those departing for pastures new.

It included Watford striker Heidar Helguson, but Royle is now resigned to losing out on the Icelandic international who is also interesting Stoke, Reading and Sheffield United.

And if Helguson is out of Town's price range, it is highly unlikely that speculation linking them with Charlton striker Francis Jeffers carries any weight.

It has been suggested that Jeffers might make the journey in the opposite direction should Charlton succeed and make the highest bid for Bent.

Meanwhile, Royle has drawn up a contingency list of players from which he will look to sign cut-price replacements for those who depart in the coming weeks.

Out-of-contract Stoke defender Wayne Thomas interests Royle and would be a perfect replacement for Drissa Diallo, who was freed this week.

And Royle will waste no time in moving for a striker, with one specific target in mind.

He said: “I have identified a player who is out of contract and he is aware of our interest in him. Beyond that, I cannot say any more at this stage.

“It is a busy period and, as I have said before, I want to know what's what in the next two to three weeks.

“As soon as I know which players are definitely leaving I will set the wheels in motion to bring in replacements.”

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