Town set sights on Gunners youngster

Ipswich Town have targeted Arsenal youngster Justin Hoyte for a season-long loan spell at Portman Road.Town boss Joe Royle has been working on the deal for some time and hopes to conclude it in time for the England Under-21 international to face Osasuna on Monday.

Ipswich Town have targeted Arsenal youngster Justin Hoyte for a season-long loan spell at Portman Road.

Town boss Joe Royle has been working on the deal for some time and hopes to conclude it in time for the England Under-21 international to face Osasuna on Monday.

Hoyte is a highly regarded member of the Gunners' senior squad, but his first team opportunities are likely to be restricted in the forthcoming campaign.

Royle revealed at the weekend that he was planning to bring in a young defender from the top flight and a number of players had been linked with Town.

But The Evening Star can reveal that Hoyte is the player Ipswich want and negotiations are likely to be concluded in the next few days.

Meanwhile, Ipswich are ready to take on “one of the best teams in Europe” as their pre-season preparations gather pace.

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Town boss Joe Royle deliberately set his side a testing warm-up schedule - and tomorrow's clash with Premiership giants Newcastle United, the second of three home games in quick succession, certainly falls into that category. Royle said: “I wanted us to have a stiffer programme than last year, when we won our friendlies quite comfortably and scored a few goals but didn't start the league campaign as we would have liked.

“Saturday's game against Crystal Palace was ideal. They are a team who beat us here last season and have moved into the Premiership, so it wasn't easy.

“Now it's Newcastle, which will be even tougher and it promises to be a terrific night for football fans. They are one of the best teams in Europe, never mind the Premiership, and we're lucky to have them coming here.”

The game looks like attracting a crowd in the region of 20,000, a suitable tribute to former Town assistant manager Dale Roberts, in whose honour it is being staged.

Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson, who had more than 13 years in charge of Ipswich before becoming England boss in 1982, could give debuts to two new summer signings.

Dutch international Patrick Kluivert and Nicky Butt, whose move from Manchester United was finalised today, have joined Leeds youngster James Milner in the Magpies' star-studded squad.

Roberts' parents are travelling down from their home in the north east to attend the game and his widow, Cheryl, will also be present along with their two sons on what is sure to be an emotional occasion.

A Newcastle fan as a boy, he launched his career with Ipswich, moved to Hull and then formed a management double act with his former Portman Road colleague George Burley.

He was with Burley at Ayr and Colchester before they teamed up again at Town, where he was assistant manager until losing his brave battle against cancer last year.

Royle added: “This is Dale's game first and foremost. He is still talked about with reverence at this club.”

Town's pre-season preparations will be complete next Monday with the visit of Spanish outfit Osasuna.

On the subject of bringing in a new player, Royle had little to add and is still waiting for confirmation that a Premiership club will agree to allow one of their young defenders to move to Town on a season-long loan.

Royle confirmed that he never made any attempt to sign rumoured target Chris Baird of Southampton and added: “I don't see anything happening on that front before tomorrow's game.

“There has always been one player in our sights and I still expect something to happen.”

Meanwhile, it looks as if Chris Makin will be a Leicester player this week after failing to sufficiently impress Premiership side Bolton.

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