Unsworth: I may stay for good

IPSWICH new boy David Unsworth arrived today and refused to dismiss the possibility of a permanent move to Portman Road.The 31-year-old Portsmouth defender is on loan for the remainder of the season, but that could be extended.

IPSWICH new boy David Unsworth arrived today and refused to dismiss the possibility of a permanent move to Portman Road.

The 31-year-old Portsmouth defender is on loan for the remainder of the season, but that could be extended.

Unsworth, who joined his temporary team-mates in training for the first time today, said: “It is out of my hands what happens at the end of the season.

“It is down to Portsmouth to a great extent and we'll look at it again in the summer. For the time being I am here to help Ipswich into the Premiership.”

The former Everton star admitted the opportunity to team up again with ex-Goodison boss Joe Royle and his right-hand man, Willie Donachie, was too good to miss.

He added: “They are the main attraction, to be honest. I have never been outside the Premiership before, but I had some good times with Joe at Everton and it will be good to work with him again.”

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Unsworth said the chance to join the Championship leaders came right out of the blue as the deal was done by Town chairman David Sheepshanks and his Fratton Park counterpart, Milan Mandaric.

But he was not exactly sad at turning his back on the south coast club for the time being, he admitted.

“Portsmouth is like a soap opera at the moment, with something happening every day,” he said of the recent upheaval that saw manager Harry Redknapp and his management team depart for arch-rivals Southampton.

Unsworth went on: “It is nice coming to a quiet club where I can just concentrate on my football and try to help them to win promotion.

“The new man came in at Portsmouth and I was out with a hamstring injury. I missed a few games, then when I was fit again I couldn't get back in because they were doing well.

“I know some of the Ipswich lads, people like Kevin Horlock and Jim Magilton, through playing against them.

“And I think I've played at Portman Road before, in the 1994-95 season when Everton were struggling to stay in the Premiership.

“Joe had come in a few months earlier and we managed to win 1-0. We eventually avoided relegation and also went on to end the season in style by winning the FA Cup.”

Meanwhile, Royle has no fears about his players coping with the pressure of being league leaders.

“We're where we want to be,” insisted Royle today as he looked ahead to the 16-game run-in that will decide Town's fate.

Royle and his reinforced squad will put in a full week's training in preparation for Saturday's trip to face promotion rivals Sheffield United.

The players were so keen to get back to work that they trained on Saturday, less than 24 hours after returning from a six-day break in Tenerife.

Royle added: “We're buoyed by being away in the sun for a few days, just as anyone would be.

“We're about two thirds of the way through our league programme and we don't mind the pressure that comes with being top.

“In fact we're enjoying being there. I've seen the other side, where you are in the chasing pack trying to catch the leaders, and I know what I prefer.”

Royle concedes that February could be a tough month for his table-topping side, with visits to Sheffield United and Preston, sixth and seventh respectively in the Championship.

The pair have played a total of 30 home games this season, losing just six of them, and Town also take on Leicester, Watford and QPR at Portman Road in the coming weeks.

Royle said: “I have looked at our forthcoming fixtures and we have some stiff tests coming up, but I have never looked at any month's games this season and thought they would be easy.

“You can go right back to the beginning and the first game of the season against a Gillingham side who had won on both their previous visits to Ipswich.

“Then you look ahead to Sheffield United and you can imagine they would love revenge after taking a bit of a pasting at our place.”

Royle's sojourns into the transfer market leave him satisfied that he has a squad sufficiently strong enough to see the club through their remaining 16 games.

Injured defender Drissa Diallo will not be rushed back after a specialist advised him to wait a further fortnight before testing his knee in match conditions.

The Town boss said: “Drissa has been told to do further strengthening work on the scar tissue around the injury, which is behind his knee at the bottom of his hamstring.

“He should be able to play in the reserves in a couple of weeks, but that's not the problem it might have been earlier in the season.

“There was a time when one injury would have worried me, but with David Unsworth being able to play in the middle of the defence or at left-back we have extra cover.

“We also have Matt Richards and Daniel Karbassiyoon, while Jimmy Juan is with us from Monaco until the end of the season, so we also have options in midfield.”