Westy certainly has a challenge

IPSWICH old boy Ian Westlake admitted today: “I joined Leeds for a challenge - and I've certainly got one!”Westlake returns to Portman Road tomorrow for the first time since moving to Elland Road in a pre-season deal that netted Town £450,000 plus left-back Dan Harding.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH old boy Ian Westlake admitted today: “I joined Leeds for a challenge - and I've certainly got one!”

Westlake returns to Portman Road tomorrow for the first time since moving to Elland Road in a pre-season deal that netted Town £450,000 plus left-back Dan Harding.

The all-action midfielder said: “It will be a different feeling - going in the away dressing room will be very strange - but we need to win games and I want to help us win this weekend.”

It has been anything but a dream move for the 23-year-old Ipswich academy graduate, with the one-time Yorkshire giants toiling in the Championship drop zone.

Westlake, who has yet to score in 22 league and cup appearances this term, has not been the instant success he was with his first club.

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He recalled: “I won the Player of the Year award in my first full season and it was brilliant to be recognised by the fans. It's the biggest compliment.

“I came here and joined a team who were in the play-off final last year and I was hoping they could at least do that again.

“We've got a real challenge on our hands and we need to pull together. We have to get out of this and climb the table.

“We can look forward at getting out of the relegation zone and you can even look at the play-offs if we put a little run together. But first thing's first - we have to get into the top half of the table.”

Westlake has been a regular choice under new Leeds boss Dennis Wise, who has had good things to say about the ex-Ipswich star since succeeding Kevin Blackwell.

He added: “Whoever came in I was going to try to impress. I've worked hard in training and I'm glad he's noticed. I want to be part of this team and I want to be part of the team that climbs the table. I'm going to do everything I can to do that.

“It's certainly more disciplined since the gaffer's come in, and he's going to help me. He was an unbelievable midfield player and he was always in the right position.

“He scored goals and I think (Frank) Lampard has only just overtaken him as Chelsea's best-ever goalscorer from midfield. There's so much to learn and I'm here to take it all in.”

Westlake also welcomes the return to full fitness of fellow midfielder Kevin Nicholls, a £700,000 summer buy from Luton.

Nicholls suffered a pre-season knee ligament injury and despite a delayed debut in September he only lasted five games but is now fit to return for the first time in almost three months.

Westlake is desperate for a change of fortune, adding: “Everything seems to be going the wrong way at the moment. I'm settled personally - I've found a house and things like that - but I wouldn't say I'm happy.

“I'm never going to be happy while we're near the bottom of the table. When we're in the top half of the table I'll be happy. I can't be right now.

“Football-wise I need to do more and the team needs to do more. I just want to be part of a winning team.”

Ipswich striker Billy Clarke remains doubtful with an on-going ankle problem but boss Jim Magilton has no other injuries to ponder ahead of naming his side.

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