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2 March 2019

"Alan Judge has what I call the ‘golden ticket’."

Welcome back to Portman Road for today’s game against Reading.

It’s a big game obviously. One we’ve got to win really. If we can, it closes the gap to six points and puts us right in the fight.

The important thing is we are playing well enough to win the game. We saw that again last week at Wigan.

We started really well up there and could have been two up. The red card to Jonas changed the game though. I didn’t really have any arguments with the decision. Luke may have got across but when I looked at it first time, Jonas looked the last man.

It was always going to be hard from there, to play an hour with 10 men. Wigan had the majority of the play as you would expect but we defended brilliantly and it was just disappointing that we switched off in that last minute for their equaliser.

Performance wise, the players were excellent though. I couldn’t have asked anymore from them and they were running on empty at the end.

Will Keane got our goal from the penalty spot. That’s his third for us and he’s been terrific since coming here. Unfortunately he picked up a hamstring injury in the game and he misses out today.

I hear the paperwork is being processed for Will to be available for the Republic of Ireland and that will be a great opportunity for him if he gets a chance to be involved at international level.

I will never discourage players from playing for their country. It doesn’t matter how many games you play in a season, any player wants to represent their country.

Alan Judge is one of the players here who has experienced that. He has what I call the ‘golden ticket’. That’s an enthusiasm and a hunger to play games of football.

Like Will, Judge has been great for us since joining in January. He has a contract with us until the end of the season. There are options on both sides to take that further and if we can do something to push that along, it’s definitely something we should pursue.

We have signed up a number of our younger players on longer contacts and first pro deals recently and that is vital for the Club. It’s vital for the identity of Ipswich Town.

Supporters can relate to the youngsters, who will get that pathway to the first-team and time to develop. They will need some experienced players around them but there is a nucleus of good kids here. We have to look after them. They will get all the help they need to develop - then it’s down to them.

I don’t want a culture here where young players think they have made it as soon as they walk through the door. Play 300, 400, 500 games like Luke Chambers and Cole Skuse, then they can say they’ve made it. Those two are fantastic role models for the young players here.

I’m told there will be another big crowd here today. I’ve said before, I have nothing but praise for the fans from day one here.

There has been an incredible atmosphere in the stadium and that’s important. We have to make it enjoyable for the fans to come here and watch the team play - win, lose or draw.

It was important for me, when I came here, to get an understanding of how the supporters felt; why there seemed to be an apathy. For whatever reason, there is a good connection now between the fans and the players. That is the key to everything. We have to give something back to the supporters.

Finally I’d like to welcome Jose Gomes, his staff and the Reading players to Portman Road today.

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