Football / FA Cup Countdown: Goals no joke for Kiwomya: The Ipswich striker from Yorkshire looks to break a scoring duck. Trevor Haylett reports

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FORTY miles from where Ian Wright was celebrating his return from injury this week with the inevitable goal, Chris Kiwomya eased his weight on to his left leg and grimaced with pain. If Arsenal's FA Cup prospects at Portman Road tomorrow look all the better for Wright's presence at Norwich on Wednesday so it is that Ipswich will feel a good deal happier if their own charismatic striker is fit to play.

Kiwomya has a thigh injury exacerbated by his eagerness to turn out against Middlesbrough on Tuesday. The price paid was more treatment and another punishing session on the exercise bike. The quicker he pedalled, the faster the words fell from his lips. It was hard to keep pace: a complaint common to those Premier League defenders burned by his speed in an outstanding first season at the top level.

If Wright can be described as the pulse of his team, on and off the field, so it is with Kiwomya who, injured or not, refuses to be downcast, the wind-ups and the mickey-taking coming fast and furious in an accent that is as thick as Yorkshire pud and gravy.

He and John Lyall, the manager responsible for renewing Suffolk's acquaintance with the big time, share their own banter. 'He says 'you're from Yorkshire what are you doing down here?' while I tell him he should get back to London,' Kiwomya says.

It is a combination that has been good for player, good for manager, and especially good for the club. It was only by the skin of its teeth, however, that the partnership came about in the first place.

Lyall's first day at the club three summers ago was also going to be Kiwomya's last. Disillusioned and unfulfilled, his bags were packed. He was ready to return home for a new start.

'My brother had come down to drive me back and we were just on the point of leaving when the club rang saying they wanted to see me,' Kiwomya said. 'Mr Lyall said he wanted me to stay and I liked what he was telling me. His record with young players at West Ham like Paul Ince and Stuart Slater was impressive. I owe him so much for making me a better player.'

The new man's first training session found Kiwomya eager to make an impression and it was not long before he was called over. 'Son,' said Lyall, bemused by a succession of back flicks, overhead kicks and diving headers, 'every time I look you are on the floor. We ought to call you lino.'

And 'Lino' it has been from that day though his ability to be noticed was long established. 'During my trials I was substitute for the youth team and at half- time Bobby Ferguson, who was then in charge, sent instructions that he wanted to see me play.

'I was still awaiting my first touch when a cross came over that I couldn't reach with my head. I attempted a bicycle kick and it flew in to the top corner. That got me the apprentice contract.'

It was not easy leaving four brothers and a sister behind in Bradford. 'I travelled down alone and as we went past field after field I began to think I had caught the wrong train. I remember as an eight-year-old watching the 1978 FA Cup final wondering where Ipswich was.'

Memories of that glorious Wembley afternoon when the unlikely Roger Osborne scored an unlikely winner to sink Arsenal have naturally been dusted down this week. Fifteen years on, Lyall and his trusted lieutenant, Mick McGiven, have fashioned a team capable of competing for the prizes again.

For another famous victory over the Gunners surely their own top gun has to play and a goal would help, his failure to open his account in the competition contrasting sharply with Wright's magnificent seven.

'Ian puts all his emotions into each game and I like him a lot.' Also high on the Kiwomya acclaimed list are David Hirst and Dalian Atkinson, 'but only', he smiles, 'when Dalian is less than 15 stone.'

The eyes light up at the mention of Atkinson, his former Ipswich striking partner. 'We were playing Port Vale and I missed two good chances. I hit the post and the keeper made a good save. Dalian scored and he winked at me saying: 'One chance, one goal. Two chances, no goals. That's the difference between me and you.'

'We went to Villa in the Coca- Cola Cup this season and after Dalian opened the scoring he winked at me again. I equalised and winked back. Villa went ahead but again I equalised, forcing a replay. As I ran back I said to him: 'Me two goals, you only one. That's the difference between me and you.'

So will it be Wright or Kiwomya to the fore at 4.40 tomorrow afternoon? He who winks last can look forward to a place in the semi- finals.

(Photograph omitted)

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