FORMER Ipswich Town manager Joe Royle believes it is far too early to dismiss his old club as relegation fodder.

The Blues are bottom of the Championship – eight points from safety - with just one win from their 21 matches.

However, they now have back-to-back home fixtures to give their season a pre-Christmas boost – starting with the visit of Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

Royle is a director of the Latics and will be travelling with the players tomorrow, making only his second return to Portman Road since departing in 2006.

His previous visit was when he was guest of honour at an ex-players' hall of fame reunion dinner in March 2017.

“I’m really looking forward to going back,” said Royle, who took over at Ipswich in November 2002.

“I’ve only been back once since leaving and it’ll be good to see some old faces.

“I’m still in regular touch with (former Town midfielder and coach) Bryan Hamilton (a former Wigan manager) and he keeps me updating on the way things are going at Portman Road.

“From what I gather, they’re playing well but without winning games.

“It’s not like they’re playing desperately badly and we’re certainly not going there thinking it’s going to be a walkover.

“I really hope they turn things around – after this weekend - but it’s far too early to be thinking about relegation.

“Everything can change so quickly after two or three wins.

“That was what happened when I first took over at Everton in ’94.

“We were bottom of the table but won three games in a week and got ourselves out of trouble.

“(Town boss) Paul Lambert’s an experienced, forward-thinking operator and someone who enjoyed great success as a player.

“Enjoying back-to-back promotions with Norwich shows his calibre as a manager, too.”

Despite operating on a shoestring budget, Royle enjoyed success during his time at Ipswich, guiding them to successive play-off semi-finals in 2004 and 2005.

However, on each occasion they were defeated by West Ham.

“I really enjoyed my time at Ipswich,” said the 69-year-old, who played for Everton, Manchester City, Bristol City, Norwich and England and managed Oldham Athletic, Everton and Manchester City before replacing George Burley at Portman Road.

“We seemed to have a lot of high-scoring games, I remember, and although they were hard times financially, because of the club’s administration, we always seemed to cobble together a side that was competitive in the division.

“I still wonder what might have happened if we’d won either of those play-off semi-finals, against West Ham.

“Still, there’s no point dwelling on it now.

"You can’t change the past – only influence the future.”

Royle’s latest role is at Wigan, where is on a board of directors headed by son and Latics chairman Darren.

“I’m really enjoying it,” he said.

“My son is chairman so that helps.

“It’s a bit of a family affair and when the opportunity came along, it was a no-brainer.

“I’ve tried retirement three times and it’s not suited me.

“I’ve enjoyed having a little break but then get itchy feet.

“The new owners (from Hong Kong-based company International Entertainment Corporation) are very good, honest and humble people and getting involved was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.”