High praise for Jon

ROY Keane reckons that his skipper Jon Walters, a red-hot target of Stoke City, was the second best player in the Championship last season.

But the Ipswich Town boss has admitted that Walters could well be on his way from Portman Road this month, though not before tomorrow’s opening day clash at Middlesbrough.

The Potters have been tracking front-runner Walters all summer, but might well have to improve their offer still further to ensnare the ex-Chester City man.

At the moment, Keane has not been impressed with the figures that have been banded around for Walters, ranging from �2m to �3m.

“The valuation of Jon Walters is up to the owner to decide,” explained Keane during yesterday’s first official press conference of the new season.

“The club had an offer from Wigan for �3.5m two years ago, which the club turned down.

“So if everyone, all of a sudden, thinks that Jon’s value has gone down, when I think he’s become a much better player, to �2m or �2.5m, then they’re living in Cuckoo Land!

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“It’s up to the clubs who are after him. If you want good players, you have to pay the money.

“Jon Walters, after Charlie Adam at Blackpool, was the best player in the Championship last season. He was massive for us, and an important captain.

“But if he leaves the club, this club won’t crumble.

“It’s been here a hell of a long time, and it won’t crumble if Jon Walters walks out of the door, or if I walk out the door. The club will survive,” added Keane.

Summer signings Mark Kennedy and Marton Fulop were introduced to the media during yesterday’s Press conference. Ex-Cardiff City left-back Kennedy is set to start at Middlesbrough, while Fulop will be in the squad.

And despite all the transfer speculation, Walters should also play at the Riverside. Keane said: “There have been loads of discussions with Stoke (about Walters) all summer.

“We’ll take a look, but at the moment they (Stoke) haven’t made an offer that the owner feels is acceptable, and we are delighted with that.

“My gut feeling is that Jon will be with us for Saturday.

“I think if anything it’s going to be the next week or two (regarding any potential deal). The Premiership does not start for another week or so, and there’s usually fun and games with negotiations as you’d expect, particularly with certain clubs.

“So I’d expect this one to drag on a little bit longer. But Jon’s aware of it, and again it’s very hard to stop a player when he has an opportunity to play in the Premiership.

“Man United had to sell Ronaldo, and don’t think we are in a position that we can turn down an offer for a player.

“But the player is also under contract here. And we’ve had offers for some of our other players at the club, which we’ve turned down,” added Keane, with reference to the likes of Gareth McAuley and Connor Wickham.

Asked if Walters was likely to go, Keane confirmed: “If they (Stoke) reach an offer that the owner feels is acceptable, then like every player I suppose on the planet, there’s a good chance.”

On the incoming front, Keane remains in the hunt for “two or three” new players, one of which is almost certainly Cardiff’s Michael Chopra. He explained: “It depends who goes, but I’ve got two or three players in mind, particularly in terms of attacking positions.

“The deals I’m looking at are permanent deals, because we need players who we know are going to be here for two or three years to help try and take the club forward.

“The money is there, but the disagreement will always be on the valuation of players.

“There’s talks and there’s negotiations going on. Obviously Chops (Chopra) is mentioned a number of times, but Chops is not the only striker on the planet.

“I think progress is being made (with new players), but it can be very slow because every manager is taking stock of what he has.”


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