Former Ipswich ballboy heading to U’s?

FORMER Ipswich Town academy defender Richard Keogh might be tempted to return to his East Anglian roots and sign for Colchester United.

FORMER Ipswich Town academy defender Richard Keogh might be tempted to return to his East Anglian roots and sign for Colchester United.

Those are the fears of Carlisle United boss Greg Abbott as the Cumbrians’ cult hero defender rapidly nears the end of his contract.

Born in Harlow, Essex, Keogh started his career as a ballboy and academy player at Portman Road.

And with John Ward now in charge at Colchester – the man who brought Keogh to Brunton Park back in August 2008 – speculation is rife that soon-to-be free agent Keogh, 23, could be tempted to return to his Essex origins and link up with his former boss.

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He rejected a new deal at Carlisle in May, stating a desire to return to the south of England, but then back-tracked slightly, instead asking the club whether he could be given time to fully consider his decision.

Is is yet unclear as to whether Ward, currently in the United States on a family holiday, is definitely interested in bringing Keogh to the Weston Homes Community Stadium – the defender’s versatility would certainly appear to make him a likely target though.

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The six-footer played right-back all this season but was previously deployed as a centre-half by Ward. The U’s have seen loanee centre-backs Danny Batth and Franck Queudrue return to their parent clubs this summer and would certainly also require cover at right-back should the out-of-contract Phil Ifil reject a new deal.

Carlisle boss Abbott said: “I don’t know if Richard would be swayed by John Ward getting the Colchester job. I know he enjoys playing for me.

“I would be disappointed if he took a sideways move. If it was, say, Huddersfield who offered to double his money then I could understand it, but the only thing Colchester have is their location on the map.

“I would have liked an answer earlier, but Richard is well within his rights to keep his cards close to his chest – and he’s doing absolutely nothing wrong.

“It’s frustrating because I need to know one way or another so I know if I have a good right-back to replace. I can’t drag an answer out of him.

“I would hope for Richard’s sake that he can get his mind focused on next season. I wouldn’t have thought he would want to leave it until the end of June.”

Keogh was released by both Ipswich and Stoke at a young age before finally finding his feet at then League One club Bristol City in 2005/6.

He became a key player in his second season at the south west club, playing 43 times as Gary Johnson’s side secured promotion to the Championship and reached the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Those performances saw the half Irishman become captain of the Republic of Ireland Under-21 side, however he wasn’t deemed good enough for the second tier of the English game the following season and found himself loaned out to League One clubs Huddersfield, Carlisle and Cheltenham.

Cumbrians boss John Ward signed Keogh on a permanent basis at the start of the 2008/9 season and since then he has established himself as a fans’ favourite over the last two seasons at Brunton Park with a string of determined and consistent displays.

Football League rules state that any club losing a player under the age of 24 through the Bosman system will be due compensation from the buying club. Keogh doesn’t turn 24 until August 11, while his current deal expires at the end of this month.

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