Keane predicts Town star can progress like Gareth Bale

IPSWICH TOWN: Blues boss Roy Keane sees his 17-year-old striker Connor Wickham hitting the same heights as Tottenham left-sided current sensation Gareth Bale.

But Keane is determined to tread carefully with his hot prot�g�e despite the teenager’s desire to be involved more often.

“I don’t want to put Connor in a position where he could burn himself out by the time he’s 30,” said Keane.

“Connor has a chance to make it big, and he’s in a similar position to where Gareth Bale was when a youngster at Southampton.

“But in an ideal world he should be learning his trade in the reserve and youth teams.”

As much as he wants to nurse Wickham and not gamble with the England Under-19 international burning out in similar fashion to Norman Whiteside and possibly Kieron Dyer and Michael Owen, Keane knows the youngster’s worth in his current squad.

Despite disturbing reports at the weekend there has been no fall-out between manager and player although Wickham has made it known that he would like to feature more often.

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Jason Scotland and Tamas Priskin are set to start up front against Sheffield United in the npower Championship fixture at Bramall Lane tomorrow (kick-off 3pm).

Wickham will be waiting his chance on the bench alongside another teenage striker Ronan Murray.

The 19-year-old netted his first senior goal on his debut as a substitute in the Carling Cup victory at Exeter in August.

“My next goal is to score a league goal,” said Murray.

“I thought I had scored at Watford the other week, but it was disallowed.

“Hopefully the signs are there that I can come on and score and I need to prove that I can.

“I’ve been told by staff I’ve done okay so I have to build on that and look to keep improving.”

Murray has now made eight first team appearances, all from the bench. Five in the Championship and three in the Carling Cup.

Keane has been impressed with Murray’s performances, saying: “Ronan’s got the heart the size of a lion, but physically he still has to do a bit more.

“We can talk about what he lacks, but he gets in the right areas and he’s tenacious.”

And Keane is looking for other youngsters also to kick-on. “It was good for Jamie Griffiths to come on against Northampton and he played 89 minutes for the reserves the following night.

“It was just as important that he did well for the second team,” said Keane.

“That’s how we judge players, not on how they are when they get in the first team but how they respond to it.”

Tom Eastman, Troy Brown are Reggie Lamb are other teenagers who have done well when called upon.

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