Keane’s long term future to be decided in the short term

IPSWICH TOWN: Roy Keane begins a defining set of three Championship games at Sheffield United on Saturday when he will need rookie midfielder Jack Colback to step up to the plate.

If club owner Marcus Evans is going to splash the cash during the January transfer window – and in so doing commit himself to backing Keane beyond the manager’s current June 2011 contract – Town will have to be among the promotion-chasing pack come Christmas.

A mid-table place by the time the turkey is carved and Evans is likely to continue in the same vein as last summer with his manager having to generate his own spending money.

Town face the lowly Blades at the weekend, and then follow that up with home games against Derby and Barnsley within the following eight days.

Keane says that he needs to strengthen his squad to equal the experience that many of the Championship’s top teams can call upon.

He has already said that he will not sacrifice �8million-rated Connor Wickham to bring in revenue so to complete the job he was brought into do Keane needs to win the continuing backing of Evans – and to do it quickly.

Keane has loaned last season’s player of the year Colback from Sunderland until January, and at Bramall Lane the 21-year-old is set to lock horns with another player loaned out last month by the Black Cats.

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Andy Reid is 28 and has 27 Republic of Ireland caps. He has made over 300 first team appearances for Tottenham, Charlton and Sunderland having been taken to the Stadium of Light by Keane for �4million in January 2008.

Colback has 46 appearances to his name and only one in the Premier League.

While it is harder to persuade an experienced player with family commitments to uproot himself and move to east Suffolk on loan, Sheffield United have on paper at any rate the better of the deal.

But Colback is a hungry player who so badly wants to prove himself and if he can win the midfield battle with Reid on Saturday, Ipswich can successfully begin their trio of vital matches.

Reid played only three games for Sunderland this season due a hamstring injury.

He said: “I’m delighted to be with Sheffield and, hopefully, I can do well, but I haven’t looked too far ahead. My initial spell is for a month and then we’ll see what happens.”

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