Roy ready to hand Hyam his debut

Ipswich Town manager Roy Keane is preparing to throw young midfielder Luke Hyam in at the deep end by handing him his professional debut in the club’s Championship opener at Middlesbrough on Saturday.

The 18-year-old former Northgate High School pupil has come from nowhere over the summer to become one of the stand-out performers of Town’s pre-season.

Playing the holding midfielder’s role in a 4-3-3 formation, the blond-haired teenager first caught the eye with an assured substitute’s appearance at PSV Eindhoven and followed that up with a mature display in a 1-0 defeat to a strong West Ham side at Portman Road on Saturday.

Up against an established midfield containing the likes of Scott Parker, Thomas Hitzlsperger and ex-Town favourite Kieron Dyer, Hyam showed positional discipline in front of the Blues back four, snapped into tackles when required and never looked rushed on the ball when in possession.

And with the big kick-off now just five days away, Keane appears to have seen enough to convince him that Hyam is ready to step up to the first team.

“It’s a big ask for a young boy to start in the Championship, but in terms of central midfielders at the club he’s suited to that role more than anybody,” said the Town boss.

“It’s the players at a football club that pick the team and Luke is in the team on merit. He’s in great physical condition and although the role is suited to a more experienced player, we haven’t got anyone else at the club at present that fits that bracket.”

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Should Hyam be given the nod on Saturday it will complete a rapid ascent to the first team for a player who was very much on the outer fringes at the back end of last season.

In the final three matches of the 2009/10 campaign, Hyam was twice named on the bench – against Doncaster and Sheffield United – but on both occasions he was an unused substitute as fellow former Northgate pupil Billy Clark got on ahead of him.

He has earnt plaudits from the club’s senior professionals with the calm manner in which he has handled the step up into first-team training this summer, though, and now looks set to be the man entrusted with playing behind central midfielders David Norris and Grant Leadbitter at the weekend.

Meanwhile, Keane – who will play a young side against Tottenham Hotspur at Portman Road tomorrow night – is set to be busy in the transfer market this week.

The Irishman is close to completing the signing of Sunderland keeper M�rton F�l�p and will continue to pursue Cardiff City striker Michael Chopra. On the outgoing front, midfielder Owen Garvan is set to complete his �225,000 switch to Crystal Palace today, while transfer-listed striker Jon Stead continues to negotiate with Blackpool and Bristol City.

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