Skipper is not for sale

HANDS off our best players.

Ipswich Town boss Roy Keane is just as worried about holding onto his biggest stars, as he is trying to track down new talent.

Keane has revealed that rival clubs have already been targeting Jon Walters, with a view to prising the inspirational skipper away from Portman Road.

And the Irishman is also bracing himself for renewed interest in prize asset, Connor Wickham, during the summer.

“One of my biggest challenges is going to be keeping our best players at the football club, because there has been interest in them,” confessed Keane, on the eve of tomorrow’s final game of the season at home to Sheffield United.

“People are going on about getting new players, but I also intend to keep my best players.

“Trust me, I’ve already had enquiries about some of my players, who I have no intention of letting go.

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“I don’t want to be bringing in players and letting one or two go, because I’ll be taking one step forward and two steps back.

“I have a core group of players who I have no intention of letting go, my captain (Walters) being one of them.

“I know it’s going to be hard work keeping some of my players.

“I’m not going to discuss Connor (Wickham), but I know what players I’d be looking at, if I was a young manager in the Premier League.

“We’ve seen the Theo Walcotts and Gareth Bales go after just 15 to 20 games (for Southampton). I just thank God that Connor signed his contract not so long ago,” added Keane.

Even so, Keane knows that every player has his price. He even quoted the examples of the real Madrid duo of Cristiano Ronaldo (�80m) and Kaka (�68m) during yesterday’s press conference.

Walters has only missed three games all season, and is Town’s leading scorer with eight goals, while the exciting Wickham, fresh from signing his first professional deal (two years) just a month ago, has slammed home four league goals in his last eight outings.

Meanwhile, Keane yesterday confirmed the out-of-contract players who would be leaving Portman Road this summer, and those who had been offered new deals.

David Wright, Richard Wright, Pim Balkestein, Ed Upson and Devann Yao will all be leaving the club, as will Reserves team coach Steve Foley.

New deals have been offered to Shane O’Connor, Reggie Lambe, Troy Brown, Ian McLoughlin and Jack Ainsley, while Liam Trotter, who is currently on loan at Millwall, will also be offered a new contract.

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