Richards wants to go up with Blues

BIRTHDAY boy Matt Richards hopes that this time next year he will be celebrating as a Premiership player.

BIRTHDAY boy Matt Richards hopes that this time next year he will be celebrating as a Premiership player, writes Derek Davis.

Although a raft of top flight clubs have been keeping tabs on Richards who will be 19 today, the young defender is happy to be plying his trade in the Premier League with Ipswich.

“Ipswich have a great chance of going up. Although we started poorly the team has done brilliantly to get where we are.

“Despite being unfortunate against Norwich our form is good at the moment and we are still right up there and just seven points off the top.”

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Newcastle, Southampton, Leeds United and Fulham, are all known to have checked on Richards but he dismisses all the inevitable speculation.

He said: “I have not taken much notice of all that talk. I'm perfectly happy here. I have been at Ipswich since I was 10 and see no reason to leave.”

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Richards lines up against the Hammers today as fifth-placed Town take on the sixth-spot side.

The Blues are searching for their first win in three games and Richards knows the partisan Boleyn Ground is not an easy place to go.

He said: “West Ham are always a hard team to play, especially at Upton Park where they have very passionate fans.

“They will try and make it hard for us by getting on our backs but we can cope with that.”

“They have a lot of good players but the main threat are the forwards. All three are Premiership quality.

“West Ham like to play three up front but that means they will be shorter in midfield which is where we are strong. We will look to catch them on the break with our forwards using the channels.”

The recall of Alan Mahon to Blackburn has hurt the squad and Richards admits the jinky Irishman will be a loss.

He said: “We will miss him on and off the field. He is a great person to have around and a terrific footballer as well. It is unfortunate that Blackburn need him but he is good so it is understandable.

“Even so, hopefully we will get him back soon.”

Although still a tender age, Richards is fast approaching 50 senior appearances, with the one goal to cherish, and admits after a sticky early season has matured well.

An unfortunate injury to Chris Makin, who is up and walking about again after an operation to cure a nerve problem on Monday, gave Richards his big chance.

He said: “Playing regularly has helped me a lot. I didn't start the season very well and needed a run in the team to help me and I feel I have improved as a result. You can't beat the experience of actually playing.”

And Richards has backed fellow young protégé Ian Westlake to regain his form soon.

He said: “I went through it and all you can do is focus on trying to get the little things right in training.”

Westlake and Martijn Reuser battle it out for the left-sided position unless Ipswich go for a more attacking three up front system, which could see Dean Bowditch being recalled.

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