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'I need everybody fully fit to perform' - Lambert plays down prospect of Keane return, while Hearts close in on Washington

PUBLISHED: 08:57 27 June 2019 | UPDATED: 21:36 27 June 2019

Former Ipswich Town loanee Will Keane is a free agent following his release by Hull City. Photo: Pagepix

Former Ipswich Town loanee Will Keane is a free agent following his release by Hull City. Photo: Pagepix

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Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert has appeared to play down the prospect of Will Keane returning to the club.

Will Keane scored three goals and impressed manager Paul Lambert during his loan spell at Ipswich Town. Photo: Steve WallerWill Keane scored three goals and impressed manager Paul Lambert during his loan spell at Ipswich Town. Photo: Steve Waller

The 26-year-old striker impressed during a loan spell at Portman Road in the second half of last season, scoring three goals in 11 appearances, but twice he suffered hamstring injuries.

He's now a free agent, having been released by Hull City, and Town look light in the forward department following the sale of Ellis Harrison to League One rivals Portsmouth.

Speaking back in April, Lambert said that he thought signing Keane would be 'great' and that owner Marcus Evans was speaking to the former Manchester United man's agent. Keane himself said a permanent move to the Blues was 'something I would definitely be interested in'.

MORE: Paint job, looking for a lefty and who's out the frame - What we learned from Town's return to pre-season

Will Keane twice suffered hamstring injuries during his time at Town. Photo: PagepixWill Keane twice suffered hamstring injuries during his time at Town. Photo: Pagepix

Town have had more than their fair share of players stuck in the treatment room in recent years though and Keane's injury record, which includes a long spell out following knee surgery in 2016, is a concern.

"Will's probably still rehabbing with his hamstring," said Lambert, speaking ahead of his squad's first full day of pre-season training. "I don't know whether he might be on holiday.

"That's the situation with him. We'll wait and see. I need everybody fully fit to perform."

MORE: Ipswich Town pull the plug on Bialkowski switch to Millwall following medical disagreement

Grant Ward and Emyr Huws are among the many Town players who have had long spells sidelined through injury.

Huws, who has managed just three starts since signing a four-year deal with Blues, joined his team-mates for the start of pre-season training this week, but Lambert remains cautious about his progress given several previous set-backs.

"He's doing okay," said the Blues boss. "He's worked hard over the summer. Touch wood he'll have no reaction to his knee. He's a very talented footballer, but he hasn't played for a long, long time (December 2017 was last senior appearance).

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"We have to get him back to the level I think he can do. The important thing is he can stay fit and can sustain it."

MORE: 'I think we need one or two to try and help... But if you have too many then it becomes a problem' - Lambert on his transfer plans

Ward injured his knee at QPR on Boxing Day last year and subsequently underwent surgery. He was released at the end of the season, but remains in Suffolk doing his rehab.

"I had a chat with Wardy," said Lambert. "The club had the option, but we decided not to take that.

"I think it's only right the club helps him with his rehab because he got injured playing for us. That's the way it stands with him and I don't really have any plans there (to re-sign him)."

Town's League One rivals Rotherham are understood to be interested in signing both Ward and Tom Adeyemi, also released by Town after long-term injury problems, once they prove their fitness. The duo have both had spells with the Millers before.

Meanwhile, Northern Irish forward Conor Washington, who the Blues made enquiries about following his release by Sheffield United, is reportedly set to sign for Scottish club Hearts.

Grant Ward has been released by Ipswich Town, but is doing his rehab on a knee injury at the club. Photo: PagepixGrant Ward has been released by Ipswich Town, but is doing his rehab on a knee injury at the club. Photo: Pagepix

IPSWICH TOWN'S 2019 SUMMER TRANSFER WINDOW

INS (3): James Norwood (Tranmere, Bosman free), Tomas Holy (Gillingham, Bosman free), Adam Przybek (West Brom, free).

OUTS (14): Dean Gerken (released), Jordan Spence (released), James Bree (loan expired), Matthew Pennington (loan expired), James Collins (released), Jonas Knudsen (released, signed for Malmo), Callum Elder (loan expired), Trevoh Chalobah (loan expired), Tom Adeyemi (released), Grant Ward (released), Simon Dawkins (released), Ellis Harrison (Portsmouth, £500k), Will Keane (loan expired), Collin Quaner (loan expired).

IPSWICH TOWN FIRST TEAM SQUAD AS IT STANDS (25)

Bialkowski, Holy; Emmanuel, Donacien, Chambers, Nsiala, Woolfenden, Ndaba, Kenlock; Judge, Skuse, Nolan, Bishop, Downes, Dozzell, Nydam, El Mizouni, Huws; Edwards, Lankester, Rowe; Norwood, Jackson, Sears, Roberts.

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