Connor more mature than I was - Keane

ROY Keane admits that Connor Wickham is more mature than him, in terms of a comparison as raw 16-year-olds.Wickham started his first game since August, during last Sunday's 1-1 draw at Leicester City, and he is again set to play a part during this afternoon's visit of Coventry City.

Carl Marston

by Carl Marston

ROY Keane admits that Connor Wickham is more mature than him, in terms of a comparison as raw 16-year-olds.

Wickham started his first game since August, during last Sunday's 1-1 draw at Leicester City, and he is again set to play a part during this afternoon's visit of Coventry City.

Town's rising starlet is still waiting to score the first league goal of his fledgling career, but that does not faze 38-year-old Keane, who as a 16-year-old was still playing semi-professional football in his native Ireland.

"Connor is making good progress," explained Keane.

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"He's in the group on merit. His attitude is excellent, considering that he's only 16. That's a credit to him and his family.

"He's very mature. In fact, he's more mature than I was at the age of 16!

"He's also the best in the gym at doing the weights.

"But I've seen so many 16 and 17-year-olds thinking that they've got it cracked, only to be playing in non-league just a few years later,"

added Keane.

Wickham has attracted the interest of a host of top Premier League clubs already this season, although he cannot sign professional terms with anyone until he celebrates his 17th birthday on March 31.

Keane is hoping that his young striker opts to stay at Ipswich, and establish himself as a front-line striker.

And he is sure that it won't be long before Wickham is on the score-sheet.

"The goals will come for Connor," continued Keane.

"It would certainly be nice for him to get his first league goal. My coach Tony (Loughlan) was a striker, and he tells me how important it is for a striker to score his first goal.

"However, Connor has already notched in the League Cup," added Keane, with reference to his brace in the Carling Cup game at Shrewsbury.

Keane hinted that he might recall Stern John to the starting line-up this afternoon. The Crystal Palace loanee could play alongside Wickham, although the Town boss might also revert to using his 16-year-old as a second-half substitute for major impact.

John would relish the chance of starting against his old club. The Trinidad & Tobago international scored 26 goals in 78 league appearances for Coventry between 2004 and the start of '07.

Joint leading scorer Jon Walters is another possibility up front, while Tamas Priskin and Pablo Counago will be hoping to at least make the bench. The chances are that one of these two will make the final squad.

However, Jon Stead is still unavailable. The six-goal target man serves the third of a four-match suspension, which will also see him miss the following Saturday's trip to Southampton for an FA Cup fourth round tie.

With the exception of substitute keeper Brian Murphy, who damaged ankle ligaments in the warm-up at Leicester, only Alex Bruce was a casualty of that fixture.

However Bruce, who came in at right-back for his first game since November, is expected to be fit to face Coventry.

Keane confirmed: "Alex Bruce took a knock on his heel during the first five or 10 minutes at Leicester, but he's still trained most of the week.

"I might bring Stern (John) back in this weekend.

"But it's strange not one of our strikers has grasped that opportunity and put the ball in the back of the net. Steady is the only one, and he's suspended."

Coventry City boss Chris Coleman is confident that winger Sam Clingan and striker Leon Best will both pass late fitness tests, after suffering head and thigh injuries respectively during the FA Cup defeat to Portsmouth in midweek.

The Sky Blues were desperately unlucky to lose this third round replay. They were 1-0 up with just seconds remaining, when an own goal from their skipper Stephen Wright forced extra time.

And in the last minute of extra-time, Aaron Mokoena headed home a dramatic winner for Pompey.

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