Matt back at Town

MATT Richards returns to Portman Road tomorrow knowing he will soon have to make the biggest decision of his footballing life.Richards has been a huge success as a left back during his three-month loan spell at Brighton and Albion boss Dean Wilkins is keen to take him again in January until the end of the season.

By Derek Davis

MATT Richards returns to Portman Road tomorrow knowing he will soon have to make the biggest decision of his footballing life.

Richards has been a huge success as a left back during his three-month loan spell at Brighton and Albion boss Dean Wilkins is keen to take him again in January until the end of the season. With Dan Harding dropped and his place taken by the right-footed Sito Castro, Blues boss Jim Magilton may consider drafting Richards back into his squad for the games at Leicester City and Coventry City.

The one-time England under-21 international's displays have also alerted other clubs and Richards, whose contact with the Blues still has 18-months to run has a number of options open to him. Richards said: “I haven't really decided what I am doing yet. Brighton is a great place and they have made it clear that they want me, which is very nice to know.

“It is high up on my list, going back there, but I have to speak to Ipswich and see what is happening first.

“I need to speak to the manager (Jim Magilton) and see what his plans are for me, then make a decision from there.”

Most Read

Richards, who turns 23 on Boxing Day, will complete his initial loan spell at the Withdean tonight when the Seagulls take on Gillingham and he will be missed.

After a poor first game Richards has impressed on the south coast and Brighton have won nine, drawn seven and lost just three times during his 20-game spell.

Albion's assistant manager Dean White said: “We would definitely like to keep him. He is a decent lad and a good player.

“It took him a little while to settle, because he hadn't played in the first team at Ipswich for a while.

“Once he got up to speed his quality showed through and he has been an important part of the run we've had.”

Playing in League One has been an eye opener for Richards who played in the UEFA Cup as a 17-year-old, He said: “I have really enjoyed it, everything about it - the change of scenery, the lads, the coaching - it has been a very different experience for me and, all in all, it has been very positive.

“I had been at Ipswich all my life, so it was very different to start with. The coaches have taught me new things and it has helped me a lot, learning different things from different people.”

If Richards did go back to Sussex he has a chance of playing at Wembley through three different routes.

The Seagulls are still in the FA Cup and play Mansfield Town. They are in the semi-finals of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy where they meet Swansea, and are strong contenders for a play-off place in League One.

With or without him, Richards, who has Championship play-off experience with Ipswich, believes Albion are capable of maintaining their promotion challenge.

He said: “No matter who plays I think this team can go forward and definitely get in the play-offs, if not better.

“There is a willingness to learn and enthusiasm to play. Everyone is happy and enjoying themselves.

“The team spirit is excellent and I think that is what I have enjoyed the most. I've made some great friends here, not just playing football but in all aspects.”

Richards has been sharing a flat in Hove with Blues team-mate George O'Callaghan whose loan deal ends on December 31 but is also wanted by Brighton on a more permanent basis.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter