Insider: Combative O’Keefe can fire up Pompey

Stuart O'Keefe, right, in action for MK Dons against Bradford last season Picture: Bruce Rollinson
Stuart O'Keefe, right, in action for MK Dons against Bradford last season Picture: Bruce Rollinson
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If you want a proper nasty midfielder who will step on toes, buzz around, dictate play and put in tough tackles, then Stuart O’Keefe fits the bill.

He joined MK Dons on loan from Cardiff for the second half of last season and demonstrated a no-nonsense approach.

In total, he appeared 18 times and scored four goals for Robbie Neilson’s side and was a player who impressed.

O’Keefe arrived at a strange time between the transition from Karl Robinson to Neilson and was one of the first through the door of the January transfer window.

To be honest, he played a role that Dons didn’t really need.

He was very industrious, a sideways sort of midfielder, but the team already had a perfectly good player doing that in Darren Potter.

However, when Potter began to feature less, O’Keefe became the engine room of the side and performed very well.

He is a hard-tackling, energetic guy who chipped in with four goals in his last 12 games and grew into his role in Neilson’s side.

I’d say he was one of those who, if there was the opportunity to sign him, a lot of fans would have taken it.

Certainly, he could have become a favourite over time.

During his loan spell, Neilson was rolling the dice in systems, playing three at the back with five in midfield or two holding or a diamond or the Christmas tree, all sorts.

Yet O’Keefe became very much a mainstay of that team and would definitely do well for Portsmouth at this level in the central two.

He’s a very likeable guy, a good talker and enjoyed his time at Stadium mk as he finally got the opportunity to play games.

During interviews, he was very open about his Cardiff situation and explained Neil Warnock had informed him he was not part of his plans. That is not going to change.

Funnily enough, when he received the call from Cardiff that MK Dons wanted him on loan, he was halfway round the M25 driving back to his Essex home, so had to change his route!

Quite early in the summer, Neilson recruited Ousseynou Cisse from French Ligue 2 side Tours and got Aaron Tshibola on loan from Aston Villa, while Peter Pawlett signed a pre-contract agreement in March.

They represented his midfield strengthening, so Dons didn’t need to go back in for O’Keefe.

In fairness, you could tell he had played in the Championship, he was just that little bit better than most – and I wish him well.