Pompey midfielder will relish facing former club

Stuart O'Keefe. Picture: Joe Pepler
Stuart O'Keefe. Picture: Joe Pepler
Anton Walkes. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey-bound Walkes not on Irish trip

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Stuart O’Keefe is relishing the chance to play against the team where his career started.

Pompey host Southend at Fratton Park today – the club that gave the midfielder his professional debut.

O’Keefe graduated through the Shrimpers’ Academy and made 10 appearances for the first team.

The Cardiff loanee was a right midfielder before moving into the central role he now operates.

O’Keefe is back in contention for a starting berth in Kenny Jacket’s starting line-up.

He missed last week’s 3-2 win at Blackpool and is looking forward to the game.

O’Keefe said: ‘As a first-year scholar, I played right midfield in the youth team.

‘We did really well and got to the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup in 2008 before I went into the first team as a right winger!

‘I wasn’t the quickest but I used to play there for a bit.

‘I got a few goals from there and enjoyed my time at the club.’

O’Keefe departed Southend for Crystal Palace 2010 after financial problems hit the Roots Hall outfit.

The 26-year-old admitted the situation helped him grow up as a footballer.

‘There was a lot going on and that’s how I managed to leave the club,’ O’Keefe added.

‘I hadn’t been paid and I knew I could go to Crystal Palace.

‘If I handed in a transfer request, I knew it would activate a clause in my contract.

‘There were financial hard-times but there a lot of clubs who have gone through it.

‘It’s part and parcel of being a footballer. It makes you learn the game isn’t a fairytale like people think it is – it makes you appreciate things.