Defender deal off after deal agreed!

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THE proposed signing of former Stoke City centre back Richard Keogh has fallen through.

Late last week, Clarets boss Steve Cotterill revealed that the 18-year-old had agreed a two-year deal with the club after impressing on trial after his release from the Britannia Stadium.

The Republic of Ireland Under 19 international has impressed in training at Gawthorpe after being given the chance to earn a deal, and Cotterill said: "We're going to sign Richard on a two-year contract. He's been on trial and he is a good, young lad.

"He's done well in training, and he will be in the squad at Cheltenham."

He added: "He was well known to me at Stoke, but he was only a kid then, and although he is still young, in body and physically he is a man. Dave Kevan knows him as well and after all his hard work, we have decided to give him a two-year contract.

"When I told him, he was that chuffed that when he went away again, he rang Dave Kevan back to find out the details of the deal because he had forgotten them!

"I don't know whether that is a good thing or a bad thing!"

But Keogh was not in the 17 on duty at Whaddon Road, and the club issued a statement, confirming that the deal was off after discussions with Keogh's agent.

It read: "After further discussions with Richard's agent, an agreement could not be made, and the club has decided not to pursue it's interest."

Meanwhile, the Clarets kicked off their pre-season warm-up schedule with a goal-less draw at Cotterill's former club Cheltenham Town on Saturday, with his five summer signings, Wade Elliott, Garreth O'Connor, Wayne Thomas, Gifton Noel-Williams and Danny Karbassiyoon all playing some part in the game.

Michael Duff was skipper for the day, with the match part of the 30,000 deal that took him to Turf Moor last summer, lining up against younger brother Shane, who was also given the Robins' armband.

It was a terrific gesture from club captain Frank Sinclair, who came in for some good natured stick from the home fans after a couple of robust challenges, and Cotterill said: "It was a great day all round and I really enjoyed it, although I'd rather come back and it be a more competitive game, not that it wasn't competitive, as a few of my natives let Frank Sinclair know!

"Frank was popular actually, we've just asked if they wanted him on loan! I don't know why the crowd started on Frank – he's a good boy!"

He added: "Frank suggested making Michael Duff captain, and I thought it was a great idea and went along with it.

"I knew it would be a decent day, and it would be difficult for us, but as first games go I am pleased because, not only did we have a new team last year, we've got a new team this year.

"It's always important to start off with a clean sheet, a goal and a win, and the same applies to pre-season. We've got the clean sheet, so all we need now is the goal and the win to get us up and running."

And he was pleased with his side, who turned in a number of impressive performances in searing heat: "I thought the fitness levels were excellent, although I felt it took us until the 75th minute before we passed a few balls.

"It is obviously difficult for the new boys to be dropped straight in, but I thought they were all good, and Wayne Thomas will strike up a better understanding with John McGreal the more games they play.

"Gifton should have scored, and then at the other end the keeper made a good save from him.

"Micah had a shot after he must have been watching his Blackburn video, so we are relatively pleased with the efforts we had on goal, and I don't think Danny Coyne or Brian Jensen had a shot to save."

Cotterill also hailed his backroom staff for holding the fort in pre-season while he has pursued transfer targets and gone away on scouting missions, and he said: "I have been here there and everywhere, and I need to thank all my staff because, to be honest, since we came back on July 1st, I don't think I've been quite with it.

"They have been the ones to keep me going, and now we are back into the games, their motivation and enthusiasm has probably helped to kick-start me again, so a big thank you to them for preparing the team."

The next port of call for the Clarets is Accrington Stanley's Interlink Express Stadium tomorrow night, as Cotterill takes his men to face their Conference neighbours (kick-off 7-45 p.m.), and he added: "I am looking forward to that, but first of all we have given the lads a well-deserved couple of days off.

"When we come back in on Tuesday, we will be in all the time then, playing Accrington Stanley, training, facing Malaga and a week in Austria. It's quite a hectic time, so I think it's important that they take some time off and refuel."