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Keown: Our young players have the belief

16 July 2015

Niall delighted to sign new deal with Clarke at the helm

At the tender age of 20, Niall Keown has a very wise head resting on his shoulders. Having signed a three-year deal with the club on Tuesday afternoon, the promising young defender was delighted to have secured his future at a club he is starting to feel very at home with.

"I'm very happy to have signed and to have extended my stay here," he told Reading FC Player after putting pen to paper. "I'm looking forward to taking my career to the next level and I'm thrilled that it's going to be here - at a very good club which is really starting to feel like home now after four years here already."

Keown started at centre-back alongside Anton Ferdinand in a pre-season clash with a Thailand All Stars side last week and he is relishing the chance to impress as pre-season really gets into full swing.

"We've obviously just come back from Thailand, which was a different experience with the heat out there. It's actually nice to get back to a bit of rain for once. I'm actually looking forward to a rainy day in November after running out there in the heat. It was so humid!

"But it's all good for your fitness for when you get back here. And it was a very enjoyable we're all looking forward to the start of the season now.

"For the rest of the week we've got double sessions every day before our game on Saturday, and it's nice to have the games to look forward to now. They are something to aim towards. But we all know there is still a lot of hard work to do in this pre-season."

Keown was one of a record eleven Academy products to make their first team debut for the Royals last season and, the son of former Arsenal and England star Martin Keown, Niall is looking to further make his mark on first team matters in 2015-16.

"Pre-season is always a good chance to build on the previous campaign and, towards the end of last season, I was lucky enough to get my chance under Steve Clarke.

"I've very much enjoyed working under him; since he's been here there has been a clear message to the way he wants to play and I think all the young players are really excited to try to get that opportunity.

"Tariqe and Jack Stacey got their chance at the end of the season for example, and when you see that the manager's not scared to give these younger players a chance - and when you also to see how well they both did at Derby - it gives you a great deal of belief.

"You've played with these players, come through with them, so you can compare yourself to them and it gives you the confidence to want to get out there yourself and do what they've done.

"So I'm just working as hard as I can during this pre-season and trying to make as much progress as I am able to, to try to make sure I'm in and around the team come the start of the season.

"I try to get as much out of every single session as I can, make as much improvement as possible. Then I've got my longer goals, your focus, the things you want to achieve. As a squad, we're all set on trying to push towards promotion."

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