O'Keefe delighted to feel 'like a footballer again' after Dons debut

Stuart O'Keefe
Stuart O'Keefe

With five hours of the transfer window to go, Stuart O'Keefe wasn't expecting to end the night as an MK Dons player.

The 25-year-old was 10 minutes from his house in Essex when he was told by Bluebirds boss Neil Warnock of Dons interest in bringing him to Stadium MK, prompting a diversion up the M1 to get the deal done.

Stuart O'Keefe

Stuart O'Keefe

By Saturday, O'Keefe, who had only made nine appearances for Cardiff all season, was watching as his shot rebounded into the path of Kieran Agard to equalise in the 1-1 draw with Bolton Wanderers.
"It was good to get back out on the pitch, fighting for a win and in front of a good crowd," he said. "I really enjoyed it, coming off the bench and helping with the equaliser pretty much straight away.

"I had a shot initially which ricocheted away, but it was just good to get on the pitch and be a footballer again.

"It has been frustrating. I played a lot last season, and started really well this season under Paul Trollope. I signed a new deal, but then he lost his job, and that's football.

"But the new manager, Neil Warnock, came in and didn't fancy me. But you've just got to get on with it, and I'm just really pleased to be here and playing football again and getting back into the rhythm.

"The deal came late on Tuesday night. I wasn't expecting anything to happen really, so I was on my way home back to Essex. Then, at about 6pm I got the call from Neil Warnock saying MK Dons were interested. I spoke to the manager here, I got a really good feel for it. I spoke to other people and told them to get the deal done.

"I was 10 minutes from home, so I could sign the papers here, then I had to go back to Cardiff to get my stuff because I had nothing on me! Then I came to Milton Keynes on Thursday!

"That's all the drama of deadline day, part and parcel of being a footballer. But with deadline day, you've got to get it done. It's onwards and upwards."

O'Keefe made his name at Crystal Palace, helping the Eagles to Premier League promotion in 2013 and playing in the top flight before moving to Cardiff. Flourishing under Trollope last season, O'Keefe has been sidelined in Wales but feels he can bring experience and energy to the Dons midfield.

He said: "I think I bring energy and a bit of quality going forwards. And I bring experience too - I've played a lot of football in the Championship and at a higher level too. We've got a good group here - I can tell that despite only been here a couple of days. I hope we can push on and push up the table."

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His introduction came just 10 minutes into the second half against Bolton, with Dons trailing to Jay Spearing's somewhat fortuitous opener in first half stoppage time. And his impact was felt almost immediately, as he saw a shot blocked before Agard rattled home the equaliser. O'Keefe felt though, that Dons deserved to go on and win the game after pulling level.

He said: "The first half was pretty even, maybe Bolton had the better of it. But in the second half, we really got a foothold in the game and we played on the front foot. I don't think they had a chance in the second half. Fair play to them, we just couldn't unlock the defence or get that bit of luck to get the win."

And with Dons mounting something of a recovery in the league - now three games unbeaten - the midfielder feels a hectic February could see Dons begin to climb the table again.

"It's difficult at this level, anyone can beat anyone, and there are a lot of games," he added. "There are some really good players in this team, and if we can put a run together, we can really jump up the table.

"There are so many points to play for, so many games left. February is a massive month, with so many games. If you can come out of that on a run, you can go into March only six points off it, and then there's every chance you can make it.

"With there being a lot of games, the manager has a lot more options. He has the flexibility to do a bit more of what he wants now."

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