RICHARD Keogh has spoken for the first time of his play-off pain and says the support of the Derby County fans means a lot to him.
Keogh admits the manner of defeat by Queen’s Park Rangers in Saturday’s final at Wembley still hurts.
His late error allowed Bobby Zamora to fire home Rangers’ 90th-minute winning goal and book a place in the Premier League next season.
Keogh left the Wembley pitch in tears. “It still hurts, it is still raw and I am obviously really upset,” said the skipper.
“I think what made it worse for me was that this group of players are not just my team-mates, they are my friends as well, but the supporters have been absolutely terrific.
“I have had a lot of texts – I don’t think my phone has stopped.
“It has nearly caught fire with the amount of people who have been saying things, and it really means a lot.
“I think you have seen that throughout the season, and at the game, the fans were absolutely fantastic and I like to think we did them proud.
“It is a great feeling when you get that connection with the fans.”
Keogh is on international duty with the Republic of Ireland, who play Italy on Saturday.
The Irish then have two matches against Costa Rica and Portugal in the United States.
But Keogh’s thoughts are already on next season.
“With the way we finished the season; the attacking football we played and the intent we showed, the expectation will go up,” he saud.
“We will just concentrate on what we can do, which is try to be better people and try to be better players.
“The head coach [Steve McClaren] has been fantastic. His experience will help us and we can really attack it next year.”