Matt Richards renews rivalries – and friendship – with Dan Harding at Roots Hall tonight.

The career of Albion’s on-loan utility player has been interwoven with that of former Seagull Harding for both club and country.

Now they find themselves in the same boat, out-of-favour at Ipswich and playing in League One. Hardling lines up for Southend following his temporary move from Portman Road, on the opposite side of the pitch to Richards.

They are more accustomed to being on the same side, vying for the same role at Ipswich and at international level. On one occasion former Albion manager Peter Taylor gave them 45 minutes apiece at left-back for England under-21s.

“We were both in the squad together and both played a half,” Richards recalled. “I played the first and he played the second.

“Unfortunately, after that I got injured so I wasn’t involved in the next couple of squads. “I didn’t play last year at Ipswich but the year before he played at left-back and I was left midfield. We could switch and I think a few times in the reserves he played left midfield and I played leftback. “It was just healthy competition. We know each other really well and I am good friends with him.

“I’m quite surprised that Dan is still not at Ipswich. He’s a great player. He’s got a lot of pace and passes the ball really well, so I’m a bit surprised he is not starting there.

“But he has gone to a good team in Southend. They pass the ball and are difficult to play against but I think we have got the quality here to beat them.” Richards is back with Albion after two successful loan spells last season with former manager Dean Wilkins. Surplus to requirements once more at Ipswich, he had no qualms about returning to the Seagulls under Micky Adams.

“I had been speaking to the lads over pre-season and they said they were really enjoying it and the manager is great, so I didn’t really hesitate at all,” he said. “I came straight back down here and I haven’t looked back since.

“I was hoping to be involved at Ipswich but it hasn’t worked out like that. I tried my hardest in pre-season but it hasn’t turned out the best for me there. “I am really happy to come back here on loan. I have enjoyed it a lot since I’ve come back. I think the club has got even better. “I enjoy the training and we have got off to a great start so I am really happy here at the moment. We’ll take it step by step and see what happens over Christmas. “I am still just concentrating on playing every week. I haven’t really thought about where my permanent future lies. I enjoy it down here, so it would definitely be something I would take into consideration when the time comes.”