DEFENDER George Keys hopes to put himself in the shop window after being told his contract is not being renewed by Colchester United.

The 17-year-old full-back, who played in the club’s recent FA Youth Cup quarter-final against Arsenal, is being released at the end of the season.

Keys admitted the bodyblow took “days to sink in”.

Now, however, he is determined to finish the season strongly with loan club Brightlingsea Regent - and hope his performances catch the eye of watching clubs.

He joined the Bostik League side on a work experience loan in January.

The arrangement was initially for a month but was subsequently extended until the end of the season.

“When Colchester called me into a meeting and told me my contract was not going to be renewed, I couldn’t believe it,” he told the Gazette.

“It took a few days to sink in.

“I just wanted to get back playing as quickly as possible and I’ve been given that chance here at Brightlingsea.

“It’s a high level and I’m enjoying it.

“I just want to give my all and play the best I can as you never know who’s watching.

“I’m used to playing in academy matches for Colchester.

“This is very different, though.

“It’s much more physical and I’m enjoying testing myself in men’s football.

“It’s good for me and I definitely feel I’m improving.

“It took some getting used to, especially in my first couple of games, and you come up against some clever players at this level.

“It’s a step up but, like I say, a great challenge for me and that’s why I was very happy to stay until the end of the season.”

Keys has impressed throughout his time at the Taydal Stadium and hopes to continue shining in the R’s remaining Bostik League matches.

He was many people’s man-of-the-match in Regent’s recent 2-2 draw against title-chasing Dulwich Hamlet.

“I’m really enjoying the challenge of non-league football, previously for Maldon and Tiptree and now here at Brightlingsea,” he said.

“I’m lucky to be at a great club.

“It’s a good level and excellent experience for me.

“(Manager) Tom (Rothery) has given me a chance to impress and hopefully I can take it.

“I was particularly pleased with my performance against a top-of-the-table side in Dulwich.

“It gave us something to build on.

“A few people told me afterwards that it was my best game so far although I thought I played well against Margate, too.

“It’s nice to hear, though, and certainly gives you a confidence boost.

“I’m always trying to impress people.”

Keys was back in the Regent side for Saturday’s 2-1 victory at basement boys Burgess Hill Town.

It hoisted them 14 points clear of the Sussex side.

And with only one side falling through the relegation trapdoor this season, they now look to have done enough to ensure another season of step three football.