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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: August 16, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

    Keane has earned the right to go where he wants

    Carl O'Malley

    Put yourself in Robbie Keane’s shoes for a moment. Imagine you are 31, you have played for eight clubs in three different leagues, you are Ireland’s record goalscorer by some distance and you have nothing to prove.

    There’s the missus, the chissler and life after football to think about. There’s a big wedge of cash on the table and it looks like taking it will not jeopardise your chances to continue doing the one thing that has brought joy to your career over recent years; playing for Ireland.

    It’s a chance to finally get out of the goldfish bowl that has been your life for 14 years – to escape the same scrutiny, questions and unjustified abuse. There are also new fans and opportunities in an exciting city that hasn’t just been ripped apart by the worst rioting in decades.

    Now look at the other options. If they were options, at all.

    Bolton is the most attractive, but you’re not mad on the place and they can’t pay you what you’ve become accustomed to. Don’t sneer, this dilemma is factored into everyone’s career path, the amount of money is of little or no consequence.

    Blackburn make a call. They offer uncertainty, maybe a bit more money than Bolton, but mainly uncertainty. Oh, and a starring role in a chicken advertisement. Seriously.

    Leicester get in touch. It’s an ambitious project in a lower division, led by one of them-there consortia and with a manager (Sven-Goran Eriksson), whose track record of being taken seriously in England is second only to Boris Johnson’s at a community meeting in Hackney.

    Which one would you choose?

    That’s right, Keane chose the same one. LA Galaxy. And why wouldn’t he?

    Never has a sportsman so vital to a nation’s success on the field been the subject of so much ridicule. Roy Keane just divided a nation, Robbie is parodied by the public and press to the point of embarrassment. The old idiom that we are a ‘nation of begrudgers’ is rarely more pronounced than when talking about Robbie.

    Yet (and I know this sounds twee), all he has ever wanted to do is play football and score goals. He went to Wolves, Coventry, Inter Milan, Leeds, London, Liverpool, and now Los Angeles to do it. He has never been a contract rebel, never demanded more than he is entitled to and never let down his country or the club he played for.

    Liverpool fans might argue otherwise, but to do so would be foolish, considering the soap opera that their club was during Keane’s brief stint at Anfield. Spurs fans cooled on him when he left for Merseyside, but the realists among them will remember him for the 122 goals he scored, the countless assists and the absolute commitment he gave while wearing their jersey and armband.

    They’re club fans, however, and he’s not really one of theirs. He’s one of ours, and the most deluded ramblings of all come from Ireland fans.

    ‘He hasn’t scored against anyone decent’

    So, who was that tumbling around Ibaraki after netting against the Germans in the 2002 World Cup? It must have been an imposter who scored against the Netherlands in Amsterdam, or against Italy in Bari, or France in Paris. All competitive games – who was that guy!?

    In international football, when you are a perennial second or third seed nation, you are going to face a fair few minnows. Would people have preferred he didn’t score against them?

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    ‘Robbie has no ambition’

    A Tallaght boy who moved to Italy aged 20 to compete for a place with Christian Vieri, Alvara Recoba, Ivan Zamarano and Hakan Sukur lacked ambition?

    A man who made his international debut as a boy of 17 in 1998 and soon scored the first of 51 international goals later that year is not deficient in ambition.

    Beckenbauer, Pele and Best. They all played in America, the ambitionless goons.

    ‘He’s only listening to the wife’

    Yeah, who listens to their wife? Right lads?

    I’d wager Robbie doesn’t stay awake at night worrying about what the detractors say, but it must rankle at times, because he doesn’t deserve 99 per cent.

    We’ve all cringed a little when seeing him lording it around the pitch after scoring, lapping up the adulation from fans and pointing to the name on the back of his shirt, but that’s just him. He’s still a kid on the green.

    He’s also a professional, so he’s going to do what most pros do and factor money into his decision, especially at this stage of his career. And he’s perfectly within his rights to do so.

    When his career winds up – at which time he may well have been the main reason Ireland are in Euro 2012 – he has other stuff to think about, so why shouldn’t he go and check out new places? He’s sure as hell not thinking about settling down in Bolton, Leicester or Blackburn.

    Good luck to him.

    • Matthew PB says:

      Gavin O’Brien — you’re dead right. He hasn’t won the league. Nor did Alan Shearer. On the other hand, Luke Chadwick, Christopher Wreh, Ronnie Wallwork and Jeremie Aliadiere all have…

    • H O'Connor says:

      There is a huge element of the good old fashioned Irish Anglo centric view of football. If he isn’t playing in England, he isn’t playing. The MLS may not be the best standard out there, but LA with a wedge is a fantastic place to wind down his career, and best of luck to him. If anyone argues he should have gone to Bolton over LA, laugh in their faces.

      Carl – you forgot his stint at Celtic….

    • Scarecrows of the Stipe says:

      As a Spurs & a Republic of Ireland fan i say good luck to the man

      Worst mistake we made was to buy him back from Liverpool. Costing £65,000 a week to sit on the bench was not good for the club and wasnt good for him in terms of his career either.

      We havent seen the last of him however as the MLS season is over in October and he will have to secure a loan deal or at the very least find a club to train with over the winter or else i cant see Trap picking him….

    • Bryan Barrett says:

      Welcome to the US, Robbie. Great decision for you and your new audience of multinational fans will enjoy your play for years to come. Looking forward to seeing you play vs the Philadelphia Union where our supporters will, I am certain, give you an enthusiastic welcome to the city of Brotherly Love, and our team will do everything they can to over come your talent.

      For those so concerned that the MLS is not a challenge to Robbie, it is certainly not the Premier League though it is comparable, if not now superior to the Scottish League. And LA has quite a number of attractive assets with which Scotland will never be able to compete.

    • Jim Fitz says:

      What a nonsense article ! There is no widespread criticism of Keane so there is nothing to address just space to fill.
      Robbie Keane has been a great international but his club career was hurt by a couple of bad decisions – going to Liverpool and falling out with Rednapp. Prior to that he was a terrific player and leader for Tottenham – think back to his partnership with Berbatov.

    • Karl says:

      Keane will no doubt be hawking his wares in the Premiership come November, and i’d imagine a stint at some mid table club who can afford the wages, perhaps even Swansea perhaps.

      Keane has been a great performer for Ireland, there is no doubt, but sadly his peak years are gone. however, for him a step down to the MLS will keep him looking good, keeps the money rolling in, guarantees game time, and an Ireland shirt on his back.

      Yes, it is early retirement really with bhim going to LA Galaxy (ala Best, Beckenbauer, Pele, and even Lother Matthaus post ’99 CL final (I think), but I don’t begrudge him the move. He knows no top flight English club wants him. He’s played at his highest level for Spurs up to 2008, it’s been the law of diminishing returns since.

    • pedantic ed says:

      @48 Matthew PB: Alan Shearer won the premier league with Blackburn in 1994. Gerrard or Fabregas might be a better comparison!

    • Gerry says:

      At last a fair and balanced article about our greatest ever goalscorer.

    • Andrew says:

      Matthew PB, your breakdown of Keane’s scoring record is interesting and makes a good point. Elsewhere, though, you’re a wee bit confused: Alan Shearer DID win the Premier League, with Blackburn. He famously said that he was going to celebrate by going home and creosoting the fence. and Jeremie Aliadiere could not be said to have won it, as he was very much a bit part payer with Arsenal at the time and didn’t make the ten appearances necessary to get a medal. I don’t know the stats for Ronnie wallwork and Luke chadwick but I think it may well be the same.

    • Alan says:

      I agree with a lot of article about it being a good move for him, But do not understand where he is ridiculed by Irish fans? I certainly would not be one of them as he has always been one of the best players for Ireland over the years, And I personally do not know any other Irish fans who slag him off, Have to say a bit bemused by these statements.

    • Matthew PB says:

      I stand corrected on Shearer. But the others I mentioned did in fact get winners medals, including Aliadiere. 10 appearences over the course of a season isn’t much.

    • Matthew PB says:

      I recently witnessed an ol’ fella in a pub standing with his back to the screen while Ireland played and asking the room if anybody could inform him what Robbie Keane had ever done for his country. He scored a moment later much to his annoyance. I’ve also had arguments on several occasions with people trying to belittle his record. My only explanation is that he’s been a regular for a long time and familiarity breeds contempt. Or perhaps people from some quarters just don’t like a Tallaght boy captaining the country?

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