Robbie Keane admits time may be against him
Ireland captain wants to keep playing for as long as he can but understands speculation about international future
Robbie Keane: “If there is a situation comes around near the Euros where, for some reason, my legs are gone then I’ll pack it in. There’s no question, I’m not stupid.”
Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane took the stage for the first time with his new manager on Thursday and insisted he had no intention of stepping aside any time soon.
The striker, Ireland’s record goalscorer with 61 goals, is 33-years-old, but unless fitness or Martin O’Neill says otherwise he will not remove himself from the action.
However, the Dubliner, who has verbally agreed at least a two-year contract with his club LA Galaxy, is under no illusions that time is against him.
“Listen, I want to play as long as I can, I’m not daft, I’m 33 years of age (I’ll be 34) next time the Euros (qualifiers) come around,” he said before training at the Aviva Stadium.
“It’s the manager’s choice. All I can do is keep playing well, keep scoring goals and if he sees that I can continue to do that, well then, there’s no problem. But I don’t have any problems with people making decisions or what have you.
“If anyone feels I can help them from now to the Euros . . . if there is a situation comes around near the Euros where, for some reason, my legs are gone then I’ll pack it in. There’s no question, I’m not stupid.
“If I feel I can help this country, or the manager feels I can help this country, I’ll do my best because that is what I’ve done since I was 18 years of age.”
His new contract, he insisted, did not make any demands of him with regards his international career and he will be able to travel as freely as before.
“I would never let anyone put me in that situation in the first place,” he added with regard to the Galaxy deal that could run to a third year.
O’Neill joked he would prefer to have a 23-year-old Keane, rather than a 64-year-old Keane, alongside him but described his international record as “really, really fantastic”. The manager, starting against Latvia at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow, is eager for the rest of the squad to ease the burden on the Tallaght man.
After praising West Brom’s Shane Long for his well-taken header against Chelsea last weekend, O’Neill said: “Overall, aside from Robbie, we don’t have too many players who score goals at international level. That is something we have to accommodate and figure out.
“I would like players to take responsibility, anywhere near the goal, if they feel they have a shooting opportunity to do just that.”
Unlike his predecessor, the manager was not of a mind to reveal his team a day before the game but reiterated his hope of using as many players as possible in Dublin and Poland next Tuesday, decisions he will make in consultation with his assistant manager Roy Keane.
The captain was full of praise for O’Neill’s right-hand man, who he described as “very, very funny” and “very charming”.
“No problem (with Roy Keane),” he said. “When I was in the squad first, I was a young player coming through and Roy was a player who everyone looked up to and respected.”
Training, he added, has been “very enjoyable”, but the manager admitted there had not been much achieved in the squad’s short time together.
“We haven’t done a great deal,” said O’Neill. “We had some training in the last few days and we have a little bit here tonight. It is a matter of me trying to familiarise myself with players I didn’t know.
“The players have given a great response, they’ve been very enthusiastic. You might expect that with a new manager coming, but it’s been positive so far.”
“The overriding theme” for Friday, he added is “to try and press reasonably high up the pitch, as we can do, where we can win the ball close to their goal and give some of our ball players the an opportunity.
“Great thought in theory, maybe different in practice,” he added.