Robbie Keane looking forward to a new chapter in Irish football
‘Roy was a player who everybody looked up to and respected and for me, coming in, he was always great’
Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane at last night’s press conference at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
LA Galaxy may have been eliminated from the MLS play-offs but Robbie Keane still had plenty to smile about as he turned up alongside the fifth full-time manager of his international career for the pre-match press conference at the Aviva Stadium last night.
The Dubliner is back home fresh from agreeing a new two-year (with an option of a third) deal with his American club, and then there is the presence of O’Neill, one of three men he said last month would be more than acceptable as a successor to Giovanni Trapattoni. Somewhere outside, another of the three was most likely helping to set things up for training.
“When we were here the last time, I didn’t think that we’d have two of them here to be honest,” he said with obvious enthusiasm.
“But it’s great. I hadn’t had the pleasure of working with Martin before, there’s always been a lot speculation but for some reason it never happened, and I didn’t think that I’d get the opportunity again now, but I have and as the gaffer says, the last few days have been very, very enjoyable.
“Everybody’s been on form and we’re certainly looking forward to a new chapter in Irish football.”
O’Neill, he said, he has long admired from afar but Roy Keane he has encountered at close quarters. The Corkman made it clear on Wednesday that he has been working to ensure any old tensions are laid to rest but Keane insisted here that there was nothing to worry about where he was concerned.
“I’ve never had any problem (with Keane) at all. When I came into the squad first I was a young player coming through, Roy was a player who everybody looked up to and respected and for me, coming in, he was always great.
“There are always people who tend to see the negative side but certainly me and Damien Duff he would always speak to.
“People forget that Roy is a very, very funny guy when you sit down beside him; he’s very charming, you can have a good chat with him. So you judge people on how they treat you and he was always good to me.”
There are, he is aware, those who would like to see him make way for younger players but O’Neill has made it very clear about how much he wants the striker to stick around, although he jokes: “I wish I was sitting here with a 23-year-old Robbie rather than a 64-year-old one.”
The new manager reckons many statistics in football are overrated but the importance of scoring goals cannot, he suggested, be overrated and as long as Robbie keeps adding to his current tally of 61 for Ireland, there will, one suspects, be a place for him in the northerner’s squads.
For the moment he’ll keep the captain’s armband too, although Keane is clear about his priorities: “Listen, I want to play as long as I can,” he said. “I’m not daft. I’m 33 years of age; the next time the Euros come around . . .”
It doesn’t seem to bear thinking about.
“Ultimately it’s the manager’s choice. All I can do is keep playing well and keep scoring goals. If he sees that that I can continue to do that then there’s no problem, but I don’t have any problem with people making decisions.
“If anybody feels that I can help from now until the Euros and then, for some reason, that my legs are gone then I’ll pack it in; I’m not stupid. But if I feel that I can help the country and the manager then I’ll do my best because that’s what I’ve done since I was 18 years of age.”