More than a numbers game for Robbie Keane

Ireland captain not paying attention to the record books just yet

 Robbie Keane: “If it’s right for the team, regardless of if I’m playing or not, I don’t really care. As long as we get a result, I couldn’t care less.” Photograph:  Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

Robbie Keane: “If it’s right for the team, regardless of if I’m playing or not, I don’t really care. As long as we get a result, I couldn’t care less.” Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters

 

Robbie Keane insists he’s not paying attention to the international goal tally despite it hurtling ever higher into nose bleed territory.

Another three tonight and he’s just three behind Gerd Muller’s total with 65 goals in 136 caps.

With three days to go before facing Germany in Gelsenkirchen it bodes well, even if the world champions will offer a very different test than Gibraltar, who, in truth, offered no test at all.

Oddly, for man who celebrates each goal like it was his first, Keane says he’s not paying attention to the record books. His brother does it for him and he just keeps them ticking over.

“Honestly, I don’t really think about it,” he said after scoring the first three within 18 minutes at the Aviva Stadium. “Like I said, I get messages from people but personally I don’t really think about. I never think about what’s happened before, I never think about what’s going to happen in the future because I can’t predict what’s going to happen in the future. The past is the past, I scored those goals, but I’m so focused on what I’m doing now that I’m not really interested in anybody else to be honest.”

Tonight was all about the first, which came in the sixth minute, at the end of a swift and incisive move involving Wes Hoolahan and then Aiden McGeady. Two sharp passes, one easy finish. It set the tone.

“You’re judged on scoring goals so the most important thing for any striker is to score goals and get your confidence up,” said Keane.

“It’s not about scoring a hat-trick. I think the most important thing was that first goal. It’s something we spoke about in the huddle. I said the most important thing is getting that first goal, getting it very, very early and it kinda puts everyone at ease a little bit.

“That was the case. After that we continued and we pressed them and we did everything in the right manner.”

Keane’s role in the team is more contentious these days. He can undoubtedly set the tone in a game like tonight’s, but doubt lingers after an isolated display away to Georgia, at times, that he’s the right man for the job against Germany.

Older and wiser, the result is all that matters for Keane.

“Listen, everyone wants to play, there’s no question, but the manager has to pick what’s right for the team. If it’s right for the team, regardless of if I’m playing or not, I don’t really care. As long as we get a result, I couldn’t care less.

“It’s about the team. I think as you get older you understand that and you appreciate that more, it’s about the team. When you’re young and you’re hungry, you’re more selfish. As you get older, you appreciate the team - I’m not saying I didn’t before.”

The team appreciates him, there’s no doubt about that, as John O’Shea made clear this evening.

“People will obviously crib because they are desperate to knock Robbie as soon as they can, but believe me he is an absolute legend, purely because of his goalscoring, his finishing. He still has to put those chances away, in the right place at the right time, and he’s a special, special player and still will be for years to come.

“We have to keep him fit. We’ll wait and see what happens on Tuesday, but he’ll be a very important player for us again.

“I’m just delighted he’s in our team.”

Tomorrow, will be two years to the day from the 6-1 hammering Germany inflicted on Ireland at home under Giovanni Trattoni, and it’s a year on today from the 3-0 defeat under Noel King after the Italian’s tenure ended.

So, how does the captain feel about our prospects now?

“Put it this way, we’re way ahead of that (the 6-1). That was a one-off in a different situation. As I said, I don’t think about what happened before. We move on to Tuesday’s game, it’s a great opportunity playing against the World Cup champions but we’re not going there just to make the numbers up. We’re going there to get something out of the game and I believe with the squad of players that we have, we can do that.”

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