Robbie Keane to take his time over Middlesbrough offer

Keane says he will decide on whether to accept assistant manager role by end of week

Robbie Keane says will he will decide on whether to accept an offer to become Jonathan Woodgate's assistant at Middlesbrough by the end of the week. The 38-year-old certainly sounded tempted by the thought of taking on the offer, which Mick McCarthy and the FAI have said need not interfere which his current position as assistant manager in the Ireland setup but insists he is no rush to be a manager and says he will speak to his family before making a call on the matter.

Speaking at an event in Crumlin’s Children’s Hospital to mark the fact that there is now a year to go before the first of the Euro2020 games will be staged in Dublin, Keane said the offer had come entirely out of the blue at the start of this week but that he had travelled on Tuesday to the northeast of England where talks with Woodgate and the club’s owner, Steve Gibson, went well.

The Dubliner is adamant that there would have been no need even to make that trip had either McCarthy or the association suggested the two roles would not be compatible but both, he says, have been “positive” and Middlesbrough have indicated that he will be allowed the time he needs around international breaks.

After a long and successful playing career, Keane says he is anxious to do whatever he can to learn about management but in no hurry at all to take charge at a club himself. He hugely enjoys working with McCarthy and the current Irish squad but, he admits, still finds it difficult not to be going out on the pitch himself come match time and has missed the structure that working as a player at a top-level club provides.



“Do I miss playing? Absolutely,” he says. “But I’m a lot better now with it than I was a year ago. It was tough, of course it’s going to be tough, I’d played for 20 odd years. I woke up every morning and I had a structure. Nine o’clock I went into train every day; I came home, people told you what to do. And then you wake up one morning and it’s gone. Then this came along and it’s been very helpful in that I’m still involved.”

He has, he makes entirely clear, absolutely no doubt himself that he will ultimately get the opportunity to manage and in the meantime is making the most of his many contacts to learn firsthand from the likes of Mauricio Pochettino, Marcello Lippi and José Mourinho, plus McCarthy of course. His education, he suggests however, is still at an early stage.

“Look, I’m 38, I’m young. Who gets a job at 38 realistically? You don’t really; it’s usually a lot older than that. And I’m not desperate for a job, I’m enjoying what I am doing now. I want to learn as much as I can. And I will know when the right time is for me to move on and to be the head coach or the manager.

“I’m in a great position,” he continues. “I’m in no rush. I don’t mean this in a horrible way, please forgive me, but I don’t need the money, it’s not for that. I’m doing it because I love being around people, I love being around football. I don’t know anything different. It’s all I’ve known since I was 15 years of age.”

His wariness of things moving too fast, he acknowledges, is partly down to the fact that he has seen other former players try their hand at management before they were ready, fail then struggle with the consequences. He has also seen a few flounder, simply unsure of what to do once that need to be out the door each morning was gone.

Mentally strong  

“As soon as I retired I was one of those people who went to the gym every day to make sure that I was still the same, still fit, mentally in my head that I am good, mentally strong; to make sure that I had the focus that I previously had. I have seen people go, I have seen ex-players go and fall by the wayside. And I will never be that and I will never let that happen to me, no chance.”

He has seen his share of new talent coming up through the ranks too and says Troy Parrott has the potential to be right up there even if the player has work to do and people need to give him some space in which to do it.

After agreeing to work with McCarthy, Keane met the teenager for lunch and came away, he says, convinced he has everything he needs, mentality included, to make it and that he is at the right club, with the right manager, to do it.

“If he’s going to be good enough,” he says, “I’ll tell you right now, Pochettino will put him in. And the people at Tottenham have high expectations of him. But it’s like with me as a coach. That’s up to me now. And so this is up to him.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times