Sunday 4 December 2016

Stephanie Roche: Robbie Keane promised to stand aside when a better striker arrived... it's time

Published 01/04/2015 | 08:20

Robbie Keane failed to make much of an impact against Poland on Sunday
Robbie Keane failed to make much of an impact against Poland on Sunday

Four years ago, Robbie Keane was his usual, honest self when he proclaimed he would walk away from international football if someone more worthy took the number 10 shirt off him.

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“It is all about now and I've said before if I didn't play for Ireland and someone else came in, I have always said I would walk away,” he said at the time.

At the time, some argued that Keane was throwing his toys out of the pram and threatened to stop playing for his beloved country if he was not picked. I was in no doubt that Keane simply meant he would gladly give the jersey to a more deserving prospect.

Maybe it didn’t come out the way he would have liked, but does anyone really think that Robbie Keane is a man who would walk away from international football because he is not starting?

For anyone who even thinks that, Keane didn’t start in Scotland.

It’s testament to the great Keano that, four years later, here we are still talking about our main striker. I have always admired Keane. Not just his undoubted ability to find the back of the net, but also his honesty, on and off the pitch.

That interview four years ago was his genuine honesty shining through but maybe the time has come to fulfil that promise. Keane still has so much to offer his country but those aging legs will not get any quicker. The time has come for something fresh in attack.

While Shane Long’s lack of competitive goals for Ireland is alarming, it should also be noted that he has only started a handful of competitive games for his country.

I have dreaded the day I was going to say this, but it’s time to fulfil that promise of four years ago and make way for someone else Robbie.

Having said that, should Martin O’Neill favour a 4-4-2 formation going forward, Keane is the man to play alongside someone big and strong and feed off any chances around the box.

Our next qualifier is an absolute must-win clash against the Scots in the Aviva Stadium in June, a game I will travel all the way home from Texas for as it is my birthday! It’s a game where O’Neill is unlikely to go with a 4-4-2 starting XI and this means that Keane should take his place on the substitutes bench. He would be a great option to come on and try and nick a goal later on in the game.

Against Poland, I was shocked to see Shay Given start and David Forde relegated to the bench. It was a strange decision, and one I could not fathom. Any team would be lucky to have Given in goal for them but Forde has been excellent for Ireland since he got the number one jersey.

I just wonder how the dressing room reacted to that news. I didn’t see any reason to change the number one jersey and I feel a decision like that might affect some of the players.

Both Robbie and Shay are still integral parts of the Irish set up but we can’t be relying on them now. While they may find themselves playing a more peripheral role for Ireland in the future, other players now need to step up to the plate because at the moment there is no-one who seems willing to grab a game by the scruff of the neck and make themselves a hero.

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