Keane has earned his Irish rights, says Doyle
KEVIN DOYLE believes that Robbie Keane is entitled to keep his place in the Irish team despite his recent inactivity at club level.
The Wolves striker anticipates that the Dubliner will find a new club by Monday, and return to his usual sharpness, but reckons that nobody should get too carried away about Keane's condition after a season largely spent on the sidelines. Indeed, his regular strike partner mounted a strong defence of the 30-year-old.
"He's our record goalscorer by a stupid amount of goals, he's one of our most capped players and he's our captain," said Doyle.
"If ever there was a player to earn the leeway of not playing for a few months and still get picked for an international team, he does. He turns up all the time for internationals when other players of similar stature sometimes don't. He has that many caps he could easily just retire, but he doesn't, he just keeps going. He's a naturally a fit fella, he's not a fella who puts on weight or anything like that.
"Anyway, I think he will be moving in the next few days and playing regularly after that. I think that's nailed on."
Doyle was wearing his green jersey at the Aviva Stadium yesterday to launch 3 Mobile's new grass-roots scheme, which could earn up to €10m for clubs around the country.
He's looking forward to returning to the venue for the forthcoming Nations Cup meeting with Wales on February 8, and is excited by the prospect of playing alongside Seamus Coleman for the first time.
The gathering will also give him a chance to catch up with good pal Shane Long, whose form at Reading has given further weight to the calls for Keane to be dropped.
Long has been sending text messages to Doyle to talk up his goalscoring record this year in comparison to the Wexford man. "Yeah, I text him back that I remember what it was like in the Championship," he grinned.
"Nah, I don't. I'm delighted for Longy. He has always had the ability, strength and skill and speed. It was just about getting a run of games and playing every week to show what he can do.
"If they can keep Longy there, they have every chance. I don't know if a Premier club has or hasn't come in for him, but he's been in the Premier before and scored goals for Reading, so he's definitely good enough, no doubt about that.
"You just have to get the chance to do it. He might get it with Reading, but if he doesn't and keeps his form up to the end of the season, they might be in more of a position to cash in."
Doyle is conscious that he's well down the goalscoring charts this term, with two Premier League strikes to his name and three in other competitions. Still, he is content with his overall level of performance, a view that is shared by his manager.
"Compared to last year, I'm probably only two or three goals behind. I got nine last year. I was very happy last year because I got what I thought could be gotten out of it and I was our top scorer by a long way.
"This season, I've been happy with my overall performances, but I just don't seem to be converting them into goals. But chances are a premium and I suppose that's the reason we're in the bottom three.
"But there are enough games left in which to play well, get some goals and try and have a good finish to season."
He quips that at least a relegation battle will make the run-in interesting, yet acknowledges that Wolves have a serious battle on their hands, with an inconsistent stream of results confusing and frustrating in equal measure.
"We've had some glamour results against big teams, but then don't seem to back it up against the teams around us. Like we beat Liverpool and then got beat by Wigan a few days later.
"You just can't explain it. But we've got 16 games left and we play most of the teams around us again, so we've got a chance to sort it out. We're well used to it so we're not panicking."
Similarly, the 27-year-old is relaxed about Ireland's position in their Euro 2012 group, and is relieved that Giovanni Trapattoni is fit and well to lead that charge. "He's 20 years older than my dad and moving 10 times better," grinned Doyle.
Nevertheless, he recognises that qualification for the finals in Poland and Ukraine is the minimum requirement for this group of players now. Getting to a play-off won't be enough for a pat on the back this time.
On two fronts, a big year in his career lies ahead.