Sunday 20 August 2017

Robbie Keane still has the desire to play but now looks at football from a different perspective

31 August 2016; Republic of Ireland's Robbie Keane, left, and Stephen Quinn, celebrates following their team's third goal, scored by Jonathan Walters, during the Three International Friendly game between the Republic of Ireland and Oman at the Aviva Stadium in Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
31 August 2016; Republic of Ireland's Robbie Keane, left, and Stephen Quinn, celebrates following their team's third goal, scored by Jonathan Walters, during the Three International Friendly game between the Republic of Ireland and Oman at the Aviva Stadium in Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Jack O'Toole

Next season will mark Robbie Keane's 20th season as a professional footballer, and although he has yet to sign for a club, he still has every intention of continuing what has been a stellar career.

After announcing his retirement from international football in August 2016, Keane looked like he might have made his full retirement from professional football at the FAI Awards in Donnybrook last month.

The 36-year-old was inducted into the FAI Hall of Fame at RTE Studios and received a series of congratulatory messages from former teammates like Michael Carrick, Steven Gerrard and Dimitar Berbatov, as well as from footballing greats like three-time Brazilian World Cup winner Pelé.

Despite the outpour of adoration for Ireland's all-time leading goalscorer, Keane still made it quite clear at the awards that he had no intention of retiring from professional football and he remains steadfast by that message today, with the former Spurs striker insisting that he still has a lot left to offer in his playing career.

"I train every day," Keane said at the Aer Lingus offices in Dublin on Wednesday.

"I'm sharp in training, if I didn't feel like I was really sharp, if I felt like I was off the pace a bit, then I wouldn't do it, but I don't feel like that at all. I don't feel any different to how I did a couple of years ago.

"Of course you need to play games, but if I do go somewhere in pre-season, a lot of the lads will have had time off as well so it doesn't really make a difference.

"If you have the love for the game, the knowledge, and the whereabouts on how to play the game, the experience, that never goes away from you.

"As long as you have your sharpness, for me, the way I play, then that's all that matters to me."

Keane was quite coy on his next career move but did confirm that the next team he will play for will be abroad, ruling out any purported move to Shamrock Rovers, who he has trained with over the last few months.

As alluded to earlier, the former Ireland captain says that he has not lost any of the zest or the desire to play the game, asserting that he feels like he still has his trademark sharpness in front of goal, but that he does admit that his role is changing as a player.

"You're more helping younger players trying to lead them on the right path, and as I've said whether that's on the field or off the field, both are important because players have to look after themselves," added Keane.

"You just try and pass your knowledge on that you've received from other players, players that you'd respect, older players that you would have played with in the Irish team, people like Niall Quinn that you would have learned a lot from.

"I think I've definitely helped a lot of players but a lot of the players I'd also speak to off the field; whether they've had issues on not playing, or whether they should be playing, or what am I doing wrong? I enjoy that part also."

The role as a mentor away from the pitch is something that might be new to Keane, but watching football is not. The Tallaght native claims he has been watching football as a fan his whole life, but that he now looks at the game in a slightly different light.

Keane claims that it has been a bit of a tough transition for him from playing to watching Ireland games, particularly for his family members, who are liable to catch the odd instinctive 'thump' every now and then, but that for the most part, he looks at football a bit differently now compared to how he used to view the game.

“I’ve always enjoyed football," added Keane.

“I enjoy watching it and bringing the family to it. I’m certainly not a good watcher, I’m kicking and heading the balls. Whoever’s beside me gets a little thump every now and again when you get that feeling, as you do when you’ve played for so long.

"When you are young you just watch football to see goals and you want to see good football.

"Now, there's a different perspective on it. You are watching how a team is a set up, what formation they are playing, and why they have changed the formation to play against certain formations.

"That's something that I have been doing since I started doing my coaching badges.

"I am not ready yet to get into the coaching side in terms of management but maybe in a couple of more years.

"I have always said that if I stay fit and can continue scoring goals then I will carry on playing.

"For me, the most important thing is if I stop enjoying training - I don't want to wake up and say 'aw, I cannot be assed today'.

"As soon as I get that, I will stop, but I'm not even close to that."

And is he any closer to making a decision on his next move?

“I’ve got one more adventure left in me. If it’s a year or a couple of more years, and then I’ll look to get settled back home in Ireland.

“After being out and not playing for a couple of months, it would have taken me at least four to six games to actually get 100% fit. If you look at it now, most leagues are nearly over so definitely the sensible route for me is to sit down this month and look at the options before making a decision.

“But by no means am I finished -- I’ll be definitely playing and it will definitely be abroad.”

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