'Robbie was a gift from God for us,' reveals schoolboy coach
Published 25/08/2016 | 02:30
As soon as a fresh-faced 11-year-old Robbie Keane pitched up to play in a mini World Cup at Crumlin United's Pearse Park, Larry Fox immediately knew that he had a special talent on his hands.
It took a bit of chasing to ensure that Keane would play his schoolboy football with Crumlin but when he did sign, his reputation as one of the country's brightest stars blossomed.
Fox, who is still currently involved with the Crumlin U-14s, has seen his fair share of talent over the years but none more so than Keane.
"He was a very humble lad who came from a hard working class background," Fox said.
"He was very blinkered in what he wanted to do in his life. He was very single-minded. That first night he came down… my God! There are certain things you can't coach kids. You can get most kids to have a picture in front of them but he could change that picture. Great players can change that picture in a split second. He could do that and that's why he made it.
"There are lots of kids out there who are technically as good as Robbie Keane. To have that mental strength is what sets players apart. I still see it nowadays at Crumlin.
"Not taking anything away from him but he was so focused that at 12 years of age, he wanted to be a professional footballer and nothing else. He was always going to make it.
"I'm not talking about his technical ability or his game awareness, I'm talking about his mentality. I have been looking for that same mentality for the last 24 years.
"I spent 16 years with Ipswich Town and I didn't find it in all that time so he was a real gem. He was a gift from God.
"Roy Keane told me the same when I worked with him at Ipswich. He said, 'Larry, my game was 70pc mental strength and 30pc ability.'"
Keane spent three years with Crumlin and it was only a matter of time before an English club snapped him up.
Wolves won the race for his signature but a 15-year-old Keane still had unfinished business in Dublin, as Fox recalled:
"When Robbie left me at 15, he scored 59 goals and he was chasing his 60th. He was absolutely demented to try and get that next goal.
"Three months before most kids go away to England, they switch off but he didn't. That's the strength of his character and I can't emphasise that enough.
"Everyone said he was too small. Everybody. But he was banging in goals for fun and he could do things with the ball that others couldn't."