Robbie Keane must accept supersub role and help Ireland transition, insists Stapleton
Giovanni Trapattoni rested his captain for tomorrow week's friendly against Poland, and the Italian named six strikers in his squad in his absence. He has hinted that the greater depth of options provided by players like Kevin Doyle, Jon Walters and Shane Long, and his move towards a new 4-5-1 system may mean that Keane is no longer an automatic choice up front.
As skipper and record goalscorer, the LA Galaxy forward has been one of the first names on the Irish teamsheet for more than a decade. While other experienced players like Shay Given and Damien Duff retired after last summer's European Championships, the 32-year-old opted to stay on.
However, Stapleton reckons that, while Keane still has plenty to offer in terms of leadership and influence, he will have to accept a bit-part role as Ireland look to resurrect their World Cup qualifying campaign in March against Sweden and Austria.
"I don't know whether the manager is going to start him or not, and certainly this game against Poland is the chance to give somebody else the chance," Stapleton said.
"Transition is the word and, while Robbie is playing at a different level, he still has got something to offer.
"It comes to us all. There is a question mark about the competitiveness of the league he is playing in, but at the same time I think that Robbie would be still delighted to be part of it.
"And he is realistic enough to know that he won't be always starting and that he may be thrown in games to try and turn things round if there is a problem.
"I think you have to come to terms with that. It is not easy but at the same time you have got to be realistic in the modern game. It's down to him staying fit. He knows how competitive it is at international level."