Marriage of convenience

Robbie resists declaring a love for Hammers but this relationship is based on shared desperation

Aidan Fitzmaurice

THERE'S AT least one aspect of Robbie Keane's move to West Ham which will be welcomed by long-suffering fans of the London club.

At least Keane hasn't come out yet and said how he's achieved his lifelong dream, the dream he has a kid on the backstreets of Dublin, of playing for West Ham United FC.

You see, we've heard that before (as our quotes show) about Celtic ("I always wanted to play for Celtic"), Liverpool ("for me as a kid growing up in Dublin, Liverpool was always my team") and even FC Internazionale, or Inter Milan as they're better known ("I always supported Inter").

After his move to West Ham was finalised last night Keane did reach out once in terms of sentiment about his new employers with a statement which probably came straight from the Blackberry of his agent and not from Keane's heart ("it's a fantastic club with a great tradition").

But there's no doubt that this move is a marriage of convenience -- Keane in need of a club which will offer him some game-time and West Ham a side badly in need of goals.

It's also a test for Keane of his hunger, his desire and as he swaps the loneliness of the cold shoulder at Tottenham for the harsh realities of a relegation dogfight with West Ham.

The fixture list ahead is a grim reality of the plight they are in: Blackpool away (this Wednesday, when Keane should make his debut), Birmingham at home and West Brom away. West Ham haven't won a league game since New Year's Day when they beat Wolves 2-0. Now they need to win game after game against the teams around them as bigger tests lie ahead, the Hammers due to play Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester United in a short space of time.

"If you get a couple of results you move fairly swiftly up that table," says Keane and the Irish captain is up for the fight.

"I am ready to help West Ham stay in the Premier League, which is the most important thing for this club.

"At the moment we're not in the best position that we would like to be but I'm here to help the squad.

"I'm sure with the players we've got here we can get into that position.

"We can stay in the Premier League. Look how close it is -- there are six or seven teams down there.

"When I went on loan to Celtic I scored 17 goals in 19 games and if I can do even half as well as I did there, then I'll be happy," Keane said.

Those words will not comfort Hammers fans all that much. Different time, different league, different world and different challenge that was. Keane scored most of his Celtic goals (10) against teams in the bottom half of the SPL, five against Kilmarnock alone, a Killie side which narrowly avoided relegation from the SPL and finished the season with a goal difference of -22.

Keane has struggled for goals at Anfield and White Hart Lane when he was in the home side, now finding the net there with a struggling Hammers side will be another stern test.

Ireland fans -- and manager Giovanni Trapattoni -- can only hope that Keane has better fortune at the Boleyn Ground than the last Irish international to play there.

The club has had strong links with this country over the years -- Irish players were quite the fashion at Upton Park after the war, as names like Tommy Moroney, Frank O'Farrell and Danny McGowan were popular Hammers, and later in life Liam Brady, David Kelly and Chris Hughton were capped while at West Ham.

But the last player to win a senior cap for us while on the books of West Ham United FC was David Connolly when he started up front -- alongside Robbie Keane no less -- in a Euro 2004 qualifier away to Switzerland.

Connolly did play for Ireland again after that but his career was on the wane. Keane is of course still a young man (30) and has a sensational scoring record at international level.

Whether he's the man to go out and nick crucial goals in relegation battles at Blackpool, West Brom and Stoke is another question that only Keane can answer.