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John Giles: Lack of club stability has cost Robbie dear

IF EVER there was an ideal club for Robbie Keane, I have no doubt that Liverpool fits the bill.

Specifically, the Liverpool of circa 25 years ago when men like Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush, Ronnie Whelan and Graeme Souness were on the training pitch at Melwood.

It's easy to look in the rear-view mirror and make wise statements, but I've always thought that Robbie's career has been blighted by the fact that he lost out on crucial components of the footballing trade that can only be acquired through repetition, hard work and stability of circumstances.

When he crossed to England to begin his journey, Liverpool was an option and I think there's a good chance he would have had a very different decade if he had chosen Anfield over Wolves, even though the masters mentioned above would have been gone.

I don't think he would be playing for Celtic now if he had done so. Days spent kicking a ball with the type of players that made Liverpool the dominant force in Europe for much of the ’80s would have made a difference in every imaginable way.

By the time he made it to Liverpool, he arrived with a reputation as a streak striker who could hit a patch which would make him look like a world-beater, but also endure uncomfortably regular barren spells.


But it was too late for him at Anfield and his ability was never really the issue. Rafa Benitez had his own notions about Robbie Keane, continuing a trend which began when he first emerged as a precocious teenager with a big bag of tricks.

For all the money he has earned along the way, it could be argued that football has treated him badly.

Events shoved the young Keane into a series of transfers he had no real control over. He was a commodity and his football education suffered as a result.

While his peers were settling down to the early part of their apprenticeship with a single club, he had to deal with a half dozen before he found a place he could call his own – White Hart Lane.

He missed out on a great deal through no real fault of his own. He never had the consistency you get through working with the same people over a long period of time and for that reason the quirks in his game were never ironed out.

He never quite lost his Roy of the Rovers approach to the game and although his raw and unrefined talents made him such a hot ticket at just 17, the fact that he bounced from one club to the next, clocking up massive transfer totals along the way, meant that he was never in an environment long enough for the dynamics of a squad to take hold.

If he had joined Liverpool, he might have learned how to play the game more successfully. He would have learned how to play for the team above all else, but he would have still been allowed room to display his supreme confidence in his own ability.

Some call that arrogance, but if you produce work of substance to back up a cocky personality, self-belief becomes a virtue.

I believe he would have emerged from a prolonged spell at Liverpool a much more rounded player, more than capable of playing in the same position Dalglish made his own or, indeed, as an out-and-out striker.

I must qualify all of the above by saying that Robbie has achieved a great deal in his football life and as Ireland's top scorer will always have a cherished place in the hearts of Irish fans.

But he would admit himself that he has never quite achieved the consistency of excellence which delivers 20 goals a season, a target that should have been well within the range of a player with such enormous talent.

Of course, none of this explains why Harry Redknapp decided he could afford to let his captain and a proven goalscorer go when he didn't have to.

I have no doubt that he had the final say on whether the Celtic deal went through or not. I have to say that I find the move baffling. I can't really see what's in it for Robbie other than a change of scenery and regular football.

He learned last night against Kilmarnock that even Celtic lose in the SPL and that must have been a rude-awakening.

It will be a slog for Robbie and Tony Mowbray if they are to turn around a season which is rapidly slipping away.

I just don't understand why Robbie would take the drop in standard. Redknapp will never be more than an unfortunate training ground accident between two strikers away from desperately needing the service his captain can provide.

I don't have much time for all this “boyhood dream” stuff and generally file it in the nonsense folder, alongside badge kissing and a chairman's vote of confidence.

Keane's boyhood dream was to lift the FA Cup, win the Premier League or even the Champions League and probably wear a Liverpool shirt. It is very difficult to see how he can fulfil any of his ambitions playing in the SPL with Celtic at the very moment he should be in his prime.