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Cox ready to step up after stunning rise

SIMON Cox is ready to step into Robbie Keane's boots and complete a rapid rise from zero to hero in just ten short days.

With Keane struggling to be fit in time to take on Macedonia in sultry Skopje tomorrow, the West Brom striker is on the brink of a remarkable introduction to competitive international football just a few weeks after the FIFA signed off on his eligibility.

Cox started just eight league games this season, hitting the back of the net four times for the Baggies, compared with Long who has been in blistering form with 25 strikes for Reading.

However, based on his performance in both Nations Cup games, Giovanni Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli were already leaning towards pairing Cox with Keane before the Irish captain pulled up sharply in training after a clash with Damien Delaney.

"Maybe if Robbie is fit and well, Cox and Robbie Keane will start. It is fair to say that Simon Cox is ahead of Shane Long at this moment in time," said Tardelli.

"I remember Sean St Ledger played against Bulgaria after one training session. If the player is good, he is good.

"For me, Cox works very, very hard for the team. He plays well. He holds up the ball well and can wait for his team-mates to link up. He is a good player," he added.