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Keane: I'll stay at top

TIME WILL tell if it's a matter of self-belief or stubbornness, but Robbie Keane has insisted that he won't drop down a division and move to the Championship even if he's frozen out at Tottenham.

Keane is still very much in the picture with Ireland as he'll win his 109th cap and also aim for international goal No52 when he lines out against Croatia at Lansdowne Road this evening.

The 31-year-old admits that he has no future at White Hart Lane – Keane also joked yesterday that he hopes his house in the area is still standing, given certain ‘events' on the streets of London over the last few nights.


But Keane will not be dropping down to the second tier of the English game. “I'm not being disrespectful at all to the Championship but if I get an offer to play in the Premier League I am obviously going to take that,” he said. “The clubs have to agree a fee, but there has been no talk about a Championship club so that's where we stand at the moment.

“There are a couple of weeks left in the transfer window and it's likely that I will be going. At the moment that's where it is and I can't do anything, there is a lot of speculation, we'll see what happens. “I haven't turned down anything. There are a few people talking to the club but that's all I can say for now. I'm happy to go anywhere, I don't know where this story about me wanted to stay in London comes from, for me it's about playing regular football, if that's outside London I'm not bothered.”

It has become a frustration for the Ireland captain to be questioned about his club future while speaking in his role as Ireland captain – Keane once turned on a reporter from Sky Sports News who'd asked for an interview, Keane answering back: “You'll ask me one question about Ireland and 10 questions about Tottenham.” But even though his fortunes at club level appear to be on the wane at a time when a Premier League club (West Brom) are about to break their transfer record to sign a young Ireland striker in Shane Long, the Dubliner says it won't get him down.

“I have had this for the last five years, every summer there is speculation so it doesn't bother me,” he says. In the past, Ireland players who found themselves in their 30s but on the fringes at their clubs moved for the sake of their international careers. Mick McCarthy left behind a cosy life with Olympique Lyon and signed for a relegation battle with Millwall to make sure he was match-fit for the 1990 World Cup.

“It was grey, raining and the journey seemed to last forever,” said McCarthy of his trip along with Lyon officials to do a deal with Millwall in the winter of 1990. SCRATCHED “As the people from Lyon looked out the window of the cab they scratched their heads and wondered why I wanted to leave a beautiful place like Lyon for this.” Likewise Frank Stapleton, who left Ajax for Derby County on loan to ensure his fitness for the Euro ’88 finals. Keane did of course join Celtic on loan to get some first team action two seasons ago, but he knows that his place with Ireland is secure no matter what happens between now and the qualifiers next month.

“There's only two weeks before the next games and something has to be sorted out in that time, but it's not a big deal. I played 90 minutes the other day – I know it was a testimonial game – and I'll play tonight so I feel good,” added Keane, who is happy to see Long get his big move back to the Premier League. “Shane had a great season last year and it's only right that he got the move he deserves. He's gone to a good manager and I'm sure he's delighted with the move. He'll be buzzing tonight and this move will only spur him on.

“The change in Shane in the last 18 months has been there for everyone to see. Players don't like playing against him, he has a real eye for goal and great leap on him and there has definitely been a massive improvement in the last two years.”