| 5.8°C Dublin

No way back for Keane

HARRY Redknapp threw on three substitutes against Young Boys and Robbie Keane never got to shake a leg. Time to up stakes and leave.

These must be bitter days for Keane. The Champions League is as far away from the Irish skipper now as it ever was. Each time he closes in on Europe's biggest competition, fate intervenes and his career moves on.

After eight long years at White Hart Lane, punctuated by his ill-fated move to Anfield and an indulgence with Celtic, he now finds himself on the sales block at the very moment when Spurs hit the jackpot.

It was good to see Spurs fulfil an ambition and it will be good to see Redknapp get a chance to pit his wits against the best coaches in the game.

Always the pragmatist, he was the one who understood that good footballers in a stable environment make five-year plans and high finance superfluous.

By the simple method of hiring a good manager with a better than normal eye for a player and leaving him alone, Spurs now stand on the brink of a quantum leap.

This is the point where Daniel Levy can really earn his corn.

The cash will start to flow into White Hart Lane like never before in the next few months and if he is smart and gives a big chunk of it to 'Arry, there's a good chance that Champions League football will become a regular feature.

But a rising Spurs means trouble for Keane and Giovanni Trapattoni. Redknapp wants better players than he has and Ireland's record goal scorer is expendable.

Sure, Redknapp said the right things after the game but words of praise extolling Keane's virtue as a model pro with a great attitude in his current circumstances rang hollow.

Keane is still part of his plans but then again, he's open to offers.

"If someone comes to me and says he wants to go and someone wants to buy, then that is a different story," said Redknapp.



Reality

That, in any language means that Keane can go, a reality underlined by Redknapp's use of Roman Pavlyuchenko as a direct swap for Jermain Defoe when Young Boys were well beaten.

Maybe Redknapp doesn't quite know what Keane's plans are at the moment. It could well be that he has made up his mind to leave and is exploring his options -- as Trapattoni suggested a few weeks back.

But Harry has a plan, we can be sure of that and while he waits for it to unfold, Keane is not playing very much football.

That is a major disappointment for Keane and for all Irish fans. His form during pre-season with Spurs in America was good enough to suggest that he was in great shape after the summer break and ready to hit the ground running in Armenia.

But Redknapp has done nothing to suggest that he is trying desperately hard to hang onto the Dubliner. Whatever it cost, that Christmas trip to Malahide was very expensive indeed.

This is, of course, all bad news for Trapattoni and his preparation for the opening game of the Euro 2012 qualifying series in Armenia in a few weeks' time, compounded by the fact that Shay Given, like Keane, is watching big games rather than playing in them.

The fact that Given has not seen competitive action this season should not be a worry in the short and medium term but Keane needs a striker's edge and one won't be able to hone that at Spurs.

Trapattoni has other worries. Liam Lawrence is betwixt and between at Stoke after declaring his interest in a move to Celtic which is looking less likely by the day and recovering from the groin strain he suffered training in Portmarnock before the game against Argentina.

Keith Andrews has a groin strain and hasn't kicked a ball in anger in two weeks while Aiden McGeady has moved to Spartak Moscow but has yet to play a game for them.

On the plus side, Kevin Doyle seems to be fit again, Glen Whelan is just back after injury and John O'Shea looks like a man renewed.

Once again, O'Shea and Darron Gibson will be the only regular Champions League participants in the Irish squad. The sense of slippage about the Irish squad at the moment is best illustrated by Given's circumstances at City.

Ireland's top players are dropping further and further down the pecking order.



Powers

Richard Dunne is at the peak of his powers but the hope he had that Martin O'Neill could produce a team good enough to finish fourth and give him a glimpse of the Champions League now lies in ruins. He's another one of Trap's key men surrounded by uncertainty.

There's nobody to blame for any of this. But there's no doubt that the group confidence which followed after the pain of Paris and was clearly evident in the two friendlies against Algeria and Paraguay has been diluted by the assault on the self-esteem of men like Keane and Given.

On a purely practical level, it can't help that so many Irish players will gather in Dublin on Monday next with nothing decided about their day job and very little time to sort it all out or indeed that their previously invulnerable manager has shown signs of human frailty and might not be his normal effervescent self.

Fortunately, the opposition for the first two games of the qualifying series is provided by Armenia and Andorra, respectively a minor banana skin and whipping boys.

Ireland's last three managers favoured a fixture list front-loaded with trouble but on this occasion, we can be thankful that nobody could agree in Bratislava and that the UEFA computer spat out the schedule it did.


Privacy