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Skipper is Keane on new players

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Robbie Keane. Picture: Brian Lawless/SPORTSFILE

Robbie Keane. Picture: Brian Lawless/SPORTSFILE

Robbie Keane. Picture: Brian Lawless/SPORTSFILE

ROBBIE KEANE reckons that Ireland could play Spain in a phone box and they would still find a way to struggle to keep hold of the ball.

Asked whether the narrow dimensions of the Yankee Stadium might be an advantage for Ireland's young midfield, Keane raised a big laugh with his reply.

"Listen, we could play Spain in a phone box and they would still keep the ball from you," he said with feeling. "We have a good bunch of lads and this is a good opportunity for James and Jeff, two very athletic players who can pass the ball very, very well. They will be up against Xavi and Iniesta, two of the best midfielders on the planet."

Keane was in pensive mood and spoke about his feelings after Euro 2012 and how it impacted on him and the rest of the squad.

"It was difficult for everyone because of the manner in which we were beaten by teams, whereas in the past, that has never been the case.

"The way we set our stall out to play against these teams and how we are always a very, very hard team to beat, for whatever reason at the Euros, it just didn't happen for us.

"In saying that, we were playing against the two finalists, Italy and Spain, at that times, the best teams, and the two of them got to the final.

"It was always going to be difficult for us, but the way we were beaten was disappointing."

But Keane senses change in the air and reckons the last few weeks have been as good as any he has spent with the senior international squad.

"This two weeks has been one of the best in terms of the bonding. The lads have done well and it came with results. We are going very, very well.

"The younger lads feel they are part of it now. Maybe before, they felt they were just here.

"But now they have a stance with the national team. It's showed in the last three games. You see them growing. Stephen Quinn has been magnificent in training and you can see his personality coming out.

 

Future

"I do sense it now ... a year or two ago I didn't, being totally honest. But we've seen people like Jeff burst on to the scene. I certainly think the future is looking bright after seeing the younger lads in the last two weeks step up to the plate."

Hendrick has caught everyone's eye in the last few weeks and Keane sees something special in him.

"He has that something. Some players have it. It's hard to define. I don't know what it is, but he has something, he stands out from other players, like James McCarthy.

"I've been very impressed with them, the way he came on against Georgia, he gave us energy by passing the ball quick to the strikers. He has that little bit of class.

"James has had a magnificent season and Jeff has now been in couple of squads. I'd never watched him play and didn't know too much about him. The last two weeks he's been fantastic. He has tempo, energy and he always wants the ball. For a young lad he has good personality in the changing room.

"In the next year or two he'll be with a big team and Coleman the same. All three of them."

Keane had kind words for Conor Sammon, who will start tonight and hopes for as good a supply line as he got against the Faroes.

"Conor started off late at Kilmarnock and since come into squad, he's been very good. He's a different outlet for us. He's big and quick with a great touch for a big man and we saw that in the two goals he set up for me."

 

Plans

Keane has no plans to return to England and try his luck in the Premier League again and while he keeps knocking in goals for Trapattoni, the Ireland boss won't offer any different advice.

"I have just signed a two-year contract, so it's not something I'd be looking ahead at.

"Go back to who? You're just playing for the sake of playing and making the numbers up unless you are playing for Manchester United or Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool.

"I am very, very happy, very content where I am in this situation in my life.

"If you keep playing and keep producing and keep scoring goals, it doesn't really matter where you are."

After he finishes playing, management is definitely on the agenda.

"I wake up every morning and look forward to going training. I could never imagine the day that's going to end, so it's certainly something I am going to look into.

"I am doing my coaching badges in December – but I am going to try to play as long as I can first. When you are younger, you have got no worries, you just think it's never, ever going to end.

"As you get older, you understand the game a lot more and you watch the managers closely and see their different ideas.

"I have been lucky enough to play for one of the great managers, so hopefully that will stand me in good stead."


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