Sport International Soccer

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Comment: The stats make for grim reading and the FAI need to get Robbie Keane on board now

Robbie Keane scored 68 times for Ireland and (inset) with Eamon Dunphy at the Paddy Power 30th birthday bash
Robbie Keane scored 68 times for Ireland and (inset) with Eamon Dunphy at the Paddy Power 30th birthday bash
Ger Keville

Ger Keville

Here is a frightening stat that should send alarm bells ringing all around Abbotstown: Shane Duffy has scored as many Premier League goals already this season as any Irish player did in the whole of last term.

The Brighton man, often Ireland's main goalscoring threat, headed his second league goal of the season in the 2-2 draw against Southampton on Monday.

Last season, Ciaran Clark, Jeff Hendrick and Shane Long were the only Irish players to hit the magical two mark.

Here is another frightening stat that should send alarm bells ringing all around Abbotstown: Last year, Irish players had their worst goals return in England's top flight since 1963.

As pointed out by Nathan Murphy on Twitter, Irish players scored 70 goals in the first season of the Premier League in 1992/93. Last year it was 11.

Grim stuff.

All the while we have an FAI board who are seemingly not receptive to any radical change. The age of serving FAI council members was upped from 70 to 75 a few years back without much fanfare.

Where are the future great administrators for Irish football? Young minds to challenge the status quo?

The same questions can be asked on the training ground and what is being done to address Ireland's lack of creativity and ability to hit the net.

We can lament and moan about the lack of quality at Martin O'Neill's disposal and, until the FAI decide to address these issues head on instead of incessantly trying to clear a debt it caused exactly ten years ago today with the launch of the failed vantage club scheme, this problem may well continue to hold back Irish football.

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Martin O'Neill. Photo: Sportsfile

While Croatia's model is fundamentally built on creating the number 10 with buy-in from all levels of the game, Irish underage soccer is locked in a battle in terms of what system is best - 3v3? 4v4? 5v5?

But what we do have is one of the greatest number 10s to ever play the game.

During his interview with Eamon Dunphy at Paddy Power's 30th birthday bash on Tuesday night, there was a notable change in Robbie Keane's demeanour when the subject of coaching was brought up.

"Of course I do," said Keane when asked if he has ambitions of going into management.

"I haven't retired (from playing) yet. I have offers to play but they are not what I want. It has to suit me and not for the sake of playing.

"There has to be something with it, coaching a bit would entice me into something.

"In coaching or management you have to be patient, you have to wait for the opportunity. I've done some TV work with Sky on the Premier League last month. I don't mind TV work, it keeps you in the game but I want to go into coaching.

"Premier League? I don't have any fear."

So here we have an Ireland team with a glaring problem in scoring goals and a former captain, who certainly did not, issuing a come-and-get-me-plea.

Surely it's time for Keane to pass on his extensive knowledge of putting the ball in the back of the net to, at the very least, our underage teams?

While there were rumours that Ireland Under-21 boss Noel King wanted Keane in his set-up earlier this year, nothing came from that with Martin O'Neill admitting he had heard nothing about the connection.

The Ireland managerial package comes at a big cost. Roy Keane, Seamus McDonagh, Steve Walford and Steve Guppy are all on board but none offer the experience and knowledge of Robbie Keane when it comes to scoring goals.

At the very least, Keane would be a positive influence in the dressingroom, something that is badly needed right now.

But don't take my word on that.

Take Harry Redknapp's.

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Harry Redknapp and Robbie Keane

"If I was a manager of a football club now I would take Robbie Keane all day long on my coaching staff," said Redknapp earlier this year.

"I think he's so full of enthusiasm, knowledgeable, he loves the game and I think he'll eventually be a manager.

"I spent the week with Robbie at Soccer Aid and I just think he's got so much enthusiasm still and I think he'd be brilliant around the football club. He's got that way with the players and the personality that needs to be in the game really."

Or what about Martin Jol, the former Spurs boss who described Keane as "one of the best players he has ever worked with in terms of his influence off the park".

Before Keane took temporary charge of ATK in India last this year, he did some work with Shamrock Rovers with Hoops Stephen Bradley evidently impressed by what he brought to the set-up, particularly with the strikers.

"He's definitely going to be a coach," Bradley said last year.

"You can see that when you see him work. Even in little games, Robbie would stand beside me saying 'Did you see that, did you see this, you need to fix that'.

"He's excellent at that part (with the strikers), breaking things down for them. He's comfortable around the group and has a good manner with the players."

With 68 international goals to his name, an unequivocal positive influence in the dressing room and a burning desire to succeed, Ireland could do worse than having Robbie Keane on board. 

Online Editors

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