ROBBIE KEANE has attributed his MLS Player of the Year award to an appetite for football which has never deserted him.
The LA Galaxy striker was named as the league's MVP on Wednesday night, the first European winner of the gong.
He has scored 20 times in the MLS this season, his best tally since moving to America, and could finish the season with championship glory on Sunday if his club can get the better of New England Revolution.
The 34-year-old believes that his "desire and hunger" have kept him going strong, in addition to improved health following an Achilles operation last winter.
"The last couple of years I've been struggling really bad with Achilles problems," said the Dubliner, who has called on the MLS to outlaw artificial pitches.
"After the operation, I was rehabbing every day for six weeks before pre-season. It's been a long year, but it's been worth it. I had been waking up in the mornings and I could hardly walk and it took me ages to get going in training. But since the operation, I feel great.
"If you hate something that you do, you wake up every morning, you're not looking forward to going into work, whether that's football or a 9-5 job. . . if you don't like what you do then the battle is probably done already.
"For me, I wake up every morning looking forward to practice. I wake up every Saturday and Sunday desperate and can't wait to play the game.
"It's not about the money. I don't care about the money. For me, it's about playing. I'd play for free.
"When I finish playing football, I'll go back to Ireland, I'll be a manager or whatever and I'll still play on Sunday with my mates. It's just the way I am.
Keane said that he was honoured to win an award which has eluded him since his move Stateside, although he was never far from the discussion.
"To be in the running the last few years, it just goes to show how consistent I have been" he continued.
"The most important thing to me is to be consistent and to consistently perform well for the team. Every year, I've just gotten better and better."
"It's great to be recognised by your fellow professionals and the media. I'm delighted with the award, but I'd certainly trade it in for a championship on Sunday."
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena paid credit to his star player's aptitude and professionalism.
"We think Robbie's spectacular," he said. "He's remarkable in the sense that his consistency year in and year out has been spectacular. And you don't see that typically of strikers.
"He sets the tone for our team every day. He's a great professional, he's good with our young players, he's fabulous in getting the team ready to play.
"What makes Robbie different was that he bought into our league right away. He fully accepted what our league is about and the challenges that go with that."
Elsewhere, there was good news for an ex-MLS player yesterday as Darren O'Dea signed up with Championship strugglers Blackpool on a short-term deal until January.
O'Dea has been out of work since parting company with Ukrainian side Metalurh Donetsk, the club he joined after his abrupt exit from Toronto.
However, Keane's former Irish striking partner Kevin Doyle is facing an uncertain future after his loan spell at Crystal Palace was cut short by a groin injury.
"He has got a problem that does not look like clearing up," said Palace boss Neil Warnock. "He is back at Wolves and they are deciding whether they are going to operate on him."
Doyle made just four appearances for Palace, with three of those coming off the bench. He is out of contract next summer.
Ireland will have two different avenues by which qualification for Euro 2020 can be secured after UEFA confirmed the format of the new Nations League tournament that will reduce the number of friendlies and change the shape of the international football calendar.