Thursday 17 October 2019

'Why should we go and chase people? We are f***ing Ireland' - Robbie Keane has strong views on Patrick Bamford

Robbie Keane says Ireland should not be chasing the likes of Patrick Bamford
Robbie Keane says Ireland should not be chasing the likes of Patrick Bamford

John Brennan

For almost an hour last week, Ireland's assistant manager Robbie Keane held court in front of the media.

He was speaking at Crumlin Childrens' Hospital as part of his role as Euro 2020 Ambassador and no subject was off limits. His work with Mick McCarthy now, the offer of a job with Middlesbrough – now taken – and the idea that he would one day manage Ireland, how he wants the game to be played.

Only once in that informative 60 minutes, peppered with wit and a few droll observations, did Ireland's record goalscorer step out of his comfort zone.

The only time he met questions with a stare, that he pointed his finger, that he banged his hands on the table in front of him, was when it was put to him that Ireland needed Patrick Bamford, the Leeds United striker, who qualifies to play for Ireland.

The four strikers who had started or sat on the bench for Ireland against Gibraltar have scored a total of zero international goals and none of them could fill their boots against the minnows from the Med last Monday.

Bamford scored nine times in 22 appearances for Leeds in the Championship last season and there is an argument that he had not been injured or suspended for the remaining 24, more than half the games in the league remember, Leeds would have secured automatic promotion to the Premier League instead of losing out in the play-offs.

But Keane was having none of the notion that he, Mick, or the FAI should now pursue Bamford, who has been silent on the prospect of playing for Ireland ever since meeting McCarthy earlier this year.

"I am genuinely not interested. If he doesn't want to play for us, no problem, we will get players who want to play for us. He is an English player. We shouldn't be chasing people.

"That's what f***in' winds me up. We shouldn't be chasing people. They should want to play for us," the 38-year-old thundered. "If they don't then no problem. Why should we go and chase people? We are f***in Ireland. we have qualified in the last few years for two Euros, we were in the World Cup in 2002.

"If you want to come, come," he added furiously. "Represent your country and be proud to play for your country. If you don't, don't waste anybody's time. Don't waste the manager's time. And I am not speaking specifically about Bamford. I am talking about everybody. Anybody.

"Don't just use us as a tool if you like for maybe other countries to come in for you. Be proud of your country. Be proud to play for Ireland."

But we have always needed English-born players, some of the best players ever to wear the Green have been ‘Granny' players.

"They loved playing for us. They loved coming over, they loved being part of it and that was great."

But Keane knows Ireland still needs to do more in terms of developing our own players. "We have to make sure we try to help them," he says. "So this issue doesn't arise because we have got our own people. So our own young lads whether they are starting in League of Ireland or going over to England at the age of 15 like I did get the best chance."

And before anyone even mentions Declan Rice, the subject comes up in a roundabout fashion.

Do you think players should be allowed play in senior friendlies and switch allegiance, Robbie?

"No. It should be the way it was years ago, it's fairly simple isn't it. Jesus Christ, you can't do that. Once you play a senior game, that's it." But that's not the way it is, now, every time an English-born lad comes in, the will-he won't-he stuff will start as it did with Rice and we had it with Jack Grealish too.

Keane does his best Robert de Niro impression. "You talking about Luca? (Luca Connell, the 17-year-old Bolton Wanderers midfielder who was part of Ireland's training camp in Portugal last month),

"I'm telling you right now, he'll play for us. He loves it here. He enjoyed being here. He was buzzing in Portugal. He was playing well, enjoying it and would have stayed for the qualifiers, but for picking up an injury."

But with the greatest respect, Declan Rice was enjoying it as well. We all know what happened.

"I never met him, apart from that one time with Mick. I've met this lad Luca. I've been in the camp with him for 10 days.

"I guarantee you 100 per cent he is desperate to play for Ireland. And he's got a chance, he's a great footballer and he's a lovely lad as well."

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