Saturday 16 December 2017

Keane takes pride as century beckons

Robbie Keane will collect his 100th cap tomorrow. Photo: Getty Images
Robbie Keane will collect his 100th cap tomorrow. Photo: Getty Images

Robbie Keane will collect his 100th cap tomorrow for the Republic of Ireland with as much passion, desire and enthusiasm as when he won his first 12 years ago.

It says much about Keane that despite the fact his itchy feet have taken him to seven clubs over 13 years, including two spells with current outfit Spurs, his love for the Republic has never wavered.

As Keane himself points out, other than serious injury - and they have been very few and far between - he has never pulled out of a squad with anything minor or because of any fallout or because he has whinged about something.

Keane's loyalty to his country, in an age when many players prefer to focus on extending their club careers, is commendable.

So it will be with considerable pride that he will pull on a green Republic shirt for the 100th time tomorrow, a special occasion in its own right.

But the eminence of the night is further enhanced in that Keane will lead out his players for the first time into the Republic's new home, the £350m Aviva Stadium.

Throw in the fact his 15-month-old son, Robbie Jnr, is the mascot, and it is easy to see why the evening will be one to remember for the 30-year-old Tottenham forward.

"I still have that buzz and enthusiasm for the game. I always want to play for my country," said Keane.

"You've all known for many years, I've never pulled out of squads for any reason.

"But I love playing for my country, I love coming back, and I don't think that will ever change.

"It's hard to believe, though, it'll be my 100th cap. For years I didn't think about how many I might win.

"But as it has drawn closer then it has obviously been more and more in my sights.

"I know I'm very fortunate to have reached 100 caps, but hopefully there will be a few more to come after.

"So I'm really looking forward to the occasion, particularly as my little lad is going to be the mascot.

"That's great for me. Having him on the pitch with me will make it an even more special occasion."

Despite the speculation surrounding Keane's future, Tottenham coach Joe Jordan yesterday remarked he had been the club's best player in pre-season.

Keane believes that is testimony to the way he has matured over the years, and the way he now looks after himself on and off the pitch, added to which has been the obvious honour of wearing the captain's armband.

"It's been a great experience, and obviously as you grow older you obtain more knowledge of the game," added Keane.

"I've played a lot of games now as captain, and I feel I've grown into the role. I really enjoy it.

"As for me, I feel great. Again as you get older you look after yourself even more, so I certainly feel really good.

"I'm looking forward to the new season as it's probably the best I've felt for a while."

After scoring a remarkable 43 goals in his 99 international games so far, Keane is seven shy of breaking the British Isles record of 49 set by Bobby Charlton with England.

That is also now on his radar, but it is the fact he has not played in as many tournaments as he would have hoped that really irks him.

It is a statement he is looking to alter with qualification for the next European Championship, with the group games starting in four weeks' time.

"Every Irish fan keeps mentioning that record to me, and of course it would great to beat it," said Keane.

"I certainly feel I've a few more goals and caps left in me, so it would be a great achievement.

"But more than that I want to help us qualify for the European Championship.

"If you look at the games we've been involved in, we've come very close on occasion, but we've made mistakes or we just didn't have that bit of luck we needed.

"I certainly feel we should have been involved in more tournaments than we have recently."

The build-up to tomorrow's game has been overshadowed by the news manager Giovanni Trapattoni was taken to Dublin's Mater Hospital in the early hours of the morning suffering from food poisoning.

After undergoing a series of tests the 71-year-old remains in a stable condition, with the hope he will be able to take his place in the dugout for the game.

Press Association

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