Keogh relishing return as family tragedy puts football in perspective
FOOTBALLERS lives -- big money, glamour, and loadsa bling, right?
On the surface that's how it appears, particularly to the twitterati, who love venting their spleen when soccer stars seem to be living the dream without a care in the world.
But real life just isn't that simple, as Ireland international Andy Keogh revealed when he lifted the curtain on recent family anguish.
Sadly, Keogh's partner Natalie suffered a miscarriage prior to last month's friendly against Oman, and few outside the Irish dressing-room knew the burden he carried into the game.
Keogh showed great strength of character to go ahead and play in the match, as did Natalie, who urged him to get out on the pitch and do his job after he got a recall from Giovanni Trapattoni.
"It was tough but me and Natalie spoke and she came to the game as well that night," said Keogh.
"She was just like, 'well, you're back in now, you've been given a chance, get out there and try to play' so I just said 'okay'. She wanted me to and I wanted to do it for us really.
"I had been left out of the Euros and that was disappointing, so to be then given the chance to start for my country again, I wanted to do everything I could to play.
"The fact that she wanted me to do it made it so much easier.
"Natalie is a strong girl. It was tough but she is coming over for the game this week.
"It was very tough at the time but we'll get stronger together and get through it."
On a more positive note, the 26-year-old Dubliner is delighted to be settled at Millwall after his move from Wolves earlier this year.
"I've got this season and next season left on my contract. I'm settled and everything is going really well," he said.
"The manager has faith in me. It was too stop-start (at Wolves) and that's why I said last January that I need to settle this permanently.
"At the start of the season I did really well and I was scoring a few goals.
"Then the international break came and everything happened (the miscarriage).
"When I came back my form did go a bit downhill although I'm feeling a lot better recently and picking back up."
Keogh, goalkeeper David Forde, Alan Dunne and 20-year-old Aiden O'Brien are the four Irish players at Millwall. They follow in a long tradition of Irishmen who have played at the London club that has a reputation as a tough venue for away teams.
Millwall's connection with this country includes Charlie Hurley, Joe Haverty, Eamon Dunphy, Nick Colgan, Tony Cascarino, Kenny Cunningham, Mark Kennedy, Richard Sadlier, Mick McCarthy (player first, and later manager), and Steven Reid.
You need to be tough to play against Millwall, but also tough to play for fans who are renowned -- or notorious if you prefer -- for their passion.
Keogh smiled as he talked about the supporters, saying: "They're mental.
"They were in full flow on Saturday when we played Bolton. I hadn't seen them that lively for a while but I can definitely see how people would be intimidated when they come to The Den.
"If you do well for them and work hard for them, they will treat you with respect and take a liking to you.
"That's what I try to do. They seem to have taken a liking to me."
There's no doubt that Giovanni Trapattoni likes Keogh as a player, but does he like him enough for a start against Germany on Friday night?
"It's great to be involved in the squad." he said.
"I thought maybe after the Euros that that was me, maybe I wouldn't be involved again, so it is nice to be back and to have played some minutes.
"Hopefully there are more minutes to come and some good results on the way."