Monday 18 December 2017

Keane ready for one more journey

Aer Lingus ambassador, Robbie Keane was at Dublin Airport today to launch Aer Lingus’ big North American sale. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Aer Lingus ambassador, Robbie Keane was at Dublin Airport today to launch Aer Lingus’ big North American sale. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The location is appropriate. Robbie Keane is sitting in Dublin Airport, chatting about the direction that he expects his career to take come the summer.

It will take him out of Ireland again, even if he says that he is unsure of the destination. England, his January preference, appears to be a long shot. Ireland's record goalscorer might be retired from international football, but he is ready to get more stamps on the passport.

An option in Australia was rejected while a possible switch to China fell through, and they are the type of markets that his representatives will be looking at.

In the meantime, Keane continues to train with Shamrock Rovers every day and speaks as though he is following matters in England closely too; there are longer-term coaching ambitions that have kept him on top of developments.

But his body is telling him to play on. His son's First Communion is coming up and when that's out of the way, the mind will really focus on the next adventure.

He admits to some frustration at training for the week with no match at the end of it, although he has always made it clear that signing for Rovers was not on the agenda. The veteran is being careful about his choice because he cannot afford to waste time on the wrong move.

Read more: 'Rovers are doing the right things. I can see progress' - Robbie

"I'm realistic," he says. "And I'm looking at the bigger picture rather than just looking to jump into something that I would probably regret and doing it for the sake of it because I'm dying for a game of football. There could have been an option (in China) but it fell through because of the window and stuff like that. As I said, I'm not desperate to go anywhere. If it's the right one, I'll do it. If it's not, I won't do it. Simple as that.

"I'm not going to go to a team just for a laugh. I'm not that sort of player and you know that. I'm not going to go just for... listen, ideally you want to go somewhere you enjoy living, of course but at the same time, being competitive and winning stuff, they are factors that will come into it and the family obviously come into consideration.

"I kind of am in a club situation (at Rovers)," he continues. "I am around the lads Duffer and stuff, Stephen McPhail. So I'm kind of around it, I'm just not getting paid!"

He has enjoyed a spell at home in Dublin, and it presented the opportunity to attend Ireland's World Cup qualifier with Wales last month as a spectator. Unfortunately, that game will be remembered for the setback suffered by his successor as captain, Seamus Coleman.

"It was horrific," said Keane, speaking before Neil Taylor's two-match ban was confirmed. "You could see that Seamus was getting very comfortable, and growing into the role. He's going to be a big loss and I sent him a message wishing him the best. If anyone can get back it's him

Hardest

"He is mentally tough, no question he has the right people around him that will help him. The key thing is when you're injured you're always away from people, that's the hardest part. As you get experienced and older, you realise that's not good for you so you try and go in at the same time as the players, do everything the exact same as you would do.

"The physios want to you to come in a little later. The important thing for him is to keep him in the mix, like he's still part of everything at Everton and even if he got over to Ireland and be around the squad a little bit when games are on. Mentally, that will help."

Martin O'Neill could do with a fresher-faced Keane around the place and the man himself admits that he is slightly concerned by the absence of emerging talent in his favoured position.

Across the water, he's enjoying watching the development of Harry Kane who was coming through the ranks when he was at Spurs.

And he is a huge fan of Manchester United's Marcus Rashford. "He's going to be exceptional," he enthuses.

Somehow, Ireland are going to have to find goals to get them to Russia and Keane believes it's doable in a group that is wide open.

"The performances haven't been unbelievable," he stresses. "But I don't think any of the teams in the group have been exceptional. The players we have got are experienced players who will do well and always cause problems for defenders."

A younger Keane would make the task easier but his story will continue elsewhere.

Irish Independent

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