Thursday 22 March 2018

Keane's instant impact spells bad news for McCarthy

Wolves 2 Aston Villa 3

David McVay

Trust the name of Keane to reduce Mick McCarthy to the depths of despair. That infamous World Cup spat with Roy 10 years ago still hangs heavy over the Wolves manager and now another Keane -- Robbie -- has pushed him closer to the brink of the sack at Molineux.

McCarthy was provoked into fighting talk when his own supporters ridiculed his tactics during the home game with Swansea last October -- tactics which ultimately retrieved a point -- and two subsequent home wins appeared to give him breathing space but that seems a long time ago now.

It is 10 games, including a woeful FA Cup loss to Birmingham City, since the Old Gold celebrated a win, this latest reverse plunging them into the relegation places for the first time this season.

The next three matches should decide his fate, starting with a home game a week tomorrow against Liverpool.

That will be followed by a trip to a Queens Park Rangers outfit who already look more sprightly under Mark Hughes and then, maybe decisively, the Black Country squabble with West Bromwich Albion on February 12.

Should a win not materialise, McCarthy can expect a P45, rather than a card, through the post by Valentine's Day.

His woes are compounded by the absence of Karl Henry in that formidable trio of fixtures following the midfielder's red card for studding Marc Albrighton.

Only time will reveal the extent of a badly bruised swollen eye sustained by the influential Emmanuel Frimpong from Stiliyan Petrov's right boot.

The on-loan Arsenal player, who had performed well, was carried off and with Henry's dismissal in the 75th minute Villa seized the initiative, after being run ragged in the first half when goals from Michael Kightly and David Edwards secured a merited lead to overturn Darren Bent's early penalty.

Keane, making his full debut after signing on loan from LA Galaxy, had already levelled before Frimpong's departure but it was the Dubliner's blistering 25-yard shot that stole all three points -- a "breath of fresh air" as his manager Alex McLeish called it, and a perfect 53rd birthday present for the Scot.

"He looks older than that," laughed Keane who also scored against the club where his impressive career began on his last visit here, for Tottenham in 2004.

Keane didn't celebrate his remarkable double out of respect to the Wolves supporters, and he was probably also sparing a thought for international team-mate Kevin Doyle.

The Irish skipper's double means he has scored as many Premier League goals in his brief cameo as the Wexford man has managed in the entire campaign, his only goals coming against Fulham and Swansea.

An unfair criticism of Doyle in recent seasons has been to point at his goalscoring record, when his role in McCarthy's plans has effectively made him a battering ram for others.

Giovanni Trapattoni famously said that the 28-year-old should bring an umbrella onto the pitch to take down all of the high balls.

Naturally, Keane was buzzing afterwards. Asked if he was delighted to show that he could still do it, the 31-year-old immediately retorted, "Who said I couldn't?"

Considering that Premier League bosses were hardly queueing up for his services last summer, it's safe to say quite a large number of people within the English game had reservations.

The swagger on Saturday was far removed from the lack of conviction that defined a disastrous loan stint at West Ham.

Keane took flak from some quarters last August for taking the money and heading for LA at an age (31) where he should still have plenty to offer. In that context, there's a bitter-sweet element to his weekend exploits.

Clearly, an extended off-season break has failed to remove his eye for goal.

With Keane, like most strikers, it's often more about confidence than fitness. The curious case of Doyle is proof of that. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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