Robbie Keane: 'We can't expect to qualify for every tournament'
Republic of Ireland skipper Robbie Keane has called for an injection of realism over the country's hopes of reaching major tournaments.
Ireland have qualified for showcase events under Jack Charlton, Mick McCarthy and Giovanni Trapattoni in recent years, but will miss out on next summer's World Cup finals in Brazil after a disappointing campaign which draws to a close against Kazakhstan this evening.
Keane has no problem with the level of expectation successive Irish teams have created, but he admits it is sometimes unrealistic.
The 33-year-old said: "People in England talk about the FA trying to change the structure and trying to play a lot more English players, and they are slowly suffering from that.
"We are going to be at the bottom of that, we are going to suffer as well from that, so if that does change, then it's only going to benefit us as well.
"We need more players to be coming through playing at a higher level. At the moment, that's not the case. Obviously, there are a few, there's no question about that.
"The expectation level has always been high in Ireland, that's just the country that we are, that's the way we have always been.
"There's no harm in having expectations, but sometimes you have to look at the reality as well, and the reality is at the moment we are just not right there."
Keane will hope to play his part in a morale-boosting victory - and one which could ensure that the Republic are among the second group of seeds for the Euro 2016 draw - after recovering from the ankle injury which kept him out of Friday night's 3-0 defeat in Germany.
Celtic frontman Anthony Stokes was handed the task of filling his boots in Cologne and although he turned in a promising display, a series of the kind of chances Keane has converted throughout his career went begging.
The LA Galaxy was a frustrated by-stander at the Rhein Energie Stadion, and he admits he is not a good spectator.
Keane said: "As player, you don't want to be sitting on the bench watching games because you when you are playing, you always feel like you can do something and help change the game.
"But when you are sitting on the bench, you can't do anything. You are more nervous sitting on the bench watching games than you are playing."
Keane, who has 60 senior international goals to his name, has no intention of hanging up his boots just yet, but his time will come sooner rather than later.
Stokes will hope to be one of the contenders to plug a huge gap and the Ireland captain was impressed by what he saw from him in Germany.
He said: "I know he was disappointed, but it's international level and if you get a few chances at international level, you certainly have to take them. You don't get too many chances, certainly against Germany.
"But I am sure he will learn from playing against a top team like Germany and knowing you can get chances against them, I am sure the next time he gets the opportunity, he will take them."