Monday 20 November 2017

Skipper's armband not a given -- Keane

Roy Keane talks with captain Robbie Keane during training
Roy Keane talks with captain Robbie Keane during training

Garry Doyle

Robbie Keane has revealed how Martin O'Neill has yet to provide him with assurance that he will remain Ireland's captain for the forthcoming Euro 2016 qualification campaign.

To date, O'Neill has spoken generously about the 33-year-old Dubliner, dubbing him a "fantastic leader" on the eve of Ireland's friendly against Poland last month. Yet privately the pair have yet to have a deep and meaningful conversation about becoming a fixed item over a longer period.

"Will I remain captain? You have to ask the manager that. It is like asking me who is going to play in the next game. It is not my call. But if I am called upon, then I will gladly do it," Keane said in an interview with 98FM's 'Now That's What I Call Sport' programme.

"As a player, it's just pleasing to have the two men (O'Neill and Roy Keane) on board. Martin was always a manager I admired in terms of his man-management skills, how good he was with the players, how good he was at motivating men.

"We've only worked under him for a short period -- but so far so good. He and Roy have strong characters which is what we need in this squad. You hope it will be a good partnership and I'm sure it will be."

If nothing else, it will certainly be interesting -- as it has been from the moment Roy Maurice Keane announced himself in an Irish shirt 22 years ago, when he made his international debut against Chile.

Since then he has rewritten the book on winning yet, in his much-talked-about documentary with Patrick Vieira last week, it was Keane's revelation that his career was driven by fear that struck a chord with his namesake.

"I know exactly where Roy was coming from when he spoke about the fear of losing," said Robbie. "As you get older, I've become a better loser. I had to learn to be because games came so thick and fast and I had to stop dwelling or moping on what had gone wrong.

"When I was younger, I was hard to live with whenever we lost. For the missus, I was a nightmare to be around. I have kind of calmed down a little bit. But losing is not good. Nobody likes it. Certainly I can relate to what Roy had to say."

Over the next 10 days, however, Keane is in downtime mode. This Christmas will be his first at home in 16 years -- and the prospect of spending time with his relatives and in-laws is something he is looking forward to.

"Mass in the morning and the whole shebang in the afternoon -- turkey, ham, the lot -- I can't wait for it," he said.


Yet part of him misses the festive diet he used to have, a St Stephen's Day fixture followed by a busy period around the New Year.

"I am not desperate to get back to England but I do envy the guys going out into FA Cup action and things like that. It would be hard not to miss it," he said.

"But I made my choice to go to Los Angeles and it has worked out well. This year we were less successful than in the previous two seasons but I firmly believe we can win another championship next season."

As for Ireland, the positive notes were also struck. Yes, 2013 was a let-down but, with O'Neill-Keane leading the way in 2014, he is typically expectant. "I will always be proud to play for my country. It has always been a great honour, a privilege and pleasure and I will be back next year, fighting for more caps and goals," he said.

"This year wasn't a memorable one. Okay, my goals return for club and country was good but the game is about winning trophies or qualifying for major tournaments and if you don't win, then that is an unsuccessful time.

"I scored 16 from 22 games with 11 assists for the Galaxy and for some that is a great season, but if you don't win a championship or qualify for a World Cup, you are not remembered. That is the business we are in."

And a business he wants to continue in once retirement comes: "I am taking my coaching badges. I want to go down that road once I stop playing. Sure what else would I do?"

Irish Independent

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