Saturday 16 December 2017

Time for Robbie to make way for Long's pace and stamina

Robbie Keane
Robbie Keane
Stephanie Roche

Stephanie Roche

Four years ago, Robbie Keane was his usual, honest self when he proclaimed he would walk away from international football if someone more worthy took the number 10 shirt off him.

"It is all about now and I've said before if I didn't play for Ireland and someone else came in, I have always said I would walk away," he said back then.

At the time, some argued that Keane was throwing his toys out of the pram by threatening to stop playing for his country if he was not picked. I was in no doubt, though, that Keane simply meant he would gladly give the jersey to a more deserving player.

Maybe it didn't come out the way he would have liked, but does anyone really think that Robbie Keane is a man who would walk away from international football because he is not starting?

He didn't start against Scotland last November and it's testament to the great Keano' commitment to the cause that we are still talking about him our main striker.

I have always admired Keane.

Not just his undoubted ability to find the back of the net, but also for his honesty, on and off the pitch.

He was genuine and honest in that interview four years ago, and maybe the time has come for Keane to consider a different type of role within the Irish squad. He still has much to offer but those aging legs will not get any quicker. The time has come for something fresh in attack.

While Shane Long's lack of competitive goals for Ireland is a concern, it should also be noted that he has only started a handful of competitive games for his country.

If, for example, Martin O'Neill was to favour a 4-4-2 formation going forward, Keane could be the man to play alongside someone big and strong and feed off any chances around the box. Our next qualifier is an absolute must-win clash against the Scots at home next June - a game I will travel all the way home from Texas for as it is my birthday!

O'Neill is unlikely to go with a 4-4-2 formation against the Scots and I believe this means that Keane should take his place on the substitutes bench. He would be a great option to come on and try and nick a goal later on in the game.

It would be a tough decision not playing Keane as he's our top goalscorer and captain, but I think we need Long's stamina and bustling approach up front.

With Hoolahan feeding off Long, and vice versa, I think we could be dangerous.

Against Poland, I was surprised to see Shay Given start and David Forde relegated to the bench.

It was a strange decision and one I could not fathom.

Any team would be lucky to have Given in goal, but Forde has been excellent for Ireland since he got the jersey.

I just wonder how the dressing room reacted to that news. I feel a decision like that might affect some of the players.

Both Robbie and Shay are an integral part of the Irish set-up but we can't be relying on them now.

While they may find themselves playing a more peripheral role for Ireland in the future, other players now need to step up to the plate and lead by example.

Right now there is no-one who seems willing to grab a game by the scruff of the neck and make themselves a hero.

Here is my starting 11 for the Scotland match where I would favour a 4-4-1-1 starting formation. Forde, Coleman, Brady, O'Shea, Wilson, McCarthy, Whelan, McClean, McGeady, Hoolahan, Long.

Irish Independent

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