'Our families are true friends' - Claudine Keane on life, loyalty and the Beckhams
Claudine Keane talks to Barry Egan about husband Robbie, the misconceptions people have about her, friendship with the Beckhams, the death of her aunt Anne from breast cancer, and being in Manchester in the aftermath of the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert
Full disclosure: I was one of the judges at the Miss Ireland pageant in 2004 and Claudine Keane was one of the contestants.
She didn't win, but, perhaps, she should have. Today, over a quick bite in House, on Leeson Street, she has a winning personality in spades. I'd never properly met her before.
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Within five minutes of sitting down for a 45-minute tete-a-tete, she is showing herself to be a woman of real depth, and integrity. When I enquired about her favourite song (you can tell a lot about someone from the songs, or books, or films, they cherish the most, don't you think?) Claudine immediately replied: Songbird by Eva Cassidy.
"It's a song that has a lot of meaning for me. Mary Black sang that for us, when I walked down the aisle," she says, referring to her wedding to a certain footballer in June 2008, at St Alphonsus and Columba Church in Ballybrack, Dublin, "which was a very special moment. Also, my auntgodmother, Anne, who passed away from breast cancer, loved that song. It has a lot of emotional attachment for me."
Wide of eye and lissom of limb, Claudine adds that her earliest childhood memory was "spending time with my grandmother. Sadly, she passed away a few years ago and there isn't a day goes by that I don't miss her. My grandmother was from Laois and we used to gather together for family occasions at my aunt's stud farm in Portarlington." Claudine can remember "going down on weekends to spend time with them and to learn how to ride horses. Those are lovely and special memories."
Claudine was here to officially launch the SPAR Better Choices - Back to School Value campaign. As a SPAR Brand ambassador, Claudine said she was thrilled to be involved, again, with the Back to School Value campaign. "We have a very busy family home, with two growing boys, so it is really important that we provide them both with nutritious food and snacks for school, breakfast, lunch or on-the-go. SPAR's Better Choices Back to School Value range gives families peace of mind, knowing that their children have a wide choice of healthy options when it comes to purchasing foods for school."
I asked her to describe what she is like as a mother to 10-year-old Robert junior and Hudson (who arrived in 2015.) "I'm very hands-on and have been since they were born.
"I'm very easy-going and try to be fair and relaxed as much as possible. I love spending time with my children and we enjoy activities, like walking the family dog, Wilson, around where we live. It's really special as a mother to see your children explore different things and watch them grow into their personalities. They both enjoy spending time with me in the kitchen helping - they particularly enjoy when they can cause a mess! - which is very special."
And Robbie as a dad?
"Rob is a fun dad," she says, "although he is probably a little more firm than me. I'm not a pushover, but Rob likes to have a routine. We work well as a team," says Claudine.
In 2003, Claudine modelled at the UCD Arts Fashion Show at the RDS, and a year later, in her second year at college, met future Irish soccer legend Mr Keane in Lillies Bordello at a party that nightclub boss Valerie Roe had organised for the Irish soccer team. As Claudine told Hello! magazine: "I'm from the north of Dublin and Robbie's from the south, so without the introduction, we wouldn't have met."
In 2007, Robbie put a €100,000 engagement ring on Claudine's finger when she accepted his proposal of marriage.
The 5' 7" blonde from middle-class Malahide in North County Dublin (she grew up in Seabury) is the daughter of Dubliner Joan and garda detective dad from Kerry, Denis, and elder sister to brother Ronan. She has described her mother as "like a sister." She has also described her visits to her grandmother's house as a child with her cousins: "We loved setting up the jumps for the horses, and having loads of fun doing so."
But despite the stud farm in her back ground and living in a mansion in Beverly Hills during her time in California with Robbie, Claudine has said that she instils 'working class family values' in her children.
Claudine is full of vim and wit, possessing what can only be described as a Keane Edge (with apologies to the late diarist and grande dame Terry).
"Robbie is bad cop, to my good cop, with the kids," laughs this kale-munching career-and-kids-juggling superwoman. Her illustrious husband is a bit of a multi-tasker, too, juggling his job as Ireland assistant coach, along with the same role at Middlesbrough. After this lunch with Living, Claudine is jetting back to Middlesbrough to take her kids to see their dad's team play that night. (They also have a home in Abington in Malahide.)
She leans forward on her elbow, beaming, to tell me: "I can't wait to see the kids. Or Robbie." When she talks about her beloved children, and indeed Robbie - the three men in her life - Claudine positively blinks with delight, creating great up-draughts from her immaculate eyelashes.
She has a quietly charming and engaging way about her. It is not difficult to see why she was VBFs with Victoria (and David) in her former hometown of Los Angeles; and had dinner with Kim (and Kanye) in Nobu, Malibu. In 2011, Robbie and Claudine moved to La La Land, when Robbie joined LA Galaxy (and fellow player Becks). Apropos of those idyllic years in Bel Air, American website TMZ referred to Claudine as "smokin' hot"; and a poll conducted by the same high-profile website voted Claudine and Robbie more popular with its readers than Posh 'n Becks.
In 2016, King Robbie departed LA Galaxy, having scored a mighty 104 goals over six seasons. (Please note: with 146 caps for Ireland, Keane scored a whopping 68 goals for his country over an 18-year international career; he is the all-time record Irish scorer, which even allowing for hyperbole, is staggering in any sporting field of ambition.)
Claudine says she inherited "patience" from her mother, and kindness from both parents.
"My parents did everything they could to make sure we had a lovely childhood. They did so much for my brother and I growing up. My brother played for Dublin minors and my dad travelled around the county and country, taking him to training and matches, and my mother never failed to be outside university for me, after exams, to see how I got on. They dedicated so much to make sure we were happy and cared for.
"My dad spent hours in the car, driving to watch my brother play football and take me to after-school activities. They taught us that children and family come first, always." She describes her childhood as "very typical. It was a lovely childhood. We - my brother and I - were very lucky. My son, Rob, goes to the same primary school that I went to." Claudine started her education in Malahide, where she grew up, "before moving on to the Institute of Education in Leeson Street. I was lucky to have an amazingly inspirational teacher in my earlier years who instilled a deep love of English, reading and writing in me from an early age. Even when I went on to UCD, to study economics and finance, I also studied English Literature for my first two years," she says. (Claudine told Closer magazine in 2010: "Just because I've always been into fashion and beauty, it's assumed I'm just another dumb WAG, but I've got a degree, I'm very independent with my own career and I spend my own money."
"Thankfully," she continues, "Robert also enjoys reading. Like all children, he's also into gaming, but he adores being outside playing and reading books. We read together as a family most nights, and Robert and Hudson enjoy learning new things, which is great for their development."
With that, she is up and gone in a flash - almost as fast as her husband in his heyday down the wing for Spurs or Inter Milan - to catch her plane home to the three men in her life.
The Spar Back to School Value campaign aims to offer families a range of convenient, healthy food options and great prices with special offers across fruit and vegetables including fun-size Gala apples, Rocha pears, cherry vine tomatoes, kiwis, broccoli and more. The range is available from participating SPAR stores nationwide and for further information, you can visit www.SPAR.ie
Getting to know you...
Tell me something about Claudine Keane that might surprise people.
I love the countryside more than the city. I'm a country girl at heart.
What is it like being friends with the Beckhams?
They were truly welcoming to us when we first arrived in LA and helped us settle into our new life there. They are a lovely couple and a lovely family, and our families are true friends.
What are the Beckhams really like?
A lovely couple and a lovely family.
What are the Keanes really like?
We're a family, a young family trying to live a good and happy life. We enjoy spending time together and love watching our children grow up and develop their own personalities.
Tell me about the real Claudine?
That's a tough question. I am what you see. I'm a straightforward and easy- going person. I'm a fun girl who enjoys the company of family and friends and the simple pleasures in life.
Tell me a secret about yourself.
If I tell it won't be a secret any more!
What's the biggest misconception people have about you?
Perhaps that I've always pursued my own ambitions in life and that my education was so important to me that I finished my honours degree in economics and finance in UCD before moving to England to join Rob.
What is the difference between how Robbie sees you and how the world sees you?
Well, Rob obviously knows me better than anyone in the world. Rob, my parents and brother know exactly who I am. Rob sees me as someone who is fiercely loyal. We've been together since I was 18 years of age. I've always been his biggest supporter. I like to have fun and enjoy myself and we like a laugh in our home. We're best friends.
What makes you laugh?
My kids. Robert has a great sense of humour. Hudson is only three and the innocent phrases he comes out with are hilarious. They always put a smile on my face. And the show Friends. That's my show for long flights. It never gets old. I just love it.
What are the five best happiest moments of your life?
Becoming a mother for the first time with the birth of Robert in Holles Street. The birth of our second son, Hudson, in Cedars-Sinai in LA - two very different experiences. Getting married to Rob. Completing my honours degree in economics and finance in UCD; I put so much hard work and effort into getting into UCD and then achieving my degree was truly special. And watching my brother get married in Adare Manor two weeks ago. I was so proud to see the man he has become.
The lowest point in your life?
The passing of my grandmother and aunt within five weeks of each other. They were two very strong women who were very influential in my life and I miss them terribly.
What makes you angry or sad?
When we were living in the States the gun violence was very apparent to me because Robert attended kindergarten there and they had to have drills to prepare for a lone gunman or hostage scenario. That makes me so sad. When I was growing up we had fire drills and things like that but to witness children having to run drills in case a shooter turned up? Just heartbreaking.
And Rob and I saw the devastation close up after the incident at Ariana Grande's One Love benefit concert in Manchester as Rob was there for Michael Carrick's testimonial - he helped get the fixture brought forward to avoid clashing with the concert - and we went to the concert and met some of the victims afterwards.
Do you have a philosophy in life?
Not to take yourself too seriously and not to be too hard on yourself. I live to live for the moment and in the moment, and not sweat the small stuff.
What is the secret to your and Robbie's long and happy love story?
Friendship is key. That's the most important thing in a relationship. We're able to communicate and we support each other. Your partner should be your biggest supporter. We met very young - I was only 18 - and we've grown together as individuals, as a couple and now as a family.
Your all-time favourite Robbie goal?
I was watching Sky recently and they actually showed Rob's top 100 Premier League goals - but for me his last-minute goal against Germany at the 2002 World Cup is special. He was so young and the goal meant so much to the country. I absolutely love Mick McCarthy's reaction too. It was a special moment in his career, made all the more special as Oliver Kahn was almost unbeatable in goal for Germany during that competition. Every year on the anniversary of that goal we get lovely messages from supporters telling us where they were and what that goal meant to them. A truly special moment in his career.
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