Belfast Telegraph

Armenia v Republic of Ireland: Robbie Keane glad to focus on football

Robbie Keane is concentrating on football again after the closure of the transfer window brought an end to yet more speculation over his future.

The 30-year-old will win his 101st international cap when he leads the Republic of Ireland out for their opening Euro 2012 qualifier in Armenia tonight.

He will do so still a Tottenham player despite weeks of rumours over his standing at White Hart Lane and a possible exit move.

Keane, who was linked with Newcastle, Liverpool, Celtic, Manchester City and Turkish side Besiktas among others, ultimately stayed put — as he always said he would — despite the last-minute addition of Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart to an attacking pool which already included himself, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe and Roman Pavlyuchenko.

But speaking ahead of tonight’s clash in Yerevan, he insists he was always relaxed about his future.

Keane said: “It doesn't really affect me. For a long time now since I started off, there's always speculation, but unfortunately, I can't help speculation.

“I can just concentrate on what I am doing. I was quite relaxed about the transfer window, I wasn't really too bothered. All the clubs are probably glad now that it is closed and everyone can concentrate on playing football. There won't be a lot of speculation now for at least a couple of months.”

The fact remains, however, that the Irishman, who has been nursing a niggling knee injury since pre-season, has made only two appearances as a substitute to date for his club this season, and competition for places has just increased once again.

He is well aware of that, but insists he is not afraid of the challenge. Keane said: “It's only really been two weeks, the season has only just started.

“I missed the Stoke game through the injury, but I had a good pre-season. I felt good, I felt sharp and that was only really a few weeks ago. But of course, every player wants to play in every game they can, and I will certainly look forward to these two games coming up.”

Keane is one of a handful of survivors from Ireland's last visit to the finals of a major tournament, the 2002 World Cup, and he admits the wait for a return has been too long.

Keane said: “Our aim, every time we go into a competition, is to win it and qualify, but unfortunately, for whatever reason over the last few years, we just haven't got there. Hopefully this time will be different.”

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