Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016: Roy Keane is expecting Robbie to sparkle

Euro 2016 qualifiers

By Damien Spellman

Roy Keane is convinced record goalscorer Robbie Keane will not let the Republic of Ireland down if he is pitched into Euro 2016 battle with Scotland.

The 34-year-old striker, who has 65 goals to his name in 139 senior appearances for his country, has played just 169 minutes of football for LA Galaxy since the beginning of April because of a groin injury.

However, assistant manager Keane has no doubts that his namesake, who was left on the bench for the first time in 13 years when the Republic lost 1-0 in Glasgow in the reverse fixture in November, will do a job if he is asked to start the crucial Group D encounter tomorrow evening.

The former Manchester United and Republic skipper said: "If Robbie starts, he won't let us down. Whoever starts the game won't let us down as we have good competition.

"Murph (Daryl Murphy) is doing well, (David) McGoldrick, (Shane) Long - there are options up front and we'll see in the next 24 hours, if there is no reaction to Robbie.

"He played the weekend, a bit of travelling, trained yesterday and today - today was a bit more intense for him - and the manager has a decision to be made.

"But if Robbie plays, like he has always done a 100-odd times, he won't let us down."

The Galaxy frontman played the full 90 minutes of his club's 1-0 defeat by Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday evening and joined up with the Republic squad on Tuesday.

He took to the training pitch in Malahide yesterday morning having learned that his cousin Alan Harris had died in an industrial accident which left brother Steve fighting for his life after both were overcome by toxic fumes while working in a sewer just a few minutes from the team hotel in Portmarnock on Wednesday evening.

Assistant manager Keane said: "I don't really know the ins and outs. But he has trained today, being the professional he is as you would expect, and as far as he's concerned he's focusing on the game."

If the identity of the man who eventually fills that striking berth represents a key decision for manager Martin O'Neill, it is one of several he faces, but he will not shy away from them as he attempts to keep the Republic in the thick of the fight for qualification.

His number two said: "We're not daft, we know what's at stake, but we're ready for it. Pressure is part of the game. These are the games you look forward to.

"We had a couple of friendlies last week with the North and England and that's all well and good, decent games for us, but that was like the foreplay. The action starts on Saturday.

"There are a lot of key decisions to be made, but that's what we're here for and what the manager is paid for.

One man over whom O'Neill will not have to make a decision is Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter, who has left the camp after failing to shake off hip and groin problems following his debut as a substitute against England on Sunday.

The Republic did not turn in one of the better performances in the defeat at Celtic Park, and there is a general acceptance that they will have to play at a significantly higher level if they are to emerge with victory.

However, former captain Keane has a simple recipe for success.

Asked what they needed to do differently this time around, he said: "Score. Keep a clean sheet. Score and keep a clean sheet.

"We know which games are very important in the group and this is really important. We're ready for it."

And midfielder James McClean claims the pressure is on the Scots.

"If they lose the game, we go ahead of them, so there's pressure on both teams and make no mistake about it, we'll be going out all guns blazing to try to get the win.

"It's like an international derby. Both teams don't want to lose - both teams didn't want to lose in November either, and that's what made it a tight, scrappy affair.

"But look, we know we need to win this game on Saturday, so hopefully we come flying out of the blocks and we take the game to them."

"We are right in the group and we'll take the game to Scotland. But whether it's an exciting performance or it's a dull performance, if we get three points, we're not really bothered either way.

"We have had other games since then, so you can't dwell on it too much. But this game has come around now, it's Scotland that's the next game and would be nice to put November's game right.

"If it's a scrappy game and it takes an own goal in the last minute, then so be it."

McClean has been used as a substitute by O'Neill in recent games and announced his arrival in March's 1-1 draw against the Poles with a crunching tackle.

If it is his ability for get forward at pace and deliver balls into the box which is his major weapon, his physicality can also be an asset.

He said with a smile: "I was just playing my normal game. I have got something like 13 bookings this season at club level, so I think that speaks for itself."

Belfast Telegraph