Belfast Telegraph

I'll stay with Republic as long as Trapattoni wants me' - Robbie Keane

By Daniel McDonnell

Robbie Keane admits that he considered international retirement this summer, but couldn't face the prospect of life without representing his country.

The Tallaght man took umbrage when it was suggested during the Euros that it might be the end of his Irish career.

However, he acknowledged yesterday that he did consider following the move taken by his good pals Shay Given and Damien Duff, who called a halt to their national service.

"I thought about it," said the LA Galaxy striker. "And when Damien and Shay decided to go that way, it was a sad day for Irish football because they've been two of the best players this country has ever seen.

"But the thought of never putting on a green jersey again was quite difficult for me to come around to. Even now, I'm dreading that day. I'll keeping playing on while I'm fit and healthy and as long as the manager picks me."

With his other good friend, Richard Dunne, injured for the encounter against Kazakhstan, Keane said that it was strange to report for duty this week.

He's always associated these gatherings with the aforementioned faces.

"Myself and Damien came in at the same time, and Shay a year before that. So it's a change when you're used to seeing those faces and now they're not there, and you're never going to see them again in the squad.

"Obviously when Duffer is in, you never see him anyway. He's always in bed asleep," he added, with a warm grim.

In training this week, he's watched a fresh set of faces, with their own in-jokes, bring life to proceedings.

"They all seem to have a great hunger," continued the Dubliner. "And it's the start of a new campaign so everyone has to be excited. I'm raring to go, and I've enjoyed training this week with the younger players.

"You can't dwell too much on what happened in the Euros. Everyone was disappointed - we know that. But it's a new campaign. It's important that we get off to a good start so everyone forgets about the Euros."

The deployment of Keane (below) in this campaign is an issue for Trapattoni. The manager appeared unsure how to fit in his captain in Poland, and he was replaced in all three games.

Ireland's record goalscorer did come into Poland under a bit of a cloud after a torrid run of form for his club. It's gone much better for him in July and August, so Trapattoni will be hoping he brings that positivity into this fixture.

Tactically, though, Trapattoni faces a decision ahead of the sterner tests looming over the horizon.

Against Croatia and Italy, Keane operated deeper in an attempt to support the midfield with limited success.

In the Spanish lesson, Simon Cox took that role, and Keane ploughed a lone furrow. Jon Walters will be the target man tonight and is more suited to the challenge it presents. The question is whether the retention of Keane is preferable to an additional central midfielder.

For his part, the 32-year-old does not envisage a huge shift from the last qualifying campaign, and feels his new strike partner Walters is similar to his old one, Kevin Doyle, who is dropped to the bench.

"We know what Jonny can do," Keane said. "He's very similar to Doyler and Shane Long, so in that respect nothing changes. That won't impact too much.

"I will play a bit deeper than I usually do and try and help us in there so we can keep the ball as much as we can.

"And if you look at Cox, while he's a striker for his club, he can play on the right side. The fact he's not a natural winger as such means that he'll probably be tucked in a bit more than Damien or Aiden McGeady would."

A local journalist who stood to ask Keane his views on the Kazakhstan defence was disappointed with the general response offered by the Dubliner. He rolled out the cliches about their solidity and organisation without going into the specifics of individuals.

As he embarks on his eighth qualifying campaign, Keane has encountered all manner of opposition and nothing should surprise him here.

The faces in the huddle may be different, but the voice of the captain remains the same.

Belfast Telegraph


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