Saturday, August 20, 2011

Farewell Keano

He's left England. He's moved to California. He used to get £52,000. Now he gets $86,500. He's also going to play alongside England record-holder David Beckham. Not too bad for a boy from Tallaght. At 31, with his career slowly coming to an end, Keane has opted to swap life in the dour-weather England for the glitz and glamour in the USA. Now some may assume that he's being selfish and that it's his EIGHT (yes eighth) "childhood club", but there are nothing but positives from his perspective. I mean, how often does it occur that you're offered a job in the Golden State?  

I'll miss him being in England. Ever since I was a young 'un I've always kept an eye out for Keane and how he gets on, goal-wise. One of my first memories of Robbie was when he was playing for Leeds back in the early noughties. He'd made a mockery of the opponents offside-trap and was through on goal with just the keeper to beat. Instead of just the typical 'knock it past the keeper' approach, Keane stepped it up a notch and scooped the ball over the on-rushing keeper into an open net. I remember just sitting there, scratching my head in awe. 'How the hell did he do that?' I asked my brothers. No response.

He continued to renew my interest and by the 2002 World Cup he was in full flight. Here's the scenario: Ireland were one-nil down with just seconds to play when Irish right-back Steve Finnan launched a hopeful punt up-field, fingers crossed that somebody would flick it on. Niall Quinn came to the rescue and knocked it down for Robbie Keane who stole in behind the German defence and steered the resulting shot in off the post.

Goals for Ireland and his 'childhood' clubs came and went, but another one of my favourites (and one of the lesser known ones) was during his first spell at White Hart Lane. He had received the ball from a throw-in - the throw-in was deemed to be awarded to the wrong team originally (Spurs) - on the byline and, in the midst of a 180º spin, half-volleyed the ball over the opposing defender, before a fake shot pull-back against the next. He then had the simple task of a one-on-one which he finished in an ice cold manner. Watching it over, I reckon it was one of those 'you had to be there' moments because nobody seems to truly appreciate it when seeing it on Youtube. I still do, mind you.

On the international stage, Keane is and always has been Ireland's go-to-guy for the best part of a decade. When Ireland needed a goal - he was there. When teammates needed a shoulder to cry on after missing out on qualifying for a tournament - he was there. Even dating back to his debut in 1998 - which he capped off with a brace - Keane has always been a first on the team sheet. A lack of options up-front has seen Keane retain his  place year-in, year-out, and he's definitely made the most on what's been on offer, notching up his 50th and 51st international goals against Macedonia back in June. It's an incredible record for an incredible man. Those two goals saw him climb above world-beaters such as Samuel Etoo, Thierry Henry and Didier Drogba, and take his place among some of the finest international  goal-scorers we've seen grace the game. Another six goals for Robbie and he'll have overtaken Brazilian legends Zico and Romario, and Gabriel 'Batigol' Batistuta.   

Seeing him struggle to even make the Tottenham match day squad last season killed me. For years he was one of the most prolific strikers inside England and last season, with 'Arry at the helm, Keane began just two games, and made a further 5 appearances as a substitute. He was loaned out to West Ham in order to help them beat the drop, even scoring on his debut away to Blackpool. Constant injuries made sure of the season being one of his worst in England to date, and he returned to Spurs on an even sicker note, with West Ham being relegated with 2 games yet to play. His end-of-season record read played 22, goals 2. That, for a proven, successful Premier League striker with years of experience was fairly woeful.

Then, this summer, a move presented itself to Keane so appealing he couldn't turn it down. Tottenham received a deal from MLS outfit LA Galaxy on August 15. Terms and a fee were agreed in record time as Galaxy were battling against the international deadline day clock. They had to make sure Keane signed by 11:59 EST and with a few hours to go, they had their man. Upon joining, Keane made the foolish mistake of claiming it was a "dream move", leaving himself open to ridicule.

What I'm trying to say is, I'll miss Keane. I'll miss the way he'd celebrate a goal by tumbling in iconic 'robin hood' fashion, or the way he'd bring that dreamy wife of his on holidays with him. Keane was always one of my favourite footballers - due to the fact he was Irish? Perhaps - but seeing him move to America cuts all off ties of me being able to watch him on a regular basis. It'll be hard but I think I can manage, especially as he'll hopefully continue to break records for the Irish international team.

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