Keane to impress

Robbie Keane - Header

If you leave a lover of six years to go back to an old flame you met on Friends Reunited, you’ve got to be pretty certain you know what you’re doing.

To find that the old flame has not only grown a dodgy beard but also speaks Spanish and apparently mistook you for someone else would be a humbling experience. Your ex has flirted unsuccessfully with exotic strangers but when beardy makes his feelings clear by not letting you play with your mates she takes you back, back where you belong.

It’s a big season for Robbie Keane. As we near the first anniversary of our current skipper’s  surprise decision to jump ship to wear the hoops of his boyhood favourites, er, Liverpool, it’s fair to say he’s under a spot of pressure. To extend the jilted lover metaphor just a bit further, returning to an ex to try and relive the old times is all very well, but the bond of trust has been broken and only rarely is it totally reforged.

Robbie’s time at Liverpool was characterised mostly by his dignity in the face of inconstant and sometimes illogical behaviour from Benitez. Despite being clearly at a loss to explain his treatment he continued to try his hardest when called upon and he kept his mouth shut despite the criticism flying towards him from all angles. Given the chance by Redknapp to resurrect his Spurs career in January he did so with limited success. As is his way Harry talked to the press as though he’d resigned Danny Blanchflower not a man who had just been replaced in the Liverpool squad by David Ngog. In a full on attempt to refill the confidence tank that had been drained by Rafa’s man management skills Keane was given the captaincy and the world was told what a fantastic leader he was. Robbie responded with 5 goals (2 pens) in 14 appearances the pick of which were the nerve-calming opener against Boro’ in the week after Wembley and the equaliser at Sunderland, a peach of a finish at the end of a crucial fixture. It’s true though to say that he reserved his best goalscoring form for his country.

As he’s aged Keane has become a player just as likely to do his best work out wide or in the space between the midfield and the strikers as up front but whether due to necessity or tactics he seemed to play far deeper than was good for him too often. He appeared off the pace and was occasionally a hindrance to some of the slick passing patterns that Modric, Palacios and others were painting around him. In front of goal he was erratic, rarely appearing to be in the right place when chances were made. He spent a lot of time scurrying around as though searching for his former self.

Without the injury to Jermain Defoe in January he may not even have been asked to come back, but he was and he did his job – as skipper he led us to safety. At the start of this campaign he has a blank slate. He’ll get a full pre-season and armed with the knowledge that being in possession of the armband gives him an advantage he’ll relish the chance to prove that he’s worth his place in the side and (assuming that Defoe is the main man) that he can fight off the challenges of Darren Bent, a hopefully completely rested Pavlyuchenko and anyone else who Harry traps in the back of his cab between now and the end of August.

If you watch a dvd of the 5-1 Carling Cup semi from 18 months ago it’s clear what a good player Keane can be. In that game Defoe comes on with ten minutes to go but looks out of it and it’s hard to believe that that player is the same confident man who struts around the pitch now. Robbie has gone in the opposite direction but given the year he’s had it’d be amazing if his morale hadn’t taken a hit. We should all hope that we get to see the best of him again sooner rather than later because at his best he’s a proven goalscorer with the ability to link play, find space and put opposing centre halves under pressure. At 29 he has the experience and nous to give us something none of the other forwards can.


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