Kevin Doyle has insisted he never had any doubt about Robbie Keane’s ability to score goals at the highest level.
The 28-year-old Republic of Ireland skipper had to wait until his 11th game in a Liverpool shirt, including nine starts, to find the back of the net for the first time since his £20.3m summer move to Anfield.
That, coupled with Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson’s assertion that Keane’s big-money transfer had been the biggest surprise of the close season, had placed the Irishman firmly in the spotlight.
However, Doyle, the man who is once again likely to partner him as the Republic go in search of three more World Cup qualification points against Cyprus on Wednesday evening, knew it was only a matter of time before the goals started to flow once again.
He said: “He knows what it (a goal drought) feels like over the years as a striker and I know what it feels like.
“Sometimes it feels like no matter what you do, you could be standing on the line with the ball there and you wouldn’t score.
“But you just know that it changes. You just keep working hard. He has done it for so many years, probably 10 years.
“Whatever it was, out of that (his overall career), it’s nothing. You could see by looking at him that he was working very hard to try to get that goal, and once he’s got that one, the rest come easier.”
Keane, whose drought ended with a Champions League strike against PSV Eindhoven earlier this month, has amassed a total of 34 senior international goals, 13 more than closest rival and former team-mate Niall Quinn, since making his debut as a 17-year-old in March 1998.
He is in line to win his 85th cap at Croke Park on Wednesday and with years of his career still ahead of him, Doyle admits he could be uncatchable.
He said: “From when he was 17 when he made his debut, he has seemed to score goals for his country every year easily, freely.
“He has got 30 goals for Ireland or more – that must be a nice feeling for him, to have that.
“To catch that is going to be very difficult for anyone. They are going to have to start when they are 17 or 18 to get near that, and there’s no-one at the moment who is on a run to catch that.”
Despite his potency for the Republic, Keane is not always given the recognition his track record suggests he deserves.
However, that is not the case within the Ireland camp.
Doyle said: “I recognise it – other people probably wouldn’t. He has had a lot of pressure and stuff over the years, and he always seems to deliver.
“He has scored lots of goals every season, but also created goals. He does both.
“I suppose different people have different opinions. All he can do is have a great two or three years for Liverpool and try winning a big, big competition, and I am sure he will be very happy and that would top off his career.”
What would certainly top off Keane’s career would be a trip to the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa with his country and a chance to prove himself on the big stage all over again after an eventful tournament in the far east in 2002.
Victory over the Cypriots, who took four points from Ireland during the last European Championship qualifying campaign and were perhaps unlucky not to claim all six, would provide a major boost to their Group Eight campaign.
A 5-2 defeat in Nicosia two years ago proved a major setback, and one Doyle is not keen to reflect upon in too much detail.
He said: “It was one of those you want to forget about.
“I was injured on the night. I was over there, I was in the stand injured – I was one of the lucky ones, probably.
“What can you do? You don’t want to remember it.”