Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni is hoping captain Robbie Keane’s lack of football at Tottenham so far this season will work in his country’s favour.
The 30-year-old striker has managed just two appearances as a substitute for Spurs to date, sparking weeks of speculation that he could leave the club during the transfer window.
However, the deadline passed last night with no sign of a move, and he flew out to Armenia today with his mind focused firmly on the task of returning with three points in the Republic’s Euro 2012 qualifying account.
Indeed, Trapattoni is keeping his fingers crossed that Keane’s lack of recent activity will mean he is fresher than ever.
The Italian said: “Robbie is mature. I have spoken to him about whether he should stay with his club, and I said to him, ’Sure, your club need you’.
“He is balanced in his mind about football because he knows from many years in England, he knows the situation.
“But I am selfish and at the moment. For Ireland team, it is better he has played a few games.
“He is proud and I’m sure he can play like the Robbie Keane we know.”
Keane was able to train at Malahide yesterday without the protective knee brace he had worn the day before, and he was joined on the flight to Armenia by defenders Richard Dunne and Darren O’Dea, who are expected to shake off muscle and knee injuries respectively.
They were accompanied too by 33-year-old full-back Kevin Kilbane, who has been handed the task of helping to nurse a new generation Ireland stars through their formative moments on the international stage.
The Hull defender, who is in line to win his 105th senior cap on Friday evening, did consider retiring from international football following the controversial World Cup play-off defeat by France in November last year.
However, having decided to fight for his place with the likes of Manchester City’s 19-year-old Greg Cunningham fast emerging from the ranks, he has been asked by Trapattoni to keep an eye on some of his younger colleagues.
Kilbane said: “The kids want take the shirt off your back, and will do if you are not performing. We have two or three coming in with real quality.
“We haven’t qualified [for a major tournament] in five or six years, and so young lads have had no real no chance to shine.
“This is the time for lads like Kevin Doyle to shine, and we need to qualify so they can have their chance on a big stage.”