Robbie Keane still loving the game

When a journalist infiltrated the ranks of the football press and identified herself as a ‘showbiz’ writer yesterday, Robbie Keane immediately quipped that she should talk to his wife.

He went on to dutifully answer a few lifestyle questions anyway: yes, he misses Ireland and hopes to move the family home from LA some day but definitely not just yet, and yes, his son, Robbie Jnr, is showing signs of following in his dad’s footsteps.

“He’s a leftie. He’s good and is starting in a team in a few weeks when we go back. He’s only five years of age. I don’t know if he’s the next best thing but he certainly has potential.”

It should come as no surprise that Keane so quickly shifted the subject matter to football. He might have the money, the fame and the LA lifestyle but few things animate him as much as his abiding love for the game. That was particularly apparent at Crumlin Children’s Hospital where he was visiting some of the kids and overseeing the presentation to the hospital’s fundraising arm of a cheque for $50,000 (€44,000) from his club LA Galaxy.

Although raised in Tallaght, his early playing days with Crumlin United mean that this part of Dublin’s southside is also very much familiar turf for Keane. He even confided that he’d been a patient himself at the hospital in his youth.

“There was a broken arm, a few bangs on the head,” he recalled.

From football or messing about? “A bit of both,” he grinned. His memory was also jogged yesterday by a glimpse of the nearby alley he used to negotiate on his way to training.

“Looking at that, I still get that little feeling in your stomach that you had when you were that little kid trying to go to England,” he smiled. “I still have that buzz when I put the jersey on, whether it’s the Galaxy jersey or the Irish jersey.”

LA Galaxy’s pre-season preparations in Ireland will see Keane back in his old neighbourhood on Saturday to take on Shamrock Rovers and, with just a few weeks to go to the start of the new MLS season — not to mention the resumption of Euro qualifying with Ireland — Keane reported that he feels in the best shape he’s been in for a long time, after undergoing much-needed surgery on his Achilles last year.

“It helped massively,” he said. “I would have struggled. If I didn’t get that, something maybe would have happened. It was going on too long. Maybe it would have snapped and that would have been a long time out. That’s a six-month job and some players struggle to get back from that. I caught it in time, that’s a huge factor. Now, I can wake up and actually walk to the bathroom and it doesn’t take me a half hour to get going in training. I can just go out and run straight away. It made a huge difference.”

While he hinted yesterday that next year might see the end of his international career, Keane has no intention of permanently and prematurely hanging up his boots.

“If I feel the way I feel now, of course I want to play as long as I can,” he said. “I look at people over the years, like Teddy Sheringham, who I played with, (and he) played for a long time. Ryan Giggs played for a long time. As long as I look after myself and keep myself fit, and depending on injuries, I can certainly see myself playing on for that long.”

The 34-year-old has also, he admitted, spoken to a number of former pros who have told him that they regret having retired too soon.

“100%, yeah. There are a few players, I won’t mention their names, but they certainly regretted that they stopped early. They definitely could have carried on for a few more years. The mental side of the game can be tough. Players think they have played for a long time and think ‘Oh I’ve done enough now’ but the reality is you’re finished a long time.”

At 34, Keane goes that extra mile to keep himself up to speed.

“I do a bit of yoga. It’s good for your stretching but I’m fairly flexible anyway. Maybe that’s the reason why I don’t get too many muscle injuries. But for me, it’s about having the hunger and the drive to play. I still want to score goals and compete at the highest level. That, more than anything, motivates me.”

Robbie Keane is an ambassador for CMRF Crumlin, the fundraising arm of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin and was present alongside his LA Galaxy team-mates at the handover of a cheque to the value of $50,000 (€44,000) from LA Galaxy and their sponsors Herbalife to CMRF Crumlin. Robbie is also an ambassador for CMRF Crumlin’s current campaign ‘Give It Up for Crumlin’. For more see www.giveitup.ie

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