Robbie Keane took a trip down memory lane at the weekend but his focus is firmly set on the future.
He may be in his 34th year yet the striker with the highest number of caps and goals for his country is in fine fettle, having had his troublesome Achilles operated on four weeks ago.
The recuperation period that followed his surgery has brought some positives to Keane, as it allowed him visit the club, Crumlin United, where he first began to blossom as a 14-year-old.
Wisely, in his case at least, he shunned Liverpool to join Wolves and, within three years, word of a precocious talent had spread from Molineux to Premier League managers willing to splash hard cash on the Dubliner. He did eventually get to Anfield, albeit for a frustrating six months in 2008, but it’s been his exploits in the green jersey that have distinguished him. His record 62 goals in 131 outings speaks for itself.
Martin O’Neill last week all but confirmed Keane continuation as Ireland captain under his new reign for the Euro 2016 qualifiers, another endorsement of the esteem the veteran is held in.
There’s plenty for Keane to be upbeat about for 2014. Insisting he left the television off for much of his first Christmas at home for 15 years, the striker made an exception eight days ago to witness the latest chapter of Séamus Coleman’s ascent.
“I haven’t been watching a lot of football but I did see one of the goals from Séamus — the one he scored from 25 yards [against Swansea],” said Keane.
“Seamus is a terrific player. And certainly Everton are this season reaping the rewards. I know he was doing very well anyway but certainly this season he’s stepped up even more.”
During his glittering international career, goal-machine Keane has been supplied with artillery from an all-star cast of specialist right-backs such as Gary Kelly, Stephen Carr and Steve Finnan.
He reckons the blossoming Coleman – still only 25 – possesses the ingredients to excel for club and country.
“For someone who is a right-back, he’s got everything,” Keane said of the Donegal man.
“You couldn’t have wished for someone better because he’s got so much energy, and he loves to get forward and create chances for people and he’s very hard to beat.
“It was only natural that he was going to be so good, with the way he plays in that position and how he gets forward so well.”
Meanwhile, Keane has tipped his former Spurs team-mate and coach Tim Sherwood to be a long-term hit at White Hart Lane.
The Ireland skipper played alongside the newly-appointed Spurs chief for a brief spell after he first joined Spurs in 2002. But it was Sherwood’s work on the training ground and in the dressing room as Harry Redknapp’s coach between 2008-2011 that made prompted Keane to single him out as a future gaffer.
The widespread surprise which greeted the decision of Spurs supremo Daniel Levy to hand the rookie a 18-month deal wasn’t felt by Keane.
“I think it was always going to be a natural progression for Tim to become manager,” he said.
“He always had it in him. Obviously I’ve known him for a good few years and I texted him last week to wish him well. I’m sure he’ll do a good job with the players and the staff he has around him.
“Even after I left Spurs [in 2011], the work he did with the Academy was tremendous. I’d seen him at close-hand on many occasions when I first went back to Tottenham under Harry.
“Les [Ferdinand] is a great character to have helping him out and he’s brilliant in the dressing room. He has Chris Ramsey with him too and the players respect them.
“Tim certainly has the right mentality to be a manager. He is well respected by all the players and his knowledge on football is second to none.”
The LA Galaxy striker revealed he’s on course to be fit for the start of the MLS season in March, the same month Ireland are back in action for the friendly against Serbia.
“I’ve had three weeks of rehab since the operation on my Achilles [in November] and I’ll be back running within 10 days,” he said.
“I’ll certainly keep these Achilles a lot stronger; way stronger than before. I’ve been doing a lot of work in the swimming pool and in the gym and it feels very good.
“Already, I feel a huge benefit. So far, so good. I haven’t really had much of a break over the past month. It’s been nice to home in Dublin for Christmas but I certainly have been working.
“When I go back to Galaxy at the end of January, I’ll be ready for training and playing. I’ve a lot of games in the run-up to the new season.”
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