Despite adding another two goals to his astonishing record for Ireland in Faro, Robbie Keane is not taking for granted that he will retain his place for tonight’s tougher assignment against Georgia.
“I’m here to help the team, whether I play or come off the bench,” he said yesterday. “I’m not naive, I’m at a certain age where there’s going to be certain games that I’m not going to play in and certain games I will play in.
“The most important thing is that it’s about the team. It’s not about Robbie Keane. It’s not about individual awards for scoring goals. It’s about the team qualifying for the Euros. And if I can be a part of that and help this team in any way possible — whether it’s starting or on the bench — I’m fairly happy with that.”
It was only after the game finished on Friday that Keane learned he is now within a goal of emulating Germany’s legendary striker Ger Muller in the all-time scoring charts. Again, he insists it’s points not records which are all that are on his mind now.
“Listen, to be up there with those names is incredible but I still don’t think about it too much,” he said. “It’s probably one of those: When I hang the boots up and look back at it, then I can give myself a little bit of a pat on the back. But at this moment in time, I’m always looking for the next goal.”
Whether he gets that opportunity from the start or later in the game tonight is something Martin O’Neill is still mulling over. The manager said he took Keane off in Faro because he thought he was looking a bit tired and indicated that he will have a talk with him before coming to a final decision today.
Also in the manager’s mind will be that timely reminder from Shane Long in the form of Ireland’s fourth goal against Gibraltar. “I spoke to Shane there the other day,” O’Neill revealed, “(to tell him that) just in case he ever thought differently, he’s very much part of our set-up. He has the ability to do things that other players can’t. He has a bit of pace, he can get in behind teams, especially when teams are pressing up.
“At home when teams are sitting in, there’s not much room in there and that might be something we’d look at.
“If you’ve not started for a few games, naturally you’re a bit down. You have to bring people out of potentially not their best moods. Shane has responded. He said, ‘I’m there if you need me.’ And of course we do need him. He came on, scored and I was as delighted for him as I was for Robbie Keane getting two goals. Has he a part to play? Yes, absolutely. Can he start a game for us? There’s no reason not.”
Meanwhile, skipper Keane put tonight’s match in perspective.
“It’s a must-win game, no question,” he said. “It’s a massive massive game. But listen, all we can do is prepare right for it. And since the first day we walked through the door, we’ve been ready. It’s always a difficult game when you are playing against a so-called team you should beat. On Friday night we did a great job in that. Now we focus on Georgia. We have to be prepared right for it and be up for it — which I know for certain that the players are.“
It’s a massive, massive game. But listen, all we can do is prepare right for it. And since the first day we walked through the door, we’ve been ready.
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