Keane lure draws Gibraltar’s Higginbotham

Roy Keane’s former recruit Danny Higginbotham admits the spicy Euro 2016 draw could persuade him to extend his international career with Gibraltar.

The 35-year-old — retired from club football — is the nephew of Gibraltar boss Allen Bula and made his international debut last November against Slovakia. That unlikely bow book-ended a long club career that involved stints under Ireland assistant boss Keane at Sunderland and Scotland boss Gordon Strachan at Southampton.

“It’s going to be difficult for me to quit before the qualifiers take place because the games against Scotland and Ireland would be so special to be involved in,” he said. “It’s wasn’t the international side of things that I’d had enough of. It was the domestic game. I’ve also been asked to be part of the coaching team so I’ve got a lot of decisions to make over the next few months.”

Higginbotham credits Keane as having an “immense” influence on him as he broke into the Manchester United first-team in 1997 and the pair reunited a decade later when the Irishman shelled out €3.5 million to bring him to the Black Cats from Stoke City.

The relationship with Keane not always rosy but the defender retains huge respect for Martin O’Neill’s sidekick.

“Roy set high standards but wasn’t as strict as some players made out,” said Higginbotham of Keane. “He was always a leader on the pitch and has taken that skill into management.”

Meanwhile, the qualification campaign will see Scotland striker Jordan Rhodes cross paths for the first time with Roy Keane since the Corkman controversially discarded him from Ipswich Town.

Keane’s decision to offload the promising teenage striker to Huddersfield Town in 2009 for just €350,000 was considered the biggest blunder of Portman Road tenure. Three seasons and 87 goals later, Rhodes commanded the highest English transfer fee outside of the Premier League when Blackburn Rovers paid €11m for him.

Rhodes admitted the rejection hurt him, increasing his motivation to prove a point. That he emphatically did and last season Arsene Wenger branded him a ‘special talent’.

“I haven’t crossed paths with Roy since,” explained the forward. “He didn’t say anything to me when he released me, or give me any reasons. In all aspects of life, when someone gets dealt a criticism or gets released from a club, they take it upon themselves to say, ‘Right, I will show you’.”


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