May 25, 2024

Robbie Keane – Irish Football Great

robbie-keaneRobbie Keane
Ireland V Spain – World Cup 2002

Robbie Keane Introduction

Robbie Keane is Ireland’s record goal scorer having scored 68 goals in 146 matches for the Irish senior international team. This is far more than the next highest Irish goal scorer, Niall Quinn who is on 21 goals. This goal scoring feat means that Robbie Keane is truly an Irish soccer great.

During his international career Keane has scored against Italy, Germany, France, Spain, and Holland amongst many others. Many of his goals have been crucially important including goals scored during the 2002 World Cup finals. Cruelly, Robbie Keane and his Irish team mates, were deprived of participation in the 2010 World Cup finals by the infamous hand ball by France’s Thierry Henry in the qualification play-off tie in Paris in November 2009. A match in which Robbie scored a great finisher’s goal to bring the play-off tie to extra time.

Fittingly for a player of his talents Keane finally led the Republic of Ireland to qualification for the 2012 Euro finals in Poland and Ukraine. His 52nd and 53rd goals for his country helping Ireland to a comprehensive aggregate 5-1 win over Estonia in the Euro qualification play-off matches.

Keane the Younger

Robbie (Robert David) Keane is from Fettercairn, Tallaght in the south of Dublin. He was born on the 8th July 1980 and while he dabbled a bit with Gaelic football when he played for Naomh Eanna GAA club, his first love was soccer. He came to prominence in Irish schoolboy football while playing for Dublin soccer club Crumlin United. Keane came to the attention of Irish and British football scouts when he score two goals for Leinster Youth against German opposition in the form of Westfallen. Soon after this he was selected to represent Ireland at under 16 and Youth levels. There followed considerable interest from a number of big English clubs but Robbie Keane decided to join Wolverhampton Wanderers, then managed by former English team manager Graham Taylor, as he felt that it would be easier to make an early impact at a team in the then First Division.

Robbie Keane’s Career in England – First Time Round

In July 1997 Robbie Keane signed full professional terms with Wolves and made his debut in the first match of the season in August against Norwich City. Keane scored both goals in a 2-0 win for Wolves. The teenager went on to score 24 goals in 67 matches for Wanderers. After sustained interest from a number of top flight clubs Wolverhampton eventually sold Keane to Coventry City for £6m in August 1999. This made Robbie Keane the most expensive teenager in Premiership history up to that point. Yet again he marked his debut by scoring both goals for Coventry in a 2-0 victory over Derby County. Keane scored 12 goals in 34 matches and was attracting the interest of a number of the more glamorous English clubs when, amazingly, he signed for Inter Milan for £13m in July 2000.

Robbie Keane’s Short Football Career in Italy

Marcello Lippi, the manager that signed Robbie Keane to Inter, was sacked after the first 2000/01 season match day after having faced a lot of criticism due to his poor results in his previous season. Lippi was replaced by Marco Tardelli and Keane fell down the pecking order of strikers at the Italian club. Somewhat ironically Robbie’s and Tardelli’s paths were to cross at a later date when the latter was appointed as assistant to Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni. Tardelli, somewhat belatedly, came to recognise Keane’s true quality as an international-class striker. Robbie Keane’s career with Internazionale came to an end after just 14 matches and three goals when Keane left Italy to join Leeds United on a loan deal in December 2000.

Robbie Keane’s Career in England – Second Time Round

Once again Robbie Keane got off to a flying start, scoring nine goals in his first 14 matches for Leeds United. In May 2001 the Leeds manager, David O’Leary, made the loan a permanent transfer when he paid £12m for the Irish striker. The following season saw a rare dip in Keane’s form and with competition from the likes of Alan Smith, Mark Viduka and Robbie Fowler the Irishman spent a good portion of the 2001/2002 sitting on the bench.

Following substantial expenditure in the transfer market and declining fortunes on the football pitch Leeds ran into major financial difficulties and were forced to cut the wage bill and raise funds. Amongst other Leeds players Robbie Keane was sold. In August 2003 he transferred to Tottenham Hotspur for a fee of £7m. Robbie Keane scored 19 goals for Leeds United in 56 appearances.

In what was to become his first stint with Spurs Robbie Keane at last found some stability in his club career. He went on to rack up 254 appearances for the London outfit scoring 107 goals notching his 100th competitive goal for Spurs in January 2008. Along the way Robbie Keane was made club captain which led to a highly unusual situation when Spurs played Manchester City. With Richard Dunne as the City captain it meant that both Premiership teams were led out by two Irish players that were born in the same Dublin suburb of Tallaght.

In July 2008 Robbie Keane got his “dream” move to the football club that he supported as a boy back in Dublin, Liverpool FC. For a base transfer fee of £19m Keane made a somewhat unexpected move to Anfield in a move that should have improved Liverpool and guaranteed the Irish player Champions League football. Despite the large fee paid for the player Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez appeared to less than enthusiastic about Keane. Robbie struggled to get regular game time and even when he did get on to the pitch the goals refused to flow. Rumours abounded that Benitez had never wanted to sign Keane and these seemed to be confirmed when the striker returned to Tottenham Hotspur after just 28 appearances and seven goals for the Merseyside club. It proved to be very good business for the London club as the fee paid to bring Robbie Keane back was £13m rising to a maximum of £16m (depending upon appearances), thus netting Spurs a profit of £3m at least.

In a surprise move Robbie Keane went on loan to Glasgow Celtic on 1st February 2010 until the end of the 2009/10 season. Keane had been unable to secure a place in the Tottenham Hotspur side and decided that he needed to be playing regularly. The loan move to Celtic provided this for Keane.

Robbie Keane – International Career

Robbie Keane’s First International Cap for Ireland

Robbie won his first senior international cap for the Republic of Ireland in a friendly match against the Czech Republic on 25th March 1998 in Olumuoc. The Irish lost the match 2-1. Later that year Robbie tasted success in an Irish jersey when he was a part of Brian Kerr’s successful Under-18 squad that won the European Championship in July 1998 in Cyprus. The Irish triumphed in the final against Germany in a penalty shoot-out. Keane scored three goals during the tournament. Robbie Keane is one of the very few Irish footballers to win a major international tournament at any level.

Robbie Keane’s First International Goal for Ireland

In a 2000 Euro Qualifier against Malta at Lansdowne Road (now the Aviva Stadium) Robbie scored his first, and second, international goal for the Republic of Ireland. The Irish ran out 5-0 winners in the match. He went on to be the top Irish goal scorer with a total of five goals in that qualifying campaign – a portent of things to come. Ireland narrowly failed to qualify for the Euro 2000 finals losing out to Turkey on away goals in a play-off.

Robbie Keane – 2002 World Cup Finals

Following a memorable 2002 World Cup qualification campaign Ireland qualified for the World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea although it was Roy Keane and not Robbie that was the leading marksman in the qualifiers. Robbie’s dream of playing in the World Cup finals became something of a nightmare due to the infamous Saipan incident. Although the Irish squad was in some disarray after the loss of their iconic captain they players responded positively and were eliminated in the knockout stages in a penalty shoot-out with Spain. Keane scored a vital last minute equaliser against Germany in the group stages. He and Brazil’s Ronaldo were the only players to score goals against beaten finalists Germany in the 2002 World Cup finals. He also scored in the 3-0 victory over Saudi Arabia and he scored yet another late equaliser from the penalty spot against Spain in the last 16 match. In the ensuing penalty shoot-out Robbie Keane dispatched his penalty successfully although Ireland lost 3-2.

Keane – 2012 Euro Finals

Robbie Keane’s seven goals in the Euro 2012 qualification campaign went a long way to ensuring Ireland’s participation at Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. Participation at the Euros was one major glaring gap on the Tallaghtman’s international CV. Unfortunately for Keane and Ireland it proved to be a bittersweet experience as Ireland were comprehensively beaten by Croatia, Spain and Italy. Ireland conceded nine goals conceded and scored just one. At no stage during any of the matches did Keane look close to getting his name on the score sheet. Sterile tactics by Irish football manager Giovanni Trapattoni and poor form by Keane saw to that. As ever with Robbie Keane he played with all heart but of this occasion it wouldn’t be enough to make the difference.

Robbie Keane – Becomes All Time Top Goal Scorer for Ireland

In October 2001 Niall Quinn had overtaken Frank Stapleton’s Irish goal scoring record when Quinn scored his 21st goal for Ireland against Cyprus. It took Quinn 92 matches for Ireland to amass that total. In September 2004 Robbie Keane matched Niall Quinn’s total, once again against Cyprus, after just 53 international caps. Just over a month later Robbie Keane became the outright top Irish goal scorer when he netted twice against the Faroe Islands for Brian Kerr’s (who was to become the International manager of the Faroe’s in April 2009) Irish side in a 2006 World Cup qualifier. Since then Robbie went on to score as more goals than his two predecessors at the top of the Irish scoring charts (Stapleton and Quinn) put together. At the time of writing it is difficult to see Robbie Keane’s Irish scoring record ever being beaten. When Keane scored a hat trick against Gibraltar in a Euro 2016 qualifier he became the all-time European record holder for goals scored in Euro qualifiers. His total of 21 goals in Euro qualifiers alone is equal to the total scored by Niall Quinn in all competitions and friendlies.

Robbie Keane – Captain of the Republic of Ireland

When Stephen Staunton became the Irish manager in 2006 he appointed Robbie Keane as the captain of Ireland. He went on to captain his country for a record 72 matches. Keane repaid Staunton’s trust by scoring a goal against Sweden in a 3-0 win at Lansdowne Road in Robbie’s first match as captain. Unfortunately for both Keane and Staunton the following 2008 Euro qualification campaign was something of a disaster. The FAI took an enormous risk by appointing the totally inexperienced Staunton as the Irish manager. It was a risky decision that backfired disastrously, and specifically, when the Irish team was routed 5-2 in Nicosia in October 2006. The Irish stumbled through the rest of the qualifiers in an incoherent way and finished a full ten points adrift of second-placed Germany in the group. Some commentators attempted to spread some of the blame for the shambolic group performances by Ireland to Robbie Keane’s captaincy. The combination of a rookie manager and a rookie captain certainly did not help the Irish cause however, unlike Staunton, Robbie Keane grew into his role.

This was confirmed when the vastly experienced Giovanni Trapattoni became the Irish team manager, he retained Robbie as the captain of the Republic of Ireland. Keane lead from the front during the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign. He scored five of Ireland’s 12 goals in the group games and also the vital equaliser against France in the play-off in Paris in November 2009. His goals in the group matches directly contributed 10 points of the total of 18 that Ireland amassed. Contrary to the opinion of some sections of the media Robbie Keane, can and does, score against the bigger soccer powers. Goals in Bari against Italy and in Paris against France in important competitive matches put paid to that notion.

Robbie Keane won his 100th cap for the Republic of Ireland as captain against Argentina on 18th August 2010 at the Aviva Stadium. A single goal from Angel Di Maria won the match for Argentina. On the 12 October 2012 Robbie Keane equalled Andy Townsend’s record of captaining the Republic of Ireland 40 times when he led the Irish team out against Slovakia in a Euro 2012 qualifier.

Robbie Keane – Summary

From humble beginnings in the Glenshane estate in the Dublin suburb of Tallaght Robbie Keane has risen to major heights in Premiership and International soccer. He has been involved in transfers valued in excess of €80m. Robbie has scored more goals than any other Irish player in the history of the Premiership. He is, by some distance, the highest goal scorer for the Irish international team. His scoring ratio for Ireland is only second to Jimmy Dunne – who played a mere 15 matches for Ireland. Keane faced adversity and some doubters throughout his career and on every occasion he rose to any challenges that have confronted him. Not only is he a success on the football pitch he is also known for his bright personality and his generosity off the pitch and he has never forgotten his roots. Robbie Keane has been a great supporter of Fettercairn YFC and is president of the club. Robbie Keane, a true Irish soccer great.

Robbie Keane – Caps & Goals

References :

Irish Independent;;


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