Irish Icons: Robbie Keane

What more can be said about Robbie Keane. 68 international goal. 146 Caps. His legacy is undoubtably up there with the true greats of not just Irish soccer but Irish sport in general. Barry McGuigan, Pat Spillane, Liam Brady this is the company that Keane shares in the minds of the Irish nation. At club level he may not have shone throughout what was still an illustrious career, but his international pedigree can legitimately be put up there with some of the greatest ever to play the game.

Club Career

Born in Tallaght Keane in his early days honed his talent on the Dublin streets and then played for his local club Fettercairn before joining Crumlin United at the age of 10 in which his unquestionable talent was clear for all to see. He received various offers from English clubs most notably being Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Keane had a decision to make. Despite going on to claim Liverpool as his boyhood team (along with about 10 others) Keane opted to sign for Wolves largely due to his thinking that he would find it easier to break into the first team. Keane made his debut for Wolves at 17 netting a brace against Norwich city. In the 98/99 league season Keane found the net 16 times being a breakthrough season for the young Irishman. This attracted interest from other clubs and in late 1999 Keane made the 6-Million-pound move to Coventry City a British record for a teenager at the time.

Keane spent just one season at the Sky blues scoring 12 premier league goals and earning his first massive move in the form of a transfer to Inter Milan for a huge fee of 13 million pounds. Keane’s time at Inter was a disappointment only lasting half a season and scoring only 3 goals before being sent back to England in a loan move to Leeds which would Later be made permanent. He started well at Leeds scoring 9 in 14 starts during his loan move. However, after being confirmed on a permanent basis Keane’s form suffered culminating in him being sold for a cut price of 7 Million pounds to Tottenham Hotspur.

Keane spent a total of 8 years at Spurs sandwiching a disastrous spell at Liverpool and a successful loan period at Celtic. Keane scored 91 league goals for spurs and won the League cup in 2008 cementing himself as one of Spurs modern heroes. Keane then joined the trend set by David Beckham and went to La Galaxy in 2011 spending the majority of his twilight years there. He retired at Indian club ATK ending a club career which was full of ups and downs but will mostly be remembered for his remarkable goal scoring record at both LA Galaxy and Spurs along with his world-renowned cartwheel celebration.

International Career

Early on in his career Keane played under Brian Kerr as Ireland won the 1998 under 18s European Championship.  Keane made his debut under Mick McCarthy in March 1998 against the Czech Republic. The following October Keane scored his first of many international goals against Malta. Keane’s first real exposure on the international stage came in the 2002 World cup scoring 3 times in Irelands 4 outings most memorably his last gasp equaliser against eventual finalists Germany. In the round of 16 he scored another last-minute goal, this time a penalty against Spain to drag the Boys in Green to extra time. 

A testament to Keane’s pride in playing for Ireland came in 2003 when directly after his father’s funeral he played a game away in Albania which no one had expected him to be a part of. This showed his passion for pulling on the green jersey.

In October 2004 Keane broke Niall Quinn’s Ireland goalscoring record of 21 goals by netting twice against the Faroe Islands. He scored 4 times in Irelands 2006 world cup qualifying campaign. Steve Staunton then appointed Keane as captain of Ireland a duty Keane carried out throughout the years. Keane capped off the final game at Lansdowne Road with a hattrick against San Marino on his 70th international. Keane scored in the 2010 World cup playoff away to France in a game embroiled in controversy. Keane became the first British or Irishmen to score 50 international goals against Macedonia in Euro 12 qualifying a campaign in which Keane reached his 2nd international tournament.

Whilst the Euro campaign and the Trapattoni tenure ship ended in disaster Keane continued to find the net on a regular basis. He scored his 60th goal for his country against Sweden in October 2013. He retained his captaincy under new manager Martin O’Neill and secured a place in his squad for a 3rd international tournament at the age of 35. He may only have played 23 minutes at the tournament but still captained his country at a 2nd European Championships. Keane ended his international career with a goal and 4-0 win against Oman. A 68th international goal which took the Dublin man level with German great Gerd Muller.

Incredibly Keane’s goalscoring record for Ireland was so good that it ended up being over 3 times better than the previous record set by Niall Quinn of 21 goals. Keane scored more International goals than the 3 next top goal scorers combined. Another almost unbelievable statistic regarding Keane’s international career is that it took 12 years for Ireland to lose a game in which he had scored. From 1998 to October 2010 Ireland drew or won every game he netted until Russia won as Keane scored his 45th international goal.

Keane currently works under ex-teammate Jonathan Woodgate as his assistant manager at Middlesbrough.

Keane’s achievement as the record goal scorer for the Ireland international team will likely never be beaten. His captaincy of the national side has reached an almost legendary status and Keane will forever be revered by both Spurs and Ireland fans for his incredible goalscoring at both club and international level.


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