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Dublin: 9°C Saturday 15 May 2021

Captain fantastic? Here are the pros and cons to dropping Robbie Keane

There has been much debate recently over whether the Irish skipper should be dropped.

Keane was less than impressive in Ireland's opening game.
Keane was less than impressive in Ireland's opening game.

IF THE KNOWING smiles from Giovanni Trapattoni and Robbie Keane at the Gdansk pre-match press conference are to be taken at, literal, face value, then it seems highly likely that the captain will start as the lone front man against Spain.

But, given the tenor of some of the debate, it seems that may well prove an unpopular decision.

As such, we’ve decided to go through the pros and cons of Keane’s place in the team.


  • With 53 goals, Keane has scored the same amount of goals as the rest of the Irish squad put together. What’s more, many of the goals have come in the country’s biggest occasions: the 2000 trip to Amsterdam, the 2001 play-off against Iran, the 2002 World Cup match against Germany, the last-minute penalty against Spain, the two play-offs under Trapattoni. If Ireland do get a rare chance against Spain, who would you want it to fall to?
  • Whatever way you look at it, Keane remains the most famous name in the team. And, although this is football as opposed to show business, this can have a subconscious effect on opposition defenders. It creates a fear factor, a reference point. Even if it means defenders paying him a bit more attention, that frees space elsewhere.


  • At what point does a milestone become a millstone? Look at Raul. He was Spain’s top scorer but it wasn’t until Luis Aragones made the brave decision to drop him that the team changed direction and embarked on this incredible winning run. What’s more, how much is a past record a guide to future success? At 31 and not quite as mobile as he used to be, Keane hasn’t scored in five games. It’s his longest drought for Ireland since 2001. Of late, too, the likes of Shane Long have looked sharper in front of goal. The legitimate question is, if Keane isn’t offering goals, what is he offering?
  • This is the real point with Keane. He’s always been an individualist; never fully fitted into a system. Again, that was a compromise worth accepting when he was scoring goals. Now that he’s much less mobile, however, it’s effectively like playing with 10 men. The other forwards in that squad are much more used to the bustle necessary to play as a lone front man. Surely they’re more ideally suited?

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