I have met my fair share of doubters and bashers in my time but I find that there’s no topic more divisive than when I bring up the name of Robbie Keane. I think he’s a fantastic player but the misguided and self-loathing think he’s rubbish.
Some highlight the fact that Keane has played for so many different teams as a negative but it doesn’t appear to be impacting upon his football. He scored two goals against his old club Wolverhampton Wanderers last week and when it comes to Ireland’s greatest player he’s surely up there.
My penchant for Keane probably harks back to 2006 when I approached him in a hotel lobby in Stuttgart.
My friends and eye had by chance booked into the same hotel as the Republic of Ireland.
As they entered the hotel we stood watching, clapping and wishing them all the best - there was only three of us. We even managed to secure an interview with German television - it was all rather surreal.
We had travelled to cheer on then manager Steve Staunton against the might of Germany but were disappointed when Podolski scored to give the Germans a 1-0 victory. Shay Given and Richard Dunne were as ever magnificent but we lost the game nonetheless.
We returned to the hotel and started to console ourselves with giant size glasses of German beer and then all of a sudden we noticed Keane, Duff and Doyle. They were heading into the hotel lobby.
Like star struck school girls we followed and what we saw when we entered our hotel will never leave me.
Robbie Keane and Steve Carr were stood around the hotel grand piano singing songs with Ireland fans.
We sheepishly approached and before we knew it we were singing all 234 verses of ‘Dublin In The Rare Old Times’ with both players.
The night seemed to last forever. The beer was flowing and the craic was mighty.
I tried to impress by getting a rendition of the ‘Town I Love So Well’ going but was put in my place when Keane and Carr finished the song off for me.
At 5.00am, the hotel porter had had enough and we were asked to stop singing. All of the Ireland players sat with the fans and enjoyed the craic.
I approached Robbie to wish him all of the best for the rest of campaign. I joked with him that I also had a lot of money riding on him netting plenty of goals for my fantasy football team. He said: “I hope you had me last season, I was banging them in left right and centre,”
You see, Robbie Keane scores goals for whatever club he plays for. When he started out Wolves he scored goals, when he was at Coventry he scored goals, I think he even managed to net one or two during his brief time at Inter Milan. He was a fans’ favourite when at Leeds United and Celtic and at he was part of one of the most prolific goal scoring partnerships the Premiership has ever seen when he was at Spurs with Dimitar Berbatov.
If Robbie Keane had been born an English man he would be regarded as one of the best players of his generation but as he’s Irish some feel it gives them carte blanche to constantly bang on about how they think he’s a ‘limited’ player.
When it comes to scoring goals for the Republic of Ireland there no one compares to Keane. He’d be in almost everyone’s greatest Ireland team of all time and his record of 53 goals for the Irish will not be broken for a long, long time.
Tallaght born Keane is 31 years-old but I think that after watching him against Wolves last week he looks every bit as sharp as he did when he was scoring for fun for Spurs.
If you’re a Republic of Ireland fan and don’t rate Keane then I’d be really interested to hear what you have to say. He’s rated as the 25th highest scoring international striker in the world and he’s the only Irish man to net over 50 international goals.
I will forever regard Keane as my greatest Irish player of all time. In the darkest hours of Irish football he has always been there.
If Trapattoni’s team are to stand any chance against the likes of Spain, Croatia and Italy at the European Championships in the summer they will need Keane to have, not only his shooting boots on, but polished and ready to punish.