Don’t forget about Ireland, Robbie Keane

Not for the first time Robbie Keane is dominating the soccer headlines back home as the transfer window merry-go-round begins to gain momentum.

The Ireland captain is in the news simply because he can’t get into the first team picture at Tottenham Hotspur and has been told he can leave the club by his manager Harry Redknapp.

That piece of news isn’t in fact new. It’s been known for some months now, which explains why practically every Premier League club in England has been linked with Keane in recent times.

Depending on the day of the week, Robbie was poised to sign for West Ham, Fulham, Aston Villa, Wolves, Sunderland, Newcastle, Birmingham and Celtic, either on loan or in a permanent switch from Spurs.

One paper even suggested he might look to play with the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Canadian side that plays in the American League.

Of the aforementioned suitors, only Birmingham City made a concrete offer to sign Giovanni Trapattoni’s skipper when manager Alex McLeish agreed a £6 million deal with Redknapp.

As many football club managers know, agreeing a transfer fee is only half the battle. Agents then get involved, players make demands and the deal can sink or swim in an instant as Birmingham discovered this week.

By Tuesday, they had lost patience with the Keane deal and turned their attentions back to the Rangers striker Kenny Miller, available for a cut price £1.1 million simply because he becomes a free agent when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Birmingham are still waiting on an answer from Miller for the very same reasons that they reneged on the Keane transfer -- wage demands.

Robbie, or so they are claiming, wanted an increase on the £65,000 a week he currently earns at Spurs to move the hundred miles up the road from London to the English midlands.

Miller, once of Celtic, has offers from as far afield as Turkey as he looks to maximise his earning potential in this transfer window.

Like Miller, Keane knows that this is the last big transfer of his career.

He has made a fortune from previous moves involving Wolves, Coventry, Inter Milan, Leeds, Spurs and Liverpool so he certainly doesn’t need the money despite those wage demands.

My information, for what it’s worth, is that his wife Claudine is settled in London and doesn’t fancy moving house yet again despite the nomadic life of a professional footballer.

That suggests that West Ham or Fulham are more likely destinations for Keane’s undoubted talent before the window closes at the end of January.

What’s unfortunate in all of this is that Keane’s international career has yet to be mentioned as a factor in any decision he will make with regards to leaving Tottenham.

The refusal to move to Birmingham is either down to wage demands or a resistance to leaving the bright lights of London, depending on who you listen to.

At no point did anyone connected with Birmingham suggest that Keane wanted to complete the move because he realizes that he needs first team football to guarantee his place in the Irish team striving to qualify for the 2012 European Championship finals in Poland and the Ukraine.

If Keane is as cute as I believe he is then he will take whatever move best suits his chances of leading his country to those Euro finals. Money shouldn’t come into it.

Sideline Views

GOLF: Padraig Harrington has just been appointed as an ambassador for the R&A, that august body which runs golf worldwide. It’s another prestigious award for the Dubliner, but anyone who worries he’s going to rest on his laurels can rest assured that Harrington means business for 2011. He’s already working hard on his swing and no, I’m not sure if that’s good news or bad news! Jose Maria Olazabal, by the way, is the new European Ryder Cup captain and will lead his team, including Harrington, into battle at Medina in 2012.

SOCCER: Johnny Giles told a great Billy Bremner story at the Soccer Writers Association of Ireland annual awards dinner in Dublin on Friday night. Bremner and Giles arrived in a bar after a match late one night with the Scot despatched to get the drinks in. As he approached the bar, an old lady shouted, “Hey good looking, buy us a drink.” To which the red haired Bremner replied, “If you think I’m good looking, you’ve had enough to drink!” Ouch.

GAA: Matty Forde’s decision to retire from inter-county football is a real body blow for manager Jason Ryan and his team. Forde was a rarity as a player, a Wexford footballer who could have played for any team in the land, be it Kerry, Dublin or Tyrone. He also put football on the map in the hurling stronghold of Wexford and that in itself was no mean feat.

GAA: Croke Park officials are taking a good, hard look at goal-line technology and have already conducted feasibility studies with the Hawk Eye company. They’re adamant that no technology will come into effect for the 2011 championships, but the fact that they are considering it is a step forward -- as Louth football fans will doubtless testify.

SOCCER: Anthony Stokes scored another two goals for Celtic in their 3-0 win over his old club Hibs on Saturday. Surely he’s done enough in recent weeks to gain a recall to the Irish squad for next month’s Carling Nations Cup clash against Wales at the Aviva Stadium.

GAA: Ticket prices have dropped for the forthcoming National Leagues in hurling and football and a good job too. The recession shows no sign of lifting and the sooner all our sporting bodies accept that fact the better.


HERO OF THE WEEK

Sean O’Brien has been something of an unsung hero for the Leinster rugby team all season, but that is changing dramatically and at some pace. The Carlow man deputized for the injured Jamie Heaslip with real effect in Saturday’s Heineken Cup win over Saracens as the Blues booked their place in the quarterfinals, and he seems certain to be included in the Ireland team for the opening Six Nations clash against Italy in Rome on the first Saturday in February. Leinster’s secret weapon ain’t so secret anymore.


IDIOTS OF THE WEEK

Those responsible for the bullets sent in the post to Celtic winger Paddy McCourt should hang their heads in shame. Doubtless they think they are doing something positive for their brand of Northern Ireland politics. In reality, they make their kind look like buffoons.

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