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Tuesday 25 September 2018

Robbie: I was in big pain

WHEN the word went around that Robbie Keane was still in town and on a promotional gig for the new XBox One launch, the first thought was whether he would have anything to say just a few days after Ireland's final friendly of the year in Poznan.

But Ireland's record goal scorer was in a relaxed mood, looking forward to his first Christmas in his new home in Malahide and clearly delighted to be back in Dublin.

His appointment with a surgeon on Monday is the main reason for his presence in Dublin right now and if all goes to plan with that, he will have an operation next Wednesday and then three weeks recuperation before getting back in the saddle with the FAI's new fitness man Mike McGurn.

PH: What's the latest on your Achilles injury Robbie?

"I'm going to London on Sunday to see the specialist and the op, if needed, is scheduled for Wednesday. Which is looking likely. And then just rest and rehab. Going from what the doctor said, the recovery will take three weeks. Which is fine because that's the time frame you should be resting anyway."

PH: How extensive will surgery be?

"It's on the line of the Achilles (of the left foot). I'm no doctor but basically there seems to be a bit of bone there that needs to be scraped, something like that. Unless the specialist sees something different."

PH: Has it been nagging for a while?

"A couple of years, to be honest with you. I remember last year I played in the MLS final and in the few weeks leading up to it - we had a two-week break - I was in terrible pain. You just get through it and hopefully then the break will get rid of it. That's why it needs to be done now because if I leave it again and just go back it's going to keep continuing."

PH: They use artificial turf in the MLS. Could that be part of the problem?

"I had the problem before the move but don't get me started on all-weather pitches. They hate me over there for talking about them because I can't stand them to be honest with you.

"Not good for you in the long run. Henry refuses to play on them. Anytime New York play Seattle or whoever he won't play."

PH: Have you played with pain?

"A hundred per cent. All the time. I don't get an injection before every game but sometimes when it gets worse and worse. That's the reason I'm getting this done. Once you play, y'know, you just get through it. Adrenaline, yeah, it gets you through. But in training, every day is pretty tough going. It is what it is, I'm not moaning about it. I've been lucky to be able to continue playing."

PH: While you're back in Dublin, you've said you'll get stuck into the coaching badge course run by the FAI.

"Yeah I am, it's something completely new to me. I might go in January and after two days think, f**k this! Of course, down the road it's something I want to do but I have a good few years left in me and I want to play as long as I can, it's something to have. You never know, once you stop playing you don't know what will happen. It's good to do anyway, you're out of your comfort zone. It's one thing playing the game and talking about it but actually putting on a session for 20-something lads is completely different."

PH: Management is a stressful business. Would you want to put yourself through it?

"Yeah. I love the game you know, and if you're passionate about it then everything else you get on with. It definitely is more stressful than playing. It's the problems players have, family reasons and that, you have to look after that as the boss of everything. Speaking to a good few people, they find that, rather than just the coaching, there is a lot of other stuff outside and around it which is probably a lot more difficult than the football."

PH: How about Ireland's new manager and his assistant. How have they been getting on with his stressful task?

"It's been good. Martin is very witty. I've never really been in his company before, just met him a few times and I've played against his teams, but he's very, very funny. Roy is the same as he was as a player, he is good company to be around. People obviously see a different side of him but the side I know of him is what I saw last week. I don't know anything different as I never played under him. But it's been good and the players have enjoyed it and Roy and the gaffer said after the games that they enjoyed it too.

"I mean, it's not like overnight that we can get new players in. We have kind of the same players but certainly with those two behind it and how enthusiastic they are, over the years . . . you have seen how much Martin's teams have got up for games under him. Little small things that he does to get people switched on. Then you have Roy who is this big character and he has knowledge about the game. Those two together are going to help Irish football, no question. You always feel things and the buzz around the place in the last few weeks is huge but ultimately its down to the players."

PH: What has Roy been up to around the squad. Does he have an input in the dressing room?

"Oh yeah, of course, he does quite a lot, a few words with most of the players. It's natural for an assistant manager to do that anyway. He does quite a lot and has a few different words with most of them. That's natural for an assistant manager to do that."

PH: Bit of a change from Trapattoni?

"Yeah I mean it's completely different. I don't want headlines of communication problems or anything but of course it's completely different. The point they want to make comes across straight away, there's no hiding away from that. Sometimes with Trap, there's no question about it, his English wasn't great but he certainly got by.

Under Trap, overall, if you looked at the bigger picture we actually did not do bad under him, nearly got to a World Cup, got to the Euros. But, as we all know, football is a results business so if it's not happening it gets changed and that's been the case. Probably everybody was looking forward to the new challenge and now we've got two big strong characters behind us and I think it will help and hopefully lift Irish football."

PH: Will you be around to see it all unfold and if Martin O'Neill wanted to use you sparingly, would that be a problem or would you be happy to play in those circumstances?

"Yeah of course, 100 per cent. I have to be realistic. Ultimately you're judged on your performance, aren't you? If you look at the last couple of years, the amount of goals I've scored for Ireland since I went to America, I've probably scored more since I've been with LA Galaxy than I had previous to that.

Travelling or anything like that is not affecting me. Certainly if the manager comes and for certain games picks certain players and certain systems and if I don't fit into that system that's no problem. I won't be one to shy away from ever playing for my country."

PH: Irish strikers ... . have we lads who can help share the load with you?

"We have the the players we've already had, Long and Doyler, different players than me. I think Anthony Stokes if he continues to play on a regular basis for Celtic and bangs in the goals, you'll see a change in confidence coming into the national team.

They are all quite capable of scoring goals, no question about that. It's about opportunities as well, creating your own opportunities, having the desire to get in the box to score.

"Is there any kind of natural young player coming through, one who can play in the box that is going to create chances out of nothing? We have what we have at the moment, players who are 25, 26 but they are all quite capable of chipping in with goals."

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