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Cox happy to stay on bench if skipper passes fit

SIMON COX says he's praying that Ireland captain Robbie Keane can recover from his injury in time to face Armenia in Dublin tomorrow night even though Keane's absence would hand Cox the chance to start the game and turn himself into an Ireland hero.

Giovanni Trapattoni and the FAI medical staff will give Keane until just before kick-off tomorrow to prove his fitness, and while it would be a blow to lose Ireland's all-time scorer, the presence of players such as Shane Long, Cox and the fit-again Jonathan Walters shows that it's not a lost cause if Keane is not healthy enough to start.

Cox bats away the suggestion that he's slipping laxatives into Keane's food to make sure the LA Galaxy man is ruled out and instead offer Cox a stage to shine, as the striker says he's eager to see Keane start.

"I'd love to see Robbie play, he's our best chance of getting through and you want your best players out there. You can't be selfish in these situations," Cox told the Herald.

"Robbie would be devastated to miss this game but I know he's working as hard as he can to be fit. If he's not fit, he will give full support to whoever fills his place.

"What's happened with Robbie is a massive blow for us but whoever plays -- if that's to be me or Shane Long or Jonathan Walters or Andy Keogh -- we will be well-equipped," added Cox, who was an unused sub in Friday's win away to Andorra.

"We had chances in the second half and I'd have loved to get a run, but with me on a yellow card I think the manager didn't want to take any risks.

"With the way the Andorran players were going down, if I had got a booking -- whether I deserved it or not -- I was out of the next game and the manager didn't want to risk it, it was more important that I was fit and available to play in this game," Cox revealed.

Tomorrow sees a clash of styles with the meanest defence in Europe (eight successive clean sheets for Ireland) against one of the deadliest strike forces around (11 goals in the last three qualifiers for Armenia).

"Something has to give," Cox joked. "It may not be the best game in the world but a dull 0-0 will suit me and suit Ireland. If they come out and attack us we have to deal with that, we'll see tomorrow night just how good they are,

"Armenia have some good forwards and they deserve credit for scoring all those goals, but we haven't conceded in eight games now, so we know what we can do.

"If I was an Armenian player, I'd come here ready to go on the all-out attack.

"They have scored 11 goals in their last three games and that's phenomenal for any team, even more so at international level, but with our defensive record I feel we can deal with that. Not just the guys at the back but the whole team, because we defend as a team.

"They will come at us because they need to win the game and that will suit us because we like to play between the lines and pick up little pockets and get some space, and catch them out," added Cox, who says the lack of first team opportunities with his club won't affect his Ireland form.

"Because I haven't been in the team with my club every week I have to work harder to stay fit, so I have been working hard in the gym. I feel I have a lot to offer West Brom. I'm not in the team at the minute but it's early in the season and I know what I can do for the club and for Ireland," he says.