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It's time for Robbie to move on

Keane needs to step up as a manager because No 2 role won't fulfill ambition

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GREEN AND KEANE: Robbie Keane gained experience as Mick McCarthy’s assistant but must step up a level if he ever wishes to manage Ireland. Pic: Sportsfile.

GREEN AND KEANE: Robbie Keane gained experience as Mick McCarthy’s assistant but must step up a level if he ever wishes to manage Ireland. Pic: Sportsfile.

SPORTSFILE

GREEN AND KEANE: Robbie Keane gained experience as Mick McCarthy’s assistant but must step up a level if he ever wishes to manage Ireland. Pic: Sportsfile.

Robbie Keane's success as a player was built on his ability to make clever movement in the penalty area. The direction of his coaching ambitions will be determined by where he opts to go in the aftermath of his exit from Middlesbrough.

It follows on quickly from Stephen Kenny's decision to look elsewhere for his backroom staff and leave the FAI to deal with the four-year contract John Delaney gave Keane in late 2018.

That's a double blow for the Dubliner, yet he has always taken pleasure from silencing detractors and it might just function as the motivation to graduate to another stage of his career.

Keane has ambitions to manage his country one day, but they won't be achieved until he goes out on his own to demonstrate his ability. 

In other words, it's probably time for Ireland's record goalscorer to take the leap into management as opposed to operating as a deputy.

He turns 40 next month and the fact it's becoming a younger man's game, means he should be looking to go down that route if the right opportunity crops up.

It's safe to say he had different ideas for 2020. Keane had only signed a one-year deal with Middlesbrough because he was mindful of his situation with Ireland.

He was initially hired by the FAI to  be a member of Mick McCarthy's coaching staff, with former chief Delaney envisaging that the country's record goalscorer would take on a more prominent role in the set-up after Euro 2020 - with his contract terms adjusted accordingly.

Yet it appears that the goalposts were moved by the succession plan, before the pandemic accelerated things. Kenny was told from the outset that he would have the freedom to select his own backroom team and duly did so by bringing in Keith Andrews and Damien Duff, thus leaving Keane in limbo.

He was left in the dark during that process and frustrated by the communication. Keane's representatives duly entered discussions with the FAI after interim CEO Gary Owens said he was open-minded on a future role.

But the size of Keane's contract - due to rise to the region of €250,000 - suggested that a severance deal was on the cards. The U-21 position was filled by Jim Crawford after an internal process; that was the only vacancy left that might have delivered a football solution. 

It's believed there has been no real progress on his position since then. Throughout Keane's career, he has steered clear of publicly airing his frustrations with any employment situation, and he's unlikely to break the habit here. Nobody would benefit from burning bridges.

Keane's family are happy back home, but it's now possible he may have to consider travelling again for his next job.  Certainly, it makes sense for him to explore openings that will allow him to showcase his managerial personality.

The assistant boss often has little control over how they are perceived. If the team is thriving, the manager absorbs the credit. If the regime struggles, then the number two is deemed guilty by association. 

He was technically the number three under McCarthy, who was always going to bring Terry Connor in with him and delegates a lot of the coaching duties to his long-term assistant.

Basically, in the Ireland camp, Keane was gaining experience by learning alongside the veteran duo.

At Middlesbrough, he had a greater level of influence working with Woodgate, yet this partnership brought together a duo that were both new to the level of responsibility. Uruguayan Leo Percovich was drafted into Woodgate's team too, but the front-of-house pair were clearly Woodgate and Keane.

Sometimes a rookie manager might turn to a senior assistant for a guiding hand, or else a rookie assistant might act as a modern foil to a seasoned main man. 

Keane's friend Steven Gerrard brought Gary McAllister in to supplement his staff at Rangers. Jody Morris had spent five years in the Chelsea set-up before linking up with Frank Lampard at Derby and then returning to Stamford Bridge with his pal. 

Maybe the way forward for Keane from here is to put himself out there and think about who could accompany him as a steady hand.

There's no doubt that his name still carries weight. He has always kept on good terms with influential figures and there are big names within the sport who rave about his dressing-room presence. 

His American odyssey and stint in India showcased a willingness to capitalise on a global profile. It's possible this avenue could function as a stepping stone rather than the volatile English market. Boro were prepared to be patient with a young team but quickly changed course.

In another environment, Keane might get the chance to breathe and develop. The next chapter of his tale starts here. 

In the Ireland camp, he was number three, learning from the veteran duo of Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor