| 4.8°C Dublin

John Giles: It's time to drop Robbie

Close

Robbie Keane

Robbie Keane

PA

Robbie Keane

IT would be a big call and one that would signal the end of an era but if I was picking the team for tonight's big, big game in Celtic Park, I would drop Robbie Keane.

James McCarthy's absence is a big blow but doesn't change my thinking on this.

Martin O'Neill may have very different ideas and his main concern right now is how he will deal with Scotland without his best player but he already managed well enough in Germany.

The McCarthy issue is a tricky one and I must say, I'm not totally surprised that he has withdrawn. They were the signals we were getting for the last week or so and I believe that O'Neill may even have factored this into his planning.

Getting McCarthy released always seems to be difficult and I'm glad that he was asked to report to the FAI's medics for a check-up. That takes guesswork out of the equation and puts Martin O'Neill back in control of the situation.

Of course, there is nothing anyone can do if the injury is bad enough to keep him out of this game and presumably the FAI's medical people did a full assessment and reached the unhappy conclusion that he couldn't play.

So, back to Robbie. For me, Shane Long and Jon Walters would be a better option in a game which will require stamina and hard graft.

Robbie is our best finisher and the record books show that he is better at that than anyone else in the history of Irish football and indeed, beyond that.

His appearance in a variety of scoring lists shows that his ability to put the ball in the net has global significance but for this game, I think Ireland need legs which he just doesn't have any more.

Long and Walters are both in form and would give O'Neill the kind of robust, physical presence which I believe will be necessary in this game.

I don't mean that they would simply batter down the Scotland back line. There is more to both men's game than that but they are well used to putting in hard miles for their clubs and supplying their managers with a physical threat and in Long's case, pace to go with it.

In midfield, I would go with Stephen Quinn who has done well in the campaign so far and pair him with Darron Gibson although I have been hearing great things about Jeff Hendrick.

Whoever replaces McCarthy has a job to do. As we saw in Germany, O'Neill managed to get a result without him but Ireland have lost their most creative force in the absence of Wes Hoolahan.

Ireland certainly could have done with him for this game and with him back in Goodison, it looks like Aiden McGeady will have to shoulder the bulk of the abuse which is certain to rain down from the stands in Celtic Park.

In that context, I was amazed with Gordon McQueen's intemperate remarks about McCarthy and McGeady and I suspect that he didn't think it through when he gave the media a bit of a field day.

I know Gordon for years and it would be a big surprise to me if he was serious when he made the remarks about giving the two lads a horrible time.

Gordon came down to Elland Road from Scotland with Joe Jordan, two lads from either side of the divide who became friends for life at Leeds. I don't think he has a bigoted bone in his body.

So I would be inclined to issue a yellow card for that but Gordon Strachan is another matter.

He suggested some 'pantomime' booing would be fine and I find that remarkable coming from a man who knows full well the sensitivities at issue here and the possibility that some idiot might do something stupid.

It was crazy stuff from a man who should know better and I just hope that when the dust settles on this fixture, Strachan doesn't find himself haunted by his ill-considered words.

This is a game for strong hearts and strong minds. O'Neill has built a very solid foundation in his time so far and I would have no fears about the players' ability to cope.

But while my instinct tells me that Scotland will win, but my head tells me that Ireland can get a draw from Celtic Park. There's not much between these two teams.

A draw would give Ireland eight points from a possible 12 and I think most people would have been very happy to accept that total at this point in the campaign.


Privacy