11th August 2010. A day most of us might forget, but one I doubt Robbie Keane will in a long while. This was the day he made his 100th appearance for the Republic of Ireland and created another landmark in his long, distinguished career.
Since 2006, Keane has captained his national side and scored a record breaking 43 goals in the process. He stands only four behind the current record cap holders, Shay Given and Kevin Kilbane, with a couple of years in hand on both of them.
Fitting, therefore, that his 100th game should be against a titan of international football, Argentina, and be the first Republic of Ireland game at the new Aviva Stadium.
One hundred caps may not hold the prestige it once did in football. The misconception is that caps get handed out like sweets. National Associations try to fit in as many games as they can and managers make umpteen substitutions in every game.
However, no-one can doubt that today’s players are fitter and technically better than their counterparts of yesteryear. With enhanced training regimes, academies, scouting networks, and diets, current players have the consistent threat of having their place taken away by the next big star.
Keane was part of the so-called ‘Golden Generation’ of the 1990s. Under Brian Kerr, Keane was part of the side that won the Under 18 European Championships in 1998.
He also made his debut for the full side that year against the Czech Republic, scoring his first goal against Malta in the same year. However, things have not always been easy for the Dubliner.
An electrifying start to his career began at Wolves, with two goals on his debut against Norwich, and soon he moved to Coventry for £6 million, a then British record for a teenager. A move to Italian giants Inter followed, but the sacking of Marcello Lippi, the man who brought him to the club, was the beginning of the end of his Italian journey.
A return to England with Leeds, initially on loan, was fairly successful before their financial problems forced him to move again, this time to Spurs.
His time at Tottenham has been up and down to say the least. The bright light in a couple of poor seasons, ironically Keane was pushed to the fringes when Spurs began to make their ascent up the league under Martin Jol.
However, he continued to perform when selected and the arrival of Dimitar Berbatov was the beginning of the best part of Keane’s Spurs career, resulting in his most productive season to date – 22 goals.
However, he aggravated many fans when, after two successive fifth place finishes, Keane left the club for Liverpool.
Many felt betrayed by Keane, as he had seemingly found a home at the Lane after many changes of club, and those emotions were not helped by the inevitability of the sale of Berbatov to Manchester United.
He continued to score for the Republic of Ireland, but even a minority of his countrymen never really had faith in Keane. Some feel he never performed as well for Ireland as he did for his clubs, while others believe he took his place for granted.
However, most doubts were quashed when Keane scored four goals in the 2006 World Cup, including a last minute equaliser against Germany.
More than half of his goals have come in competitive games, all the more remarkable when you consider Ireland are rarely in the top two seeds for their groups and have struggled to make it through to the major tournaments.
Back at Tottenham, after a brief loan at Celtic, Keane has impressed over pre-season and in a recent substitute appearance against Young Boys in the Champions League.
While the trademark cartwheel celebration has been consigned to special occasions, Keane will be hoping he can fire the Republic of Ireland to one more major tournament before he calls an end to his prolific international career.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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