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Paying Tribute to Robbie Keane’s Successful Career at Tottenham Hotspur

Photo by The EFP

Former Aston Villa striker Juan Pablo Angel was traded yesterday from LA Galaxy to Chivas-USA in Major League Soccer to make way for the Galaxy’s new star signing Robbie Keane. As a result, the Tottenham striker has now joined LA Galaxy in a £3.5 million deal.

In the last couple years or so there has been much speculation about the status and future of Keane at Spurs since the arrival of Harry Redknapp in late 2009. Since the arrival of Redknapp, Keane has found himself on the bench rather than on the field with other strikers being preferred — mainly Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe. Plus, with the arrival of Rafael van der Vaart, we saw Harry change his formation and play with a lone striker with Van der Vaart as a withdrawn striker. With this new formation Keane’s chances at first team football seemed all but gone. Keane was loaned out to Celtic in 2010 and later to West Ham United in 2011. Keane returned to Spurs on both occasions and continued to be in limbo. There were talks of Keane moving to Blackburn or Leicester but it would be Los Angeles that would secure his services in the end. I will miss Robbie Keane. He was a great player for Spurs and although his second time at Tottenham didn’t work, it should not damage his great contribution to the club during his time at White Hart Lane.

The first time I recall seeing Keane play was for Coventry City in 1999. At just around 19 years of age I was very impressed with his ability. Before he arrived at Coventry, Keane had a successful time at Wolverhampton Wanderers. He made 73 league appearances with 24 goals.   I continued to follow his progress with Coventry and his brief spell at Inter Milan and later at Leeds. Then in 2002 it was announced that Keane was moving to White Hart Lane. I was excited upon hearing the news. I thought this is what the club needed — a young and talented forward that can score goals.

Keane’s debut game was highlighted with him winning a penalty, which secured a win over West Ham 3-2. Keane’s first Tottenham goal would be against Blackburn in their 2-1 victory over Rovers. During the 2003-2004 season, we saw Tottenham fight a regulation battle and Keane’s goals were a major factor in securing their position in the Premier League.  The 2004-2005 was a frustrating season for Keane since preference was given to Defoe, Kanoute and others. Keane found himself being demoted. The 2005-2006 season started as the previous season had, but Defoe’s lack of performance gave Keane another chance under Martin Jol. By March of 2005 Keane became the club’s highest goalscorer with 16 goals, passing Mido and later was made vice captain since Ledley King had suffered injury problems. In March of 2006 he signed a new four year contract with Tottenham. It just seemed that greatness was awaiting Spurs with Keane up front. During the 2006-2007 season, we saw Keane off to a slow start with a knee ligament injury but with the arrival of Dimitar Berbatov his fortunes would see a change. Bertatov and Keane would form a very successful partnership up front with both players being selected FA Premier League Play Award for the Month April 2007. Keane finished 2006-2007 with 22 goals in all competitions. He made his 200th appearance for Spurs in their final game against Manchester City with a 2-1 victory. Keane shortly signed a new five year contract on May 28, 2007. Keane made his 100th Premier League goal on December 26, 2007 and on January 19, 2008 Robbie Keane scored his 100th goal for Spurs in a 2-0 win over Sunderland. Keane’s career saw further success with Tottenham’s 2-1 victory over Chelsea in the Carling League Cup Final at Wembley on February 24, 2008. While playing for Tottenham Keane received the Player of the Year Award: 2003-2004, 2005-2006 and 2007-2008. He was the first player to do so. All of Keane’s success was drawing the attention of other clubs chiefly Liverpool.

To the surprise of many, Tottenham and Liverpool finally agreed a transfer on July 28, 2008. Keane left Spurs on a £19 million transfer fee. However, Keane’s time at Liverpool was short and an unsuccessful one. Keane made 28 total appearances in all competitions and scored 7 goals. During the 2009 January transfer window, Spurs agreed terms to have Keane return to White Hart Lane for a second time. Keane scored his first goal since returning on March 4, 2009 in a 4-0 win over Middlesbrough. On July 31, 2009 Keane served as captain of Spurs in their victory in the Premier League Asia Trophy with a win over Hull City 3-1 in Beijing.

Keane wasn’t the same player he was before he left for Liverpool. I think his time at Liverpool didn’t help with his return to Spurs. With the arrival of other strikers at Tottenham, Redknapp appeared to favor Crouch and Defoe over Keane. And Keane begin to decline in importance at the club, becoming surplus to requirements.

In January 2010, Keane was loaned to Celtic for the remainder of the 2009-2010 season. However, Keane’s time at Celtic seemed to jump start his career which had been suffering since his return to Spurs. Keane appeared in 16 matches for Celtic and scored 12 goals. Keane was named Scottish Premier League Player of the Month for March 2010. The Celtic fans named Keane Celtic’s Fan’s Player of the Year. Celtic expressed desire to keep Keane at Celtic once the loan period was over but Spurs wanted him to return. I thought that was surprising considering the little playing time that Keane was receiving at Spurs. Unless Harry thought Keane’s performance at Celtic would continue at Tottenham. However, that would not happen and Keane was still a marginal player. He was once loaned out again to West Ham in 2011. His time as West Ham wasn’t productive and made only 9 appearances and scored 2 goals and the team was regulated and Keane returned to Spurs. But it was apparent that Keane’s time at Tottenham was limited. There were some offers for Keane, one by Blackburn for £2 million that was rejected by Spurs. But it seemed that Beckham’s time training with Spurs last winter had an impact on Keane. Los Angeles and Tottenham agreed a £3.5 million transfer to Galaxy in a two year contract.

During the last couple of years many of the Spurs fans have been hard on Keane. I think they have forgotten what he did for the club. The move to Liverpool was a disaster for Keane, which lead to his return to White Hart Lane. As much as I am a fan of Keane he wasn’t the same player when he returned. There was just something different about him and his playing. He just wasn’t able to fit back in successfully. It was time for Keane to move on and find a club that would work for him and offer him the chance to prove himself. I still believe Keane has a lot to offer. I am not sure if the move to the United States and MLS was the right decision but he thought differently. Keane made 293 appearances in all competitions and scored 121 goals in all competitions for Tottenham and that will not be forgotten. On the international level Keane has made 109 appearances for the Republic of Ireland with 51 goals. I have great memories of Robbie Keane at Spurs and I wish him all the best in his future.

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  1. Dave C

    August 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Matthew, I know you don’t like it when people criticize you’re writing style, but this piece could have benefited from being edited down to half (or a quarter) its size. It has too much relatively trivial detail, and reads a little clumsily like a “What I did in my school holidays” essay: Then Keane did this…then Keane did that…then Keane joined Liverpool…then Keane came back…then they won some game 2-0…then he scored his 100th goal…then he did something else…then his mom called him in and said it was time for dinner…then the next day he went down to the creek and played on the rope swing…

    • Matthew

      August 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm

      I do caught up in details and facts. Thanks for the tip.

      • Dave C

        August 18, 2011 at 3:28 pm

        No worries, thanks for taking it well – I realized afterwards that comparing it to a kids summer-holiday essay was maybe a bit patronizing, but I couldn’t think of a better way to make the point at the time.

  2. Phil Sandifer

    August 18, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Keane is one of the most impressively fast player collapses I’ve ever seen – on par only with Shevchenko suddenly going from world-beater to oaf upon moving to Chelsea. Liverpool bought him, and suddenly that was it for him as a successful player. Perhaps he just suffered under Benitez like a lot of players clearly did, but that doesn’t explain his failure to shine anywhere else since then either. Perhaps he just never got over the loss of confidence implicit in being sold away and then bought back four months later at half the cost.

    In any case, I find it hard to get excited here. Another over the hill European name cashes in in America. It’s particularly hard to take it seriously when Keane is delivering the exact same “I’ve always dreamed of playing here” lines he delivered before his Liverpool and Celtic stints.

    I mean, at least have the decency not to pretend this is anything other than “MLS: Soccer’s Retirement Home.”

    • Dave C

      August 18, 2011 at 11:52 am

      Ha, I believe Keane also did the “I always dreamed of playing for XYZ as a boy” routine prior to joining Spurs and Leeds too. He must have had a lot of dreams as a kid!

  3. Dillon

    August 18, 2011 at 10:34 am

    I’m also a big fan of Keane and was disappointed with the way Redknapp used him. I wish him all the best of luck in LA.

  4. trickybrkn

    August 18, 2011 at 7:10 am

    The story should have been titled… Robbie Keene, the Unwanted Striker.

    • Jason

      August 18, 2011 at 8:10 am

      Intresting from a Spammer… you guys clearly wanted him, spurs wanted him at one point, liverpool wanted him at one point, Celtic wanted him at one point, leeds wanted him at one point, inter wanted him at one point. It’s also quite clear that there was interest from Championship clubs. As hard as it might be to admit, the truth is that Robbie Chose the MLS over the Championship. Usually someone who is unwanted doesn’t have choices.

      Don’t get me wrong, Robbie was past his prime, but you can’t knock his impressive record with spus from 02-08 and his entire record with Ireland. He’s got some good years at a lower level than the Prem left in him, he is after all 31, not 41 🙂

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