Owen Coyle - Keane still Ireland's main man
Former Republic of Ireland striker Owen Coyle believes Robbie Keane still has plenty to offer despite his latest less than convincing display in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Poland at the Aviva Stadium.
Ireland legend Johnny Giles was among those who called for Keane to be replaced by Shane Long for Ireland’s next qualifier, after he saw the Southampton forward come off the bench to salvage a late draw for O’Neill’s men in their Group D showdown with the Poles.
Yet Houston Dynamo coach Coyle, who saw Keane score against his side for LA Galaxy earlier this month, is convinced Ireland’s veteran all-time record scorer is still a threat at the highest level.
While Keane’s record breaking international career appeared to be edging towards a conclusion when he was dropped by boss Martin O’Neill for the crunch qualifier with Scotland in November, Coyle insists the 34-year-old will silence his doubters by the end of the Euro 2016 qualifiers.
“Robbie Keane is an icon of Irish football and having him in their team gives then a presence that they lack when he is absent,” Coyle told the Sunday World.
“Not only has he been a fantastic striker for Ireland for many years, he has also been a great ambassador for the country and his contribution to the national team may only be fully appreciated when he is finish playing.
“Maybe they felt the away game in Scotland was not suited to Robbie, but he still has a hell of a lot to offer and just because he is playing in American now, that is no reason to write him off.
“I’m working in MLS now and the standard is on the rise, attendances are on the rise and the interest in the sport out here is exploding.
"This is a good place to be at the moment, so the idea that playing in America should affect Robbie’s international career is nonsense.”
Scottish-born Coyle admits his loyalties are somewhat divided in a Euro 2016 qualifying pool featuring the nation of his birth and the country he played international football for, but he is hoping for smiles to be etched on all faces when the final ball is kicked.
“It is a toughest group in the qualifying process by a distance, but Ireland under Martin and Scotland under Gordon (Strachan) have every chance to qualify,” he adds.
“Both teams being in the Euro 2016 finals would be my dream scenario and hopefully that is how it works out.”
Watch Major League Soccer exclusively on Sky Sports, including Robbie Keane’s exploits at LA Galaxy and new arrivals Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Kevin Doyle from July 1st.