• International football

Keane relishing meeting with England

ESPN staff
May 28, 2013
Robbie Keane is delighted to get the chance to face England © PA Photos

Robbie Keane does not feel that Ireland beating England at Wembley on Wednesday would constitute a massive upset, and believes there was no need for such a long gap between a fixture involving the two countries.

Keane, the Ireland captain, was in the crowd as a young supporter the last time the two teams met in 1995, when the match was infamously abandoned for crowd trouble from the English fans after 27 minutes.

With some talk that there may be the possibility of political chants during Wednesday's match, Keane feels this is actually the chance for a healthy rivalry to develop between the two countries.

He also thinks are Ireland are well set up to beat England, despite the stark difference between the two sides' statuses.

"I wouldn't say it would be a massive upset. We're coming here, thinking we can win the game," Keane said. "I know it's a friendly but you want to win every game you're involved in. We're capable of coming here and winning. If people see it as an upset, so be it.

"It means a hell of a lot. I was at the game when I was 14, we all know what happened then. I was a kid at the stands, I didn't think at this stage we'd have a chance to play England. I think this is a bit long coming. I think it should have happened a good few years ago. For whatever reason, it didn't happen.

"I was behind the goal, to the left. Everything happened, obviously all the riots started. I was swiftly moved out by my brother and uncle at the time. Certainly that was the first time I'd seen anything like that. I used to go to all the Irish games. It wasn't nice to see but it's happened and hopefully there won't be a repeat of that ever again.

"I think now the countries get on well. Whatever happened years and years ago, that's hopefully in the past. Me personally, I think it should have happened years and years ago but it didn't. Hopefully after this now, it'll be good and we certainly have a rivalry for a good few years to come. Hopefully it's all done in a good way.

"As long as it's friendly and done in the right manner, we certainly don't want anybody to cross that line and don't want a repeat of what happened a long time ago. We've been really lucky, since I've been in the team. Irish fans have behaved themselves very well. I've never seen any problems and I don't think there will be tomorrow.

We have to move on from what happened a long time ago. This is a rivalry and hopefully after the game we're all talking about what a good game it was. Hopefully this will be the start of an even bigger rivalry. As I mentioned before, hopefully we can play on a regular basis."

The fact that the match means so much to the Irish players also reflects the different approach to playing for their country. Given Keane had to persuade LA Galaxy to let him play in the match, he expressed surprise at the politics around English players appearing for their country.

"I've heard this big fuss, this hullabaloo that's been going on but, trust me, it hasn't been that bad," he added. "They [LA Galaxy] had kind of made the decision without sort of speaking to me, then I just had a conversation with them and they realised how much it meant to me to come and play. The next week we play against Boston [New England Revolution] away on a plastic pitch which I wouldn't have played anyway because of the injuries I've had, after conversations with the physio.

"For me, it's fairly simple. I want to play for my country more than anything. It still means as much to me now as when I made my debut at 18 years of age. I can never understand why it is players never want to play for their country. People have their own reasons why they won't turn up, say they're injured or whatever. I can't understand it."

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