Did Premier League clubs write him off too soon?

No cartwheel, no double handed salute, no fist up to supporters or visible show of jubilation; just a stark reminder to the Premier League that Robbie Keane is back in business. Aston Villa fans didn’t shirk the chance to celebrate the Irishman’s stunning late winner that gave Alex McLeish’s side a morale boosting victory over Midlands rivals Wolves. Respectfully he declined the chance to celebrate a winning goal against the club that gave him his big break. But on a personal level for Keane it sent a message to all those clubs who passed up the opportunity to sign him in the summer and wrote him off as being unable to cut the Premier League mustard.

I decided to write this piece after the dust had settled over a pitiful transfer window that failed to prompt the excitement of last year’s winter bonanza. However what gripped me were the transfers that didn’t transpire as clubs eagerly sought to boost their squads for the second half of a gruelling campaign. Keane’s decision swap Hollywood and return to familiar surroundings in the Midlands was one that caught my eye. I questioned the reasons as to why McLeish felt he needed to bolster his attacking options despite having Gabriel Agbonlahor, Darren Bent and Emile Heskey to pick from at Villa Park. After doing a tiny bit of research into the trio’s goal scoring exploits it turns out the Villa boss’ motives for signing the 31-year-old were all too clear. Agbonlahor, Bent and Heskey had only managed to muster a measly 14 goals between them this season. All three are vastly experienced top flight forwards who have consistently under performed in the first half of a disappointing campaign for Villa and that has prompted McLeish to bring Keane in to add a dash of extra knowledge in the final third. Whilst some may have questioned the decision to sign Republic of Ireland’s all time top scorer following an atrocious loan spell at West Ham the 53-year-old has already reaped the benefits of Keane’s predatory prowess after watching him put Wolves to the sword on his full debut.

That led me to beg the question as to why other clubs yearning for a proven goal scorer seemingly passed up on the opportunity to snap the former Tottenham striker up prior to his move across the pond to LA Galaxy. Clubs like Bolton, Sunderland and Wigan have all lacked a natural predator in the final third and are crying out for a player of Keane’s ilk. Yet they all opted to look elsewhere in their quest to sign a centre forward leaving the one time Inter Milan hit man at a crossroads. There is a thought that his hopeless stints at Liverpool and West Ham have tainted his once illustrious reputation causing many football managers and chairmen to consider him washed up. His big money move to Anfield in 2008 set the ball rolling on Keane’s decline and within six-months he was back at Spurs where he failed to recapture the form that saw him score over 100 goals in six-years during his first spell at White Hart Lane. Two consecutive January loan spells followed with Keane scoring goals for fun whilst at Celtic in 2010 and then failing to prevent West Ham’s demise in 2011 as they dropped into the Championship. It’s the underwhelming period at Upton Park that has had a cataclysmic effect on his reputation as a proficient  top flight forward. Admittedly Keane’s performances at the Hammers were well below par and a majority of the time he didn’t look interested in playing at all. From my point of view it looked as if he was no longer able to cope with the rigours of Premier League football.

Unfortunately that, coupled with his excessive wage demands, left clubs unwilling to take a chance on him during the summer and a move to America soon followed once it became apparent his first team opportunities at Tottenham would be non-existent. However whilst many players see the MLS as one last hurrah before retirement it seems to have ignited the fire in Keane’s belly once again. With a desire to prove his doubters wrong a loan move to Villa soon ensued and his stunning return to top flight football will have caused many an eye to widen and mouth to resemble a black hole of disbelief. Watching him zip around Molineux striking fear into the hearts of Wolves’ beleaguered back four and looking like the player he was five years ago and was a far cry from the man who was considered a failure 12 months ago. It’s clear that Keane has come back to prove a point and Villa’s boldness and willingness to give him a platform to do that should see him turn out to be one of the better signings the transfer window has thrown up.

At 31-years of age he is coming into the twilight years as a forward and seems to have rediscovered his verve for playing again. The managers and chairmen that wrote him off did so at their own peril and will now surely fear the repercussions.

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