After Celtic’s anonymous performance against Rangers on Sunday, Celtic find themselves 10 points behind their city rivals, and Rangers still with a game in hand. The talk before the game was all of Robbie Keane’s first Old Firm clash, and whether or not he would be fit to play. As it transpired, Keane played a totally forgettable 90 minutes of football, and Celtic all but lost any lingering hope of mounting an unlikely comeback in the race for the SPL title. With this in mind, just 5 games into his Premier League career with Celtic, Keane has arguably already been a failure.
With the team struggling under Tony Mowbry, one must question however, to what extent Keane’s signing was conducted for footballing reasons. Celtic were ten points behind Rangers when Keane moved north of the border. Even the most ardent Celtic fan could not have hoped to overturn a 10 point deficit with the signing one player. A more cynical appraisal might lead to the conclusion that Dermott Desmond perhaps spotted an opportunity to sell shirts, increase gate receipts, and keep the fans subdued after what may yet prove to be a second successive season behind Rangers. If this is the case, perhaps Keane has had the ‘desired affect’? Desmond has delivered to Celtic a marquee signing, with Irish connections that would please certain sections of Celtic Park. However, in essence, is it not papering over the considerable cracks?
In terms of Keane’s performances on the pitch, opinions are mixed. He has scored three goals in six league and cup matches for the Bhoys, which is not a bad return. However, in the league, Celtic have won just two of the five matches Keane has played, failing to inspire the run of victories that Keane himself admitted were necessary to catch Rangers. Whilst certain sections of the Celtic support have rated Keane as moving from hero to zero in weeks, Keane’s performances have not been universally condemned at Parkhead. Supporters recognise that Keane has joined a struggling and unsettled team, and even if Keane is prolific until season’s end, Celtic are fragile at the back-their 4-4 draw at Aberdeen a primary example. Further, Keane has been involved in most of Celtic’s goals since he joined, and is still coming to terms with Celtic’s style of play and personnel.
Celtic fans have not resoundingly turned on ‘Keano’ however the wisdom of the signing has been questioned. Celtic is struggling financially, and Keane commands £65k a week in wages, with the deal eventually costing Celtic between £1-2million. However, even if Celtic offset this figure through ticket and merchandising revenue, Keane will only be at the club until the end of the season. With Celtic some way off the title race, would it not have been prudent to build for the long term, rather than short term? After signing Keane, Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwel told Sky Sports that the club was moving through a ‘transitional period’. In order to come out of such a transition, players with long term futures at the club, such as Rasmussen and Fortune, need time to gel if Celtic are to challenge for top honours. However, Keane’s signing has almost certainly prevented this, as his wages and status demand he starts every game.
Tony Mowbry brought in Diomansy Kamara, Morten Rasmussen and Robbie Keane in Januray, giving Celtic’s squad a top heavy feel, especially following Gary Caldwell’s departure. Consequently, with Mowbry struggling with injuries in defence, some have questioned whether Keane was a Mowbry signing, or whether the board were more intent on bringing the Irishman to Glasgow. Just as Desmond brought in Roy Keane, Robbie Keane’s signing has been highlighted for the Irish connection, and the signing may have been an effort to appease die-hard Celtic fans, as opposed to the needs of the manager.
The extent to which the move has had the ‘desired impact’ Robbie Keane would have been after, is another quandary. Keane is playing in a struggling team that often appear to be on a different wave-length to the Irishman. If he intended to go to Scotland, fulfil a boyhood dream by leading Celtic to glory, whilst also putting himself in the Premier League shop window, this intention is unlikely to bear fruition. Keane has scored a few goals and put in some decent performances. Nevertheless, by failing to ignite Celtic’s title ambition or average three goals a game in what those south of the border deem an easy league, Keane’s move North may yet prove detrimental to his career.
If Keane was signed to have an impact in the title race, his signing appears to have backfired. However, from a business and PR perspective, maybe Keane’s signing will be deemed a success by Dermott Desmond? With Celtic now languishing ten points behind Rangers, the Scottish Cup is Celtic’s last chance to add some gloss to an otherwise forgettable season. And for those that doubt Robbie Keane’s signing on a football level, Keane would enjoy nothing more than lifting the cup at Hampden Park in May. However, whether this will be enough to leave Celtic fans or Robbie Keane satisfied is another question…