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Jan 13, 2012

Keane not relaxing on his Villa break

As Robbie Keane aims to score goals for his 11th club by turning out for Aston Villa over the next six weeks, the striker has moved to dispel any fears that his commitment to LA Galaxy will be diluted by his speedy return to the Premier League.

Keane may only have played in four of LA Galaxy's end of season games as they were crowned MLS champions, yet it seems as if this affable Dubliner already feels very much at home on America's west coast as he has been talking up his ambitions ahead of his first full season Stateside.

The Republic of Ireland's all-time record goal-scorer insists his loan move to Villa is very much designed to ensure he is in prime shape for his mission with LA Galaxy in 2012, as he did his bit to promote the MLS before a packed English media gathering at Villa's training ground.

"I have been impressed with the everything at Galaxy so far and anyone who thinks it is easy for a player like me or David Beckham to go over there and succeed doesn't appreciate the level in the States nowadays," Keane says, having followed in the footsteps of Galaxy team-mate Landon Donovan and New York Red Bulls star Thierry Henry by securing short-term deals in the Premier League ahead of the new MLS season.

"Galaxy ended up winning the title last season, but it was not as if we were going out winning games 4-0 and 5-0 every week. You have some top players in the MLS now, the coaches have teams well organised and the standard is better than many people in Europe give it credit for.

"When you are there and playing every day you can see the American lads are very fit and very tough. Maybe they're not technically as good as Premier League players, but they make up for it by giving 100% effort in every game.

"In many ways I'm getting the best of both worlds by having this chance to come back to the Premier League for a short spell before the start of the new MLS season and the aim is to stay sharp for the big challenges I have ahead with Ireland at Euro 2012 next summer and with the Galaxy as well."

After more than a decade plying his trade in English football, Christmas 2011 was a novelty for Keane as he could relax with his family without the familiar burdens of a hectic fixture list, yet he got the itch to return to action as soon as the festive season came to an end.

"I was training with Spurs and was quite happy to do that for a few weeks until this offer came in from Villa. I have been linked with this club a fair few times down the years, so it's great to finally be here and I'm convinced this can be a good move for everyone concerned.

"Even though I haven't worked with Alex McLeish before, he will know what I am all about as a player, what I'm like around the place. I'm sure the Irish lads at Villa will have told the manager all about me and I'll try to help and encourage everyone at this club so long as I am here.

"Villa are in a transitional period in many ways as they have a manager trying to get the club moving in the direction he sees fit and it takes time for someone to get his ideas across and get his own players in, but I like what I have seen from Alex in my first few days here.

"He has a great staff behind him and Villa will be one of those teams in two or three years that will be a strong side pushing up that table, pushing for Europa League or Champions League. That's certainly the ambition."

Keane's brief spell at Villa will not include a game against any of his healthy list of former employers, yet the striker who won the Carling Cup as Tottenham captain back in 2008 is convinced Harry Redknapp's current crop have what it takes to pull off an improbable title triumph this season.

"Tottenham's performances in recent weeks prove they believe they can win the Premier League title and I am convinced they can do it," he adds. "Winning is a habit and, when you look at the squad Spurs have assembled, it's strong in all areas. They have four or five top centre-halves, while Jermain Defoe and Roman Pavlyuchenko give them great strength in reserve up front.

"It feels like Tottenham have moved ahead of some established Premier League teams this season and I wonder whether Luka Modric would now consider a move away as a step forward in his career. Chelsea tried to sign him last summer, but he would look at it now and wonder whether he is better off at Spurs as Harry Redknapp has had this team together for a couple of years now and they have gelled so well.

"Spurs are going to be up there with the title contenders in the final few weeks of this campaign and, knowing the lads as I do, they have a burning desire to push on now and make the most of the opportunity they have created for themselves."

Many a misguided Irish cynic has delighted in portraying Keane as a football mercenary whose transfers from club to club were engineered to boost his bank balance rather than enhance his career down the years, but such condemnations have been banished by his decision to reject the prospect of a couple of months lounging on an LA beach in favour of a brief burst in claret and blue.

Still brimming with desire and boasting a burning passion to prove he can still cut it in England's top flight, the striker who currently sits in 11th place in the all-time list of Premier League goal-getters will be eager to add to his tally of 123 strikes during his time at Aston Villa.

• Robbie Keane was talking to ESPNsoccernet in association with Acorns, Aston Villa's official club charity. Visit www.acorns.org.uk/events for inspiration on how you can make a difference in 2012.

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