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The Toe Poke

Keane relishing date with England

Robbie Keane does not believe that Ireland beating England at Wembley on Wednesday would constitute a massive upset, and believes a fixture between the two countries should have taken place long before.

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Keane, the Ireland captain and member of the MLS Los Angeles Galaxy, was in the crowd as a 14-year-old supporter the previous time the two teams met, in 1995 in Dublin, when the match was infamously abandoned after 27 minutes because of violence in the stands by the English fans.

"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," he said. "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."

Even against the possibility of political chants during Wednesday's match, Keane believes this is actually the chance for a healthy rivalry to develop.

"I think now the countries get on well. Whatever happened years and years ago, that's hopefully in the past," he said. " . . . 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 a row. 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."

Keane believes Ireland is well set up to beat England, despite the stark difference in the status of the two sides.

"We're coming here, thinking we can win the game," he 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."

The fact the match means so much to the Irish players also reflects the different approach the players of the two nations have taken. Keane had to persuade the LA Galaxy to let him play in the match, and he expressed surprise at the politics surrounding England's players in 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," Keane said. "They [the 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.

"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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