How do you solve a problem like Keano?
Why do people persist in reading so much into pre-season games? Ok, so we lost 2-0 to Celtic who fielded a team of reserves. We didn’t pass particularly well or finish chances with any ruthless killer instinct. We defended poorly and played with little confidence. We still spent most of the game with possession and had far more chances on goal than they did. So as disappointing as it might appear, it wasn’t as bad as it seems the morning after. For a start, the team that lined up isn’t exactly our first eleven is it? Especially the centre-back pairing. Dear God, that centre-back pairing...
Analysing individual performances in this type of game is also a redundant exercise. Much like salivating over the 5-0 thrashing of Roma this time last year. Remember the hype that followed? There were plenty of people leaving White Hart Lane that day believing the swashbuckling style of play was a preview of the season ahead. And what did we get instead? Two points from eight games. Could be worse I guess. We could be losing 6-1 to Orient with our strongest eleven.
The mentality of the players is vital and yes, it would be nice if they comfortably asserted themselves in these type of games to prove they are heading for the opening game with a bit of a swagger - but as long as they play well when it matters I couldn’t give a toss about a nothing game(s) at Wembley that cost around £70 to witness. Harsh on the wallet that.
I’m pretty sure this was our first pre-season defeat for a few years which proves how it counts for very little. And as for individual performances (like I said, I’m not going to read too much into them) I’ve been impressed with Livermore, Naughton and Bostock. Not so much Dervite. Livermore could be involved for us this season. Bostock has a while to go, but roll him out for the Carling Cup. As for Naughton. Let's hope we take care of the lad and he doesn't end up doing a Gunter. And elsewhere (away from Wembley), should we even bother to lick our lips at the prospect of welcoming back wildcard Giovani dos Santos who picked up the ‘player of the tournament’ award for Mexico, brushing aside a USA b-team 5-0 in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final? Adel has gone out on loan. Something tells me Harry will do the same with Gio.
There is still no clear indication of anything yet. Hence the weary sluggish impatience.
But there is one player who has looked decisively average for a rather prolonged period of time, so long that you wonder if he can recover from his hibernation. This particular concern stretches back across the summer months and all the way to the last Jan window. So we can read far more into it than 90 minutes against Scotlands second best team.
I’m obviously talking about our Irish Windmill, Robbie Keane. He doesn’t even point and wag his finger with the same accomplished moan that endeared us for so very long. Liverpool, it would seem, destroyed his confidence. Can’t be easy knowing you are not good enough for a Top 4 side. Even worse when you find yourself wondering what if the gaffer had played me in position rather than out of it? We only signed him because Defoe got injured. It's all very apologetic.
No whispers of anyone wanting a punt on him and considering how difficult we are making it for anyone to sign Darren Bent, I doubt Keane will be sold off – at least not until January if he’s left warming the bench with Defoe banging them in alongside Crouch.
I guess this is where our frustrations sit at the minute. We can’t really take a guess on how we’ll start without knowing who exactly will line-up as Harry’s first-team eleven. And if Crouch does sign (looking likely) then Robbie’s depression might take him into a state of coma.
A major priority has to be to kick-start Robbie Keane back to his pre-Anfield form. We need all our players buzzing for the new season. How we manage to get Keano back to his best remains the biggest challenge for Harry. Unless there is no way back and the lad is in unrecoverable decline. His failings are far more evident since his return due to the decimation experienced under Rafa. The impatience of Spurs fans is a given thanks mainly to the fact that we turn on players pretty quickly (in this case, it’s more to do with the fact that Robbie left us in the first place and returned with his tail between his legs).
How do we rejuvenate him? Or is this tainted love?
All we can do is wait and hope. Personally, I don’t have a clue other than taking him aside and slapping him across the face, shaking him vigorously and telling him to get a grip and start believing again.
I’m available if Harry needs me to have a word. For a reasonable fee of course. Happy to slap Pascal around for free.