Redknapp's Keane to talk up Spurs' American hero Robbie - but why?

AS TOTTENHAM returned from America this week there was a very familar name on the fans lips – Robbie Keane. The Irishman has been hailed as the star of the tour, scoring twice in two games against New York Red Bulls and Sporting Lisbon...

By Ben Pearce

AS TOTTENHAM returned from America this week there was a very familar name on the fans' lips - Robbie Keane.

The Irishman has been hailed as the star of the tour, scoring twice in two games against New York Red Bulls and Sporting Lisbon in the New York Challenge, and setting up Jonathan Obika for the second goal against the Portuguese.

Those performances earned the 30-year-old the player of the tournament award, and Harry Redknapp was keen to emphasise the striker's impact on the other side of the Atlantic.

"His situation is that he is still a very, very good player," said the manager. "He looked sharp and bright and he is still very much in the plans. He wants to start every game and if he keeps playing as he did on Sunday, he can do. It was a fantastic finish and he is a quality player, one of our better players."

These developments suggest that Keane is back, and a number of fans have gleefully announced the return of the 'Keane of old', the man who was equally able to score goals and create them out of thin air under Martin Jol and Juande Ramos. Suddenly, some supporters have begun to question whether Spurs are right to be quietly trying to sell the striker.

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Aston Villa are known suitors and the thought of losing Keane - and indeed facing him next season - have become much less attractive. After all, the manager feels that the ex-captain is 'one of the better players' at the club!

Actually, he doesn't. Redknapp allowed Keane to join Celtic in January at a time when Spurs' Champions League dream hung in the balance, because he was the fifth-choice striker. Redknapp didn't need him then and, having clinched a Champions League spot, he certainly doesn't need him now.

The Spurs boss has been casting his eye over the likes of Luis Fabiano, Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, three of the leading strikers at this summer's World Cup and some of the deadliest forwards on the planet.

Keane's last competitive game was against Hearts in the Scottish Premier League, and he only shone in America last week because Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe weren't there.

The Tottenham manager will not have been blinded by a three-yard strike against the Red Bulls, particularly when Keane had already seen a through ball hit his heels, and planted a tame header at the keeper from eight yards.

The striker's display against Lisbon was admittedly impressive, and the finish well-taken. But, in the context of Spurs' ongoing progression, it was just as important as Obika's second-half strike - not at all. Neither will be lining up against Manchester City on August 14.

Redknapp has every reason to highlight Keane's achievements in America, both for the sake of his relationship with the player and also because he is trying to secure the best price for him.

The manager has stated that Tottenham should shoot for the league title this season and, if he did not want Keane's services in the fight for fourth place, why would he now turn to his least-valued striker when he is aiming for first?

Keane may still have the credentials for the Premier League, but does he really have the qualities to be a leading player in the title race and the Champions League?

The answer is surely no. These days, it is difficult to see what unique attributes Keane brings to the table. It is not pace, power, height or a devastatingly consistent eye for goal. He has become the jack of all trades, and king of none.

Spurs can do better now. In fact, Redknapp knows they must do better to maintain their momentum, and achieve the exceedingly ambitious new targets that he has set out for his side.

"This is a chance that Tottenham really shouldn't waste because we have got ourselves in the best position since the Premier League started, and we have to build on that," he said this week. "It all depends on what I get in. If I sign a few players then anything can happen, but if I don't it is going to be hard to maintain just what we did last season."

Keane may have grabbed the headlines in America, but this is not another new beginning for him at Spurs. Whether he is sold or he takes his place in the background, Redknapp will not look back - not even to the Keane of old.