Redknapp's support for Spurs skipper

HARRY Redknapp admits he is upset at a growing tide of opinion which seems to be swelling against Robbie Keane this season. Tottenham's team captain was the forgotten man of Saturday s nine-goal romp...

By Ben Pearce

HARRY Redknapp admits he is upset at a growing tide of opinion which seems to be swelling against Robbie Keane this season.

Tottenham's team captain was the forgotten man of Saturday's nine-goal romp, watching from the bench after his exertions for the Republic of Ireland during the previous week.

Unfortunately for the 29-year-old, his team-mates took that opportunity to rack up Tottenham's biggest win for 32 years, with Jermain Defoe netting five and Peter Crouch also getting on the scoresheet.

In a way it was cruelly ironic that the skipper should be in the shadows for the weekend's momentus goalfest, which will live long in the memory of every Spurs fan.

The skipper's popularity seems to have cooled over the course of the season, with Crouch arguably stealing his place in the fans' hearts.

Most Read

Some supporters may never have forgiven Keane for leaving for Liverpool, seeing his swift return as a real-life version of the Biblical prodigal son - who returned home with his tail between his legs after his dream move away went rapidly downhill.

Strangely though - unfairly even - Defoe's cult status has remained untarnished, despite his own sabbatical at Portsmouth.

Other fans are more objective about Keane but view their skipper as frustratingly inconsistent, blowing hot and cold and sometimes having no visible impact at all - like the nursery rhyme, "When he's good he's very good, but when he's bad he's horrid."

Whatever the reasons, the murmurs of discontent have become more audible at White Hart Lane this campaign, with the frustrated cries growing louder each time the forward makes a mistake.

Redknapp has had enough.

"I hate it when I hear people criticise him. He played a massive part in keeping us up last year, it's no coincidence we went on a great run when he arrived," said the manager.

"I felt the atmosphere around the place changed when he came, because of the way he is, the bubbly character he is - it's infectious.

"When he plays he's been great for us. He's scored eight goals, you'd settle for that wouldn't you. He's got eight in 12. If he keeps that average up he'll get 24 won't he? Even I can do that maths. Maybe 25 even!"

In fact, Redknapp's maths is slightly off. While Keane has indeed scored eight goals, it has taken him 14 games to do it - including two Carling Cup matches, both of which he scored in.

But it is certainly fair for the boss to point to Keane's tally, as only seven players have scored more Premier League goals so far.

Despite that, some fans point out that four of his six league goals came on the same day against a woeful Burnley defence. Without that game, Keane would have two league goals from 11 appearances.

However, again the same could be said about Defoe - eight of his 11 league goals have come in two games against Hull and Wigan - and yet few Spurs fans are bemoaning the 27-year-old's place at the top of the goalscoring charts.

Redknapp may be quick to highlight Keane's goals tally, but he also maintains that, even if his captain doesn't score, he justifies his selection in other ways as well.

"He knits the game together for us. He drops short and picks balls up and makes us play football," he said. "The problem then is do the centre-halves come out into that space with him? If they get dragged out with him then it leaves Defoe one against one. He'll make clever runs and Robbie will play him in.

"Or they don't come and let Robbie have it. Or they drop a midfield player in to get around him, which leaves us with an extra man in midfield. It is a problem for opposition players, he offers something different."

Redknapp also maintains that Spurs fans have no idea how important Keane is behind the scenes.

"I felt he was vital to us last season, I really did. I thought 'if Robbie comes back we're going to be okay', that's the type of feeling he gave me," said the boss. "I felt he was a key signing, because he was a personality as well.

"It's difficult for people to understand what it takes to make a football team. It isn't always just about having a team of superstar players - you need certain characters who make a difference to you, in the dressing room and on the pitch.

"All the good teams have those type of people. He talks to players in the dressing room and on the pitch, and gets people lifted around him. He gives you all that and that's so important.