Warning: Personal Rant Ahead
I don’t usually do this. Comment on articles penned by sports journalists. Maybe, it’s because I understand where they’re coming from. They often need to be awfully skewed in their assessments (I’m generalizing of course) to sell their papers. Rile up emotions amongst sports fans and wham! — they’ve swirled a whirlpool of controversies to start tongues wagging.
However, when a football journalist gets it so wrong about a club (Liverpool) I’ve supported as a kid, I feel obliged to respond. The journalist in question is Kenneth Goh, a football correspondent whose column appears in a local newspaper aptly called — Today.
The title of his piece — Robbie Keane’s No Torres. Brilliant. At this point, he needn’t have continued, because every Liverpool fan knows that.
Fernando Torres is currently the most fearsome striker in the game. His goal, which won Spain the Euro 2008 confirmed that. So, why did Kenneth even attempt to juxtapose Keane’s calibre against Torres’? To discredit himself as a genuine football correspondent? At least that was the impression I got from the headline.
No matter, I figured the headline was probably a tongue-in-cheek attention-grabber for what would actually be a magnanimous evaluation of Liverpool’s acquisition of Keane. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Kenneth’s maunder about Liverpool’s momentous decision to sign Keane was macabre to say the least:
“…in Keane’s case, Benitez and Liverpool may have erred by paying too much…At the moment, he is just a flash Charlie, and when the Reds open their campaign on Aug 16 at Sunderland, Keane will then know what real pressure is.”
- Kenneth Goh
Picked your jaw off the floor yet? 3 points you might have noted from Kenneth’s parochially-glazed lenses:
- Liverpool paid too much
- Keane is a flash Charlie and
- Keane doesn’t know what real pressure is
Imagine that, Keane being the captain of Ireland and all, and not knowing what real pressure is.
Kenneth, are we talking about the same Keane who is Ireland’s record goal-scorer, the same Keane who has played in the World Youth Cup, 2 World Cups, one of which was in 2002, where he was the only player to score against Germany until the final, and the same Keane that scored a last-minute equalizer against Spain, and that too from a pressure-capped penalty?
Any football correspondent, I assume, should know better. In many of your interviews, you would have collated enough data to arrive at the conclusion that any player who takes a penalty is faced with a mirage of unsurmountable pressure. The weight of expectations piled upon this player by fans are plain for all to see.
But, it’s the player who steps up to the plate and scores, who manifests the qualities of a someone who can manage the pressure. This is a player who possesses the mental strength and characteristics of a warrior going into battle, knowing that missing a spot kick, is the equivalent of losing the battle.
Yet, he’s willing to risk fame and popularity and face these consequences. Scoring from a penalty kick once, could be dismissed as pure luck. But to do it repetitively, that’s down to the technical and mental strength of a player.
Robbie Keane has done it numerous times, both for club and country, and to do it in the last minute of a game where missing the penalty would have meant being eliminated from a competition where millions of viewers are judging your every move, is quite spectacular.
This is not evidence of a man who doesn’t know what real pressure is, Kenneth. Quite the opposite, actually. It’s evidence of a man who has the cojones to say, “Pressure? Bring it on!” No doubt, Anfield is a cauldron, but it’s a cauldron that Keane is well familiar with. He is a die-hard Liverpool fan afterall.
And So What If Liverpool Did Pay Too Much?
Has there already been repercussions to having purchased Keane apart from a thinner-looking cheque book? The season has yet to begin, and already the fangs are out. Unbelievable. I’m not sure what oracle has kidnapped your heart Kenneth, but I suggest you ditch that for common sense instead.
You’ve acknowledged Keane to be “just a flash Charlie” when Niall Quinn describes Keane as the best striker he has ever played with. That should say something about Keane, considering John Aldridge was one of Quinn’s former teammates.
Quinn says about Keane:
“Because he has so much trickery, Robbie can hurt defences from everywhere. He gets in behind, runs at defenders, or takes the ball with his back to goal. He’s got so much ability, it’s frightening.”
- Niall Quinn
I’m not quite sure about that Quinn, Kenneth Goh said Keane’s “just a flash Charlie.” Oh, hang on Quinn, Kenneth isn’t done yet. He also said,
“Keane isn’t crafty enough to pick out Torres with a sublime slide-rule pass or a perfect cross from the wings…Liverpool’s challenge is not for a 28-year-old nomad with a chequered history who only found his feet at White Hart Lane…The pressure will be great on Keane. I doubt he will deliver.”
- Kenneth Goh
Again, that just reeks of tales from a football neophyte. The devastating combo of Berbetov and Keane has obviously evaded him. Although, acknowledging that Keane has “only found his feet at” Spurs, in the very same breath he proclaims that Keane won’t deliver for Liverpool.
Frankly, I’d rather have a player at Liverpool who has already found his feet, then someone who’s still finding it, if you know what I mean, and by that very token, a player who has found his feet should by default, be able to deliver.
Whether it be in the form of goals, assists, passes, tackling, defending, tracking back, crossing, or balls-to-the-wall type of commitment to the game (ala Kuyt) — all of which Keane executes with aplomb (just ask the Spurs fans for confirmation) — it still means, delivering the goods.
I’m going to quote a Wikipedia article to shed more light on Kenneth’s strange and nebulous assessment of Keane:
“Giovanni Trapattoni, who took over from Staunton, confirmed his confidence in Keane’s leadership by handing him the captain’s armband ahead of the Republic of Ireland’s match against Serbia on 24 May 2008 which ended in a 1–1 draw.
Under the new management of Trapattoni, Robbie Keane has been identified as the spearhead of the Republic of Ireland attack and Trapattoni compared Robbie Keane to Italian goalscoring playmaker Francesco Totti due to his position behind the striker and his intelligent link up play. Keane is the Republic’s top goalscorer at international level; his 33 goals in 81 games surpasses Niall Quinn’s record of 21.”1
Are we getting the sense that Kenneth Goh is alone in his assessment? I think so. When Martin Jol was asked about Keane’s transfer to Liverpool, this is what he said:
“I was very surprised…He was everything. He symbolised Spurs.”
“He was the most influential player in the dressing room. He was probably the most consistent player with Ledley King, before he got injured.”
- Martin Jol
He was everything, symbolised Spurs, the most influential player in the dressing room and probably the most consistent player. All that from the mouth of the ex–Tottenham manager. But, Kenneth Goh’s oracle says data doesn’t count for anything. Myopic opinions do.
It’s Nothing Personal
Kenneth, seriously man, I don’t have anything personal against you. You could be one helluva of a nice guy, and I like nice guys. So my issue isn’t with you, but your piece on Keane and Liverpool.
Out of your 1000 words or more, all I could seriously agree with was your headline -Robbie Keane’s No Torres and quite obviously, he shouldn’t be. Benitez wouldn’t have bought him if he was.
Robbie Keane is a player with his own strengths, qualities which will offer something different to Liverpool’s current setup. Benitez knows this and that’s why he paid the money he paid for, for a 28-year old striker.
Robbie’s passion for the game is his holy sacrament. Give the lad a ball and you can be sure he won’t give it back until the final whistle goes. Liverpool fans know this. And that’s why Keane, along with his teammates, will deliver us our 19th Premiership title come hell or high water.
Now, don’t doubt that.Footnotes: