Jurgen Klinsmann. Dimitar Berbatov. Robbie Keane. They share many things in common, most of them related to wearing the Lilywhite shirt of Tottenham Hotspur but now A new item can now be added to the list. They are the only Spurs players to have scored four goals in a Premier League match, and among only 20 players to achieve the feat for any club. Of course, football started long before the inception of the Premier League, or Premiership as it was referred to as before 2007, but for the purposes of a nice stat that highlights just how good Robbie Keane can be, life began in 1992.
The timing of Keane’s goal glut could not have been better. Before Keane left for his much-desired move to his boyhood heroes Liverpool, he was part of an established first choice strike partnership with the aforementioned Berbatov. Jermain Defoe was at the club but mostly reduced to sorties from the substitutes bench, as were a selection of other strikers who came and went. Fast forward 12 months and Keane has a real fight on his hands for a first team spot. Whilst he was welcomed back in January with open arms after his move to Anfield failed to ignite – and in his absence Spurs toiled somewhat – the arrival of Peter Crouch and the form of a rejuvenated Defoe, who has benefited from regular football at Portsmouth, has meant the Irish international cannot take his starting spot for granted. Already this season, Keane has had to watch his fellow strikers Defoe and Crouch hit hat-tricks, Crouch’s coming as recently as a few days before Keane’s feat against Burnley. Going in to the game against the newly promoted Clarets, Defoe had six goals for the season and Crouch five compared to just two for Keane. It would have been understandable if Harry Redknapp had opted to pair Defoe and Crouch together, either with Keane relegated to the left wing as against Manchester United or to the bench. Instead, Redknapp went with Keane and Defoe, the pair who had started the season in the team, explaining: “I just felt the movement of Defoe and Keane would give their two central defenders more problems than the big man. That was the key factor. I felt if we could get enough movement and get Robbie into those little holes where he can play clever passes, we could open them up and that’s how it went.”
Therein lies what makes Keane such a good striker, his goalscoring record has always been good and he had already previously scored two hat-tricks for Tottenham, even if his last came in 2003. Yet he offers so much more to the team, things that can easily be forgotten when one glances at the names on the scoresheet but are oh so vital to the way Spurs play. Clever movement, an excellent first touch, an eye for a killer pass and sheer persistence have persuaded several big clubs to sign the diminutive frontman for big money over the years. Inter Milan paid £13m before Leeds then shelled out £12m to bring him back to England. Spurs spent £7m the first time they bought him and then another £12m (rising to £19m) either side of selling him to Liverpool for £20m. Throw in a £6m move to Coventry early in his career from Wolves and you have a player who has already cost a minimum of a combined £70m, and he is still not even 30-years-old.
Now Keane is back among the goals and in spectacular style. For all the unique attributes that Crouch brings to the table, he will simply have to wait for his chance. Given that he has waited nine years since leaving the club having been a trainee, he can surely wait a bit longer. Redknapp knows that his best strike combination includes Keane and one other and with Defoe in his best form since leaving West Ham, that means that he commands the other starting spot. If the goals start to dry up, Defoe’s attractions become less clear, he simply does not have the all round game to make him indispensible like Keane. Aside from goals, Crouch offers more than Defoe, but does not have the same ruthlessness as an in-form Defoe, which is what Redknapp has at his disposal currently. Form, however, is temporary, and class is permanent, which is why Robbie Keane is here to stay in the starting eleven, and if he can throw in the odd four-goal haul along the way, then all the better for Redknapp and Tottenham.
Tottenham Club Focus
Defoe dazzles but may remain an England substitute – September 8
Redknapp to thank for Lennon renaissance – September 11
Spurs fail first big test – September 15
Transfer budget not affected by new training complex – September 18
Honesty not always the best policy in football– September 22
Redknapp almost spoilt for choice – September 25
Four-Star Robbie serves up timely reminder – September 29