These two men have had a tough year. Keane’s career seemed to crash following his Christmas party shenanigans in Dublin, while Ireland has been a victim of Manchester City’s limitless chequebook.
Spurs manager Harry Redknapp stripped Keane of his captaincy after the Irishman organised a wild Christmas party in Dublin. It also led to him being dropped from the first-team. Keane would later be loaned out to Scottish side Celtic where he scored 11 goals in 16 appearances.
Following his loan spell, Keane has performed well for Spurs and was named player of the tournament during their recent tour of the U.S with some thinking he might have a future with the club.
However, if he remains with Spurs he will most definitely be limited to a bit-part player. With the likes of Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko all above him in the pecking order, Keane will find it tough to reach the same heights he once did with the London club.
Keane has recently been tipped to move up north with Sunderland and Newcastle reportedly showing interest. However, the Irish striker has been linked with a move to Aston Villa on several occasions this summer and The Villains seem to be his most likely destination if he does leave White Hart Lane.
Keane would relish forming a partnership with Gabriel Agbonlahor and would also work well with the bigger men, like John Carew and Emile Heskey. Moving to Villa could be best for all concerned as Martin O’Neill could use a player like Keane and would acquire him at a cut price, while Spurs would gain from any money received for a player surplus to requirements.
As for Stephen Ireland, his future hangs in the balance. After a sensational 2008/09 season where he was named the Manchester City club player of the season, everything seemed to freeze.
The arrivals of Nigel De Jong and Gareth Barry last season have severally damaged his chances of first team football under Mark Hughes, and since after the arrival of new manager Reberto Mancini, have became nearly non-existent. Although Mancini has declared that Ireland still has a future in Eastlands, it is doubtful that he will be regularly starting games this season.
So where can he go? Earlier this summer he was linked with a shock move to Manchester United, where he would have a good chance of getting games amongst an aging midfield, but the rumours soon faded.
He has also been strongly linked with a move to Aston Villa, where he could be given as a part-exchange James Milner heading in the opposite direction. Again, this is a move that may suit all parties as Villa would need a replacement for Milner and Ireland could escape his City nightmare.
As we approach the starting line of the season, these are moves that will need to happen soon for Ireland and Keane. If they do, then Villa could well benefit from the glut of their nearest rivals.