ROBBIE KEANE has urged the FAI to make a quick decision on who will replace the man he hails as the best manager the Republic of Ireland has ever had. The Tottenham striker still fails to comprehend exactly why Mick McCarthy resigned so soon after leading his players to the last 16 of the World Cup finals.
Keane believes McCarthy was a major influence on Ireland's progress in recent years - and also on his own career. And he now wants those who spearheaded the campaign to oust the former manager to realise just what they've lost. "Mick McCarthy did a tremendous job for us - probably the best any Ireland manager has ever done, getting us from 54th in the world to 13th. It was only the last two games that people jumped on his back, and to me it was for no reason whatsoever. The way [that] in Ireland everybody criticised him, not just the fans but the media as well, created things which made it a bigger deal than it was.
"He did a tremendous job and people at home still ask me why he had to quit. It's very disappointing because it was all going very well. When it all happened it was very disappointing because he's helped me throughout my career and I have a lot of respect for him."
A friendly game against Scotland in Glasgow on 12 February next year is the only match before the third European championship qualifier against Georgia in Tblisi and Keane wants the FAI to ensure a new coach is in place well before both fixtures.
"If you ask me who's going to take over, I haven't clue, but we have the game in March and we need to get someone in to sort things out before then - and sooner rather than later."
Today, the 22-year-old Tallaght man's thoughts are more focused on helping Spurs rediscover their best form, while heaping more misery on his old club Leeds in the process. Terry Venables is under increasing pressure at Elland Road after what can at best be described as an indifferent start to his time in charge - another defeat at White Hart Lane will add to the current problems at Elland Road.
The fact that it could be Keane, the striker sold earlier this season to generate a much-needed £7m for the club's coffers, adding to Leeds' woes is not lost on the player. He says the club's supporters never really saw the best of him during his two seasons at Elland Road, but he bears no malice towards Leeds for their decision to sell him on.
There are no thoughts of having a point to prove to Leeds, but it's clear that Keane felt he never had the chance to show his worth to the Elland Road faithful following his transfer from Inter Milan. And the prospect of doing his talking by scoring the winning goal for his new side is one which Keane is relishing. His family are even travelling to London to watch the match.
"People this year expected Leeds to win a lot of things but although they're not playing as well, the players they have there are well capable of winning things. The results haven't gone well for Terry Venables, but as a manger and as a person he's spoton and I have a lot of respect for him. As players, we know we have to do the best for the manager. He just picks the team - the rest is down to the players. It's early days yet and I'm sure things will turn around.
"It's clear that Leeds needed the money and quickly, and that's why I had to leave. It has worked out well at Spurs because obviously most players just want to play and sitting on the bench is very frustrating. There are a few who are happy to be there just picking up the wages, but I'm one of the players who just loves getting out there and playing.
I'm at my happiest when I'm kicking the ball around the park.
If you're not playing it's tough.
Leeds is a good club, but first and foremost, I wanted to be playing regularly.
"The fans didn't see the best of me, and I didn't play as many games as I would've liked. I found myself getting some games and doing well, and then the next game I'd be back on the bench again. Hopefully I'll get a good reception as I had a good relationship with the supporters. It would be tremendous to be applauded - but hopefully afterwards I'll get some stick when I score the winner."
New club, same old confidence.