Monday, February 27, 2006

O Captain my Captain

Two captains in my thoughts - Mats Sundin of Sweden and the Toronto Maple Leafs and (it seems) Robbie Keane of the Republic of Ireland.

First - Mats. Not my kind of captain really, but in my short hockey-following spell he's all we've had. Pretty different from the "blood, guts and guile" employed by Manchester United - Robson, Bruce, Cantona, Keane (we have yet to see Neville G exhibit guile). My wife regales me with tales of Doug Gilmour - who sounds like Robson in putting his body on the line but never making it to the ultimate prize. In any case, Mats and Krusty the Klown have been tearing it up in Torino and returning with gold medals. He's 35 now - a bit late to acquire a taste for championhood but even if the Stanley Cup is beyond us in 2006 I wish he would show some rage once in a while... unSwedish I suppose. God knows he has a lot to rage against if he took a notion to, since there are more passengers in the team than on the TTC and even Domi looks like his fire is dimming somewhat.

Now... Keane. Wikipedia helpfully points out that Roy and Robbie are no relation. We didn't need the help. Roy may have never followed through on musing about playing in Europe but if handed the opportunity I imagine he would have done more with it that Robbie's brief spell at Internazionale. Instead of doing his best to hang in there and learn from the Dutch and Italian greats at the club, he took the option of returning to Leeds. Some might say he hadn't much choice with the managerial change to Tardelli but Steve McManaman had the same dilemma at Manuel's beloved Real and he decided to hang in there and ended up with the winning goal in a European Cup final. Keane could have matured in Italy and instead read his own press at Leeds. Now he's not sure of his game at Spurs. This is the captain of Ireland, apparently.

Apparently it's all sweetness and light in the Irish camp. Staunton says "I'm the boss, I'm the gaffer" and people don't laugh at him to his face. 120 year old assistant Sir Bobby babbles away happily. Chirpy Chappie Mick Byrne is back - and kissing Damien Duff apparently. Apparently DD is "more relaxed" which given his usual demeanor means comatose. Even set against this Alice in Wonderland picture the appointment of Keane is bizarre. Not since the Spice Boys have we seen an Irish player display as much petulance as Robbie on a good day. In some ways Staunton has been abandoned by the more senior squad members who have chosen their job over their country and given the fiasco of the last several campaigns who would blame them. However, passing over Shay Given who has equalled the heroics of his fellow Donegal man Bonner is inexplicable unless he refused it and I find that hard to believe.

Ironically - Staunton's first game is against Sweden and Celtic's beloved Henrik Larsson. Some slightly divided loyalties at Lansdowne on March 1st I'd say, though Celtic shirts are less likely to be welcome in Dublin for a while.
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