Football: Giles cautions Keane

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The Independent Online
JOHNNY GILES yesterday told the Republic of Ireland not to place too much burden of expectation on their teenage prodigy, Robbie Keane.

Giles, a former Leeds United midfield general and player-manager of the Republic, saw the 18-year-old Wolves striker deprive him of the tag of his country's youngest goalscorer with a thrilling double strike in the 5-0 mauling of Malta in Wednesday's European Championship qualifier in Dublin.

It was only Keane's fifth appearance for the full national side, but already he has gained cult-hero status with the Lansdowne Road supporters, and has earned glowing plaudits from his team-mates. "For sheer technical ability, he's the best I've ever played with," said his 32-year-old fellow striker, Niall Quinn.

But Giles, who became the Republic's youngest scorer 39 years ago when he netted on his debut against Sweden just five days ahead of his 19th birthday, said: "Robbie is obviously an outstanding young forward - but right now all we can still talk about is potential.

"I'm delighted for him that he's got that record although, until somebody told me just before the game, I hadn't remembered that I was the one who held it. I'm sure he is going to be a top player - but let's wait and see how he performs against Yugoslavia and Croatia in this qualifying group. They have probably the best defenders in European football and Malta's just cannot compare in any way."

However, Quinn, a veteran of 64 internationals and the scorer of the fourth goal against Malta, insisted: "Robbie is going all the way to the top. I don't know whether it is crucial he gets a move into the Premiership or stays at Wolves. Steve Bull still managed to make an international career for himself staying at the same club."

The Republic have been told to keep 18 November free for their away qualifier against Yugoslavia - possibly at a neutral venue. Last Saturday's trip to Belgrade was cancelled because of the Kosovo crisis.

"My hope is that we can still go to Belgrade next month," Mick McCarthy, the Irish manager, said. "That would mean things are being resolved. Football managers may talk about their problems, but they are miniscule compared to what people are suffering over there."