Hoddle deserved to have more time, says Keane

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Robbie Keane yesterday questioned Tottenham Hotspur's decision to sack Glenn Hoddle, claiming they had simply not given him enough time.

The Republic of Ireland striker, speaking before his country's final qualifying match for Euro 2004, said he was puzzled as to why his now former club manager was allowed to spend £12m during the summer and then was so quickly dismissed.

"It's a shame the way it happened," said the man Hoddle signed last year for £7m. "He was given money to spend and then after five or six games he gets the sack. That's obviously their [the board's] decision, but I think maybe he should have had a bit more time ... We hadn't any luck up to then and maybe they should have given him a little bit longer."

Spurs are unbeaten since Hoddle was fired after two-and-a-half years in charge at White Hart Lane. Part of that ill luck was a series of injuries to Keane, including a damaged ankle in Ireland's friendly against Australia in August which ruled him out for five weeks. Spurs are undefeated in the three games Keane has started since his return.

"I feel good, I feel fresh. I have played three-and-a-half games now and Saturday against Everton was the one in which I felt most fit," said Keane, who scored in that win.

The 23-year-old will earn his 46th cap here tomorrow afternoon in a match against the Group 10 leaders Switzerland which the Irish have to win if they are to qualify. Even then, victory may leave them only in the play-offs if Russia beat Georgia at home.

Much will rest on the young shoulders of Keane and the 24-year-old Damien Duff, Chelsea's £17m signing. Keane said: "He's flying. People always talk about London doing him hard but that's a load of rubbish. You know yourself how to treat yourself and how to deal with things down there. Damien is a strong character. The bright lights of London will only affect you if you go out and do things yourself. Damien has been magnificent in the games I've seen him playing in."

Both will need to perform well in the 33,000 capacity St Jakob Park stadium against the nation whose victory in Dublin last year precipitated the acrimonious end of Mick McCarthy's stewardship.

"We didn't perform in the first two games against Russia and Switzerland and didn't play as well as we could play," Keane said of the two defeats that opened their Euro campaign. "But since we had that slump we have bounced back and hopefully we can keep bouncing back."

Indeed the Irish are undefeated under Brian Kerr - "a good motivator, a good character" - in a run which stretches to nine games.

"I think that really speaks for itself," said Keane of the sequence of matches which has hauled the Irish back into contention. "We were underdogs leading up to the World Cup and we came through that. I just hope for everyone's sake we can overcome this and get a good result."