Robbie Keane has revealed his frustration at spending the last five weeks on the sidelines at West Ham with a thigh injury. Keane, signed on loan from Tottenham, scored on his debut and impressed in his second appearance before picking up the injury in training, ruling him out for just over a month.
The Republic of Ireland striker has watched his new team-mates go on a four-match unbeaten run, climbing to 18th in the Premier League and almost reaching the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
The 30-year-old made his comeback off the bench in Sunday's defeat at Stoke before scoring in an hour-long appearance in the reserves' 4-2 victory against Newcastle on Tuesday. He admits the injury was hard to take but is now looking forward to winning back his place in the first team.
"The injury is fine now," Keane said. "It has been frustrating. You come to a new club and you want to play as soon as possible and you get injured. It is nice to get back and be able to get another 60 minutes. I am looking forward now to pushing on. It is always nice to score whether it is a reserve game or first-team game, but the most important thing was getting as many minutes as I could under my belt."
Keane hopes to continue his recovery by playing in the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2012 qualifier with Macedonia on Saturday week, and the friendly against Uruguay three days later.
He will not be available for West Ham's Premier League match against Tottenham this weekend under the terms of the loan agreement with his parent club, but could start the Hammers' next game with Manchester United at Upton Park on 2 April. But with Demba Ba and Carlton Cole both finding form in his absence, Keane concedes he may find it hard to push his way back into Avram Grant's starting XI.
"It would be nice [to play against United] but it is up to the manager," Keane added. "The lads have been doing tremendously well, so first of all I have to work hard to get back in the team. Hopefully, that will be sooner rather than later."
Keane's fellow striker Frédéric Piquionne is a major doubt for this Saturday's game at White Hart Lane owing to a foot problem. The Frenchman suffered the injury during Sunday's defeat at the Britannia Stadium. With Keane unavailable, Grant is likely to play Demba Ba, Victor Obinna and Carlton Cole up front, as the only other strikers he has at his disposal are the youngsters Freddie Sears and Zavon Hines, who have both been used sparingly this term.