Maccabi Tel Aviv FC stunned the soccer world when it appointed former Ireland star striker Robbie Keane as their new Head Coach for the 2023/24 season. Keane and his team join Maccabi Tel Aviv on a two-year deal and are set to arrive in Tel Aviv in the upcoming days to begin preparations for the forthcoming season.
During his career as a player, Keane scored more than 300 goals for the clubs he played for including Tottenham Hotspur, Leeds United, Liverpool, Coventry City, West Ham, Aston Villa as well as the Republic of Ireland where he is the most capped player and top goal scorer. Keane was appointed as first-team coach at Leeds United towards the end of last season and has previously been an assistant at both Middlesbrough and the Republic of Ireland National Team.
Upon being announced as the new bench boss Keane said: “I am delighted to take on this challenge at Maccabi. My team and I look forward to beginning work and we have confidence in our ability to do what is necessary to prepare the team for the coming season.”
Maccabi Owner Mitch Goldhar, added: “Robbie brings the mentality, character, energy and focus of a winner, traits he exhibited everywhere he played. These characteristics now combined with ambitions to succeed as a coach are aligned with our objectives at Maccabi.”
While the yellow-and-blue have attracted many former players to man the sidelines, very few have the resume of Keane as both a player and manager.
Robbie Keane's achievements
As a player, Keane starred for both his country along with numerous teams in England as well as in North America. However, this will be his first opportunity to be a head coach and one for a club with a fairly successful European repertoire, especially for an Israeli club.
The 42-year-old arrives in the Holy Land fresh off of a very short stint as Sam Allardyce’s assistant with Leeds United which saw the duo who replaced Javi Gracia, unable to keep the club in the English Premier League with just four games left as they were relegated by the end of the campaign. Prior to Leeds, Keane was Jonthan Woodgate’s assistant at Middlesbrough while at the same time serving in the same role with the Ireland National Team under Mick McCarthy. In fact, his career in management actually began in India as a player/manager for just three games in 2018 replacing former great Teddy Sheringham.
The Dublin, Ireland native began his playing career with local clubs Fettercairn YFC and Crumlin United before moving to Wolverhampton Wanderers as a teenager where he scored an impressive 24 goals in 73 appearances. Just as the 1999/2000 season got underway, Keane was sold to Coventry for 6 million pounds which was then a record for a British teen, and continued his goal-scoring spree with a dozen in 31 matches.
After very short stops with Inter Milan and Leeds United, Keane joined Tottenham Hotspur where he really became the great striker that he was remembered to be today. In just under 200 appearances, Keane found the back of the goal 80 times which elevated his stature around the continent and became one of the hottest commodities that saw numerous teams looking to obtain his services.
Liverpool scooped him up but after signing a long-term deal with the Merseyside club, Keane made his way right back to Tottenham in the January 2009 transfer window. Following his return to Hotspur, the Irishman had a pair of short spells with Celtic and West Ham United before heading across the ocean where he joined the Los Angeles Galaxy and quickly became one of Major League Soccer’s greatest scorers playing alongside the legendary David Beckham.
The California lifestyle agreed with Keane as he not only scored 83 goals in just 125 contests, he also helped the Galaxy win their MLS League Championships.
On the international side, Keane made 146 appearances for the Republic of Ireland and found the back of the goal 68 times with his first senior team strike coming in 1998 against Malta. Perhaps one his most famous national team goals came during injury time of a 1-1 draw with Germany at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea.
Keane was well known for his quick play along with the ability to play anywhere along the front line here he was able to create and score his 319 goals in 724 all-time appearances. He had tremendous pace on the pitch and was able to use his dribbling skills and creativity to become one of the greatest goal scorers to ever play the game.
With that in mind, there is no question that Maccabi Tel Aviv is taking a risk by appointing Keane as their new head coach, however, the risk is a calculated one and one that is worth taking for the yellow-and-blue. Keane will no doubt bring all of the qualities he had as a player to the sidelines as he will attempt to re-energize and re-ignite the passion of a team that has been on the downturn the past few seasons.
Keane’s infectious desire to succeed and show that he can be as good as a coach or even greater than he was as a player, will be the fire that will kindle the squad that he will begin in earnest to put together before the club plays their first UEFA Conference League tie at the end of July against Moldovan outfit Petrocub Hîncești.
The Irish star’s name and stature will be a boon for Israeli soccer and he should find a warm and welcoming home in Tel Aviv from both the fans and management which is now led in Israel by English CEO Ben Mansford who recently returned to the club after a four year stay at Blackpool. There is no question that Keane will have all of the tools and resources to make his mark in the Holy Land and that there will also be expectations to take Maccabi Tel Aviv back to the top of the league.
Keane’s hiring along with Mansford’s return are the first of the blocks to fall into place as the excitement that was quite stymied during the past few seasons, is about to return to Bloomfield Stadium.