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FOOTBALL: No cartwheels for Keane.. the hitman with a heart of Gold; Tottenham 5 Wolverhampton 2.


WITH ALL the nonsense going on in football, it is easy to form a fixed view of the modern-day player - selfish and uncaring with a lack of respect for anything without the Queen's head on it.

So step forward Robbie Keane to buck the trend. The Tottenham striker hit a devastating hat-trick as part of a sizzling showcase of goals yet left White Hart Lane the saddest man in north London.

Because this win left poor Wolves bottom, deep in the mire - and no team that has been there at Christmas has ever escaped Premiership relegation.

Keane, who joined Wanderers as a fresh-faced 15-year-old from Ireland, is worried.

So worried, in fact, that he refused to celebrate any of his goals with the cartwheel celebrations that have become his footballing trademark. He said: "I've got mixed emotions because Wolves is a club that means a hell of a lot to me. I have got a lot of friends there. I came over and went there at 15 years of age from Ireland and the people there made me feel very welcome.

"The fans have always been very good to me and the reception I got from the game says it all. I have a lot of memories there and I still go up there as often as I can. So it's more important us getting the three points rather than me getting the goals."

He added: "I wanted to show a bit of respect. Wolves and the fans had a lot of respect for me so I didn't want to rub it in by doing my celebration. I hope they stay up. I really hope so because they are a club that deserves to be in the Premiership with the fans they have."

Keane is rapidly improving as a player. This treble was a fabulous example of his movement, speed of thought and clinical finishing.

Indeed, there can be little doubt that a formidable front line is forming at north London's second club.

Alongside Keane, Freddie Kanoute - back from injury - hit his seventh goal in seven league games and is also developing into a stylish, far more direct player than he ever was at West Ham.

For this, credit must go to Spurs caretaker-boss David Pleat who, with his simple but effective 4-4-2 tactics, is fashioning a unit not only proving hard to beat but also able to produce stunning moments.

Keane's third goal was a magnificent case in point. A sweeping move saw Kanoute feed the striker on from the centre circle. Keane shifted the ball out wide to substitute Paul Konchesky, whose centre was met with a diving header from Darren Anderton.

Wolves keeper Michael Oakes somehow managed to beat it out but Keane had continued his run to leave Oakes with no chance from the rebound.

The other goals were all just as good. Keane's first came after 28 minutes when Ledley King's deft ball over the top of the visiting defence sent the Irishman clean through.

The cheers had barely died down before a lung-busting run from Paul Ince produced an equaliser from the edge of the area. But too few of Ince's team-mates possessed his courage and grit and Spurs bounced back to hit them again, Kanoute heading in a delicious cross from the excellent Anderton a minute before half-time.

Keane's second was outstanding. Konchesky sized up his options from out on the left before sending in a curling, dipping cross to which the striker applied a side-foot volley with 16 minutes to go.

But although he more than deserved the match ball, Keane revealed he had to settle for a reserve one become the original was nicked.

He said: "One of their players kicked it somewhere and someone nicked it. But I got the second ball so somewhere along the line someone has got very lucky."

Alex Rae pulled another one back for Wolves with a strike from an acute angle on 83 minutes but substitute Stephane Dalmat put the icing on the cake with an outrageous fifth.

Cutting in from the left, the Frenchman let fly with a 25-yard screamer, straight into the top corner and leaving poor Oakes with no chance.

Yet bizarrely enough, this scoreline actually flattered Pleat's side.

Even though Dean Richards missed when clean through in the first half and Kanoute forced a high-quality save from Oakes with a vicious volley on 68 minutes, Wolves more than matched Spurs for fight and determination.

But you felt for the visiting supporters as the hosts took full advantage of their side's fragile confidence.

Had Ince not seen a header cleared off the line and Henri Camara not amazingly missed a second-half sitter, it would have been a different climax to a dramatic game.

How did Camara manage to scoop Dean Sturridge's second-half cross over the Spurs bar from just two yards out?

Ince said: "It's a joke isn't it? But when you are down there you get punished for every mistake you make. We played some good stuff today and it is disappointing because at 1-1 we felt that if we kept it tight going into the second half we had a chance. So letting balls from people like Darren Anderton into the box, well you just can't do that, can you?

"But we can't keep making mistakes and getting punished for them. It's all about defining moments and Henri has a chance of making it 2-2 which would have put us on the front foot again.

"Their natives are getting restless and we are playing good stuff. You never know what might happen. So it's soul-destroying.

"It goes into the papers as 5-2 and we are bottom of the league - but there is no way they were three goals better.''






14 FOULS 15






KEANE PAIR OF HEELS: Robbie Keane leaves the Wolves defence standing as he scores the second goal of his hat-trick; SPOT THE DIFFERENCE: AN UPSIDE-DOWN; ON A HIGH: Keane at Coventry's Highfield Rd; CIRCUS ACT: Happy Robbie flips at Leeds; CAREER; IN A SPIN: Celebrating for Ireland & Spurs; LEVEL-HEADED: Keane refuses to go over the top v Wolves
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 8, 2003
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