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ROB RELISHING RETURN

Posted on 14 October 2006  - 12:00

After a testing week on international duty, Robbie Keane will no doubt relish a return to a ground that holds happy memories from last season when we travel to Aston Villa on Saturday.

After a testing week on international duty, Robbie Keane will no doubt relish a return to a ground that holds happy memories from last season when we travel to Aston Villa on Saturday.

Indeed, the contrast couldn't be greater between the distraught look on Robbie's face as he trudged off the pitch following the Republic of Ireland's 5-2 defeat in Cyprus last weekend and the unbridled joy he felt after scoring the equaliser at Villa Park in a 1-1 draw last September.

It was one of the great images of last season - Robbie running the length of the pitch with his team-mates in hot pursuit.

"We were getting beaten 1-0 and it was a big goal for us," said Robbie. "It was nice for me personally as well because I wasn't starting at the time and it was great to come on and score.

"I wouldn't say that was the turning point for me last season - that was against Wigan - but it just felt like a massive point for us at the time."

Robbie would welcome another goal at Villa Park as we bid to become the first team to beat a Villa side turned around by Martin O'Neill

"They are unbeaten and that speaks volumes but being a Celtic fan, I knew what Martin O'Neill was all about and he's done a fantastic job at Villa," added Robbie. "I have great admiration and respect for him.

"He was tremendous at Celtic and so far he's done the same at Villa.

"I've heard from a lot of players what he's all about, not just the lads with Ireland and every player who has played for him has talked about how much they've loved playing under him.

"Villa is a massive club, the right man is in charge and we know it will be difficult. However, we've plenty of confidence after winning the last couple of games and we'll look to continue that on Saturday."

Returning to the international scene, skipper Robbie was delighted with the response of a young team and the Irish crowd at Lansdowne Road as the Republic restored some pride with a 1-1 draw against the Czech Republic on Wednesday night.

"It's been an up and down week," he mused. "The performance against Cyprus wasn't up to scratch but football is about turning things around and we certainly did that against the Czech Republic.

"That's the good thing about football - there is always a chance to put things right.

"Being captain doesn't make it tougher - there is responsibilty on me anyway but it's up to me to lead by example and hopefully I showed that on Wednesday night."