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Keane Getting Closer

Robbie Keane admitted he is very happy to be nearing the 20-goal landmark, but didn't want to dwell on the subject for fear of the goals drying up.

Robbie Keane admitted he is very happy to be nearing the 20-goal landmark, but didn't want to dwell on the subject for fear of the goals drying up.The striker is aiming to reach the milestone for the first time in his career and his total for the season is currently 19 in all competitions.

Since signing in 2002-03 he has increased his goal tally season on season (13 in 2002-03, 16 in 2003-04 and 17 in 2004-05) and has amassed this season's figure despite being unavailable for eight games after sustaining a knee injury following his scoring of the winner against Saturday's opponents Middlesbrough at the Lane in early December.

"It is always nice to score a lot of goals and to reach 20 would be great," mused Robbie, who turns 27 in July. "It is not something I'm thinking of too much though because if you do that it can affect you a little bit.

"If it happens, great, but the most important thing is qualifying for the UEFA Cup whether I score or not."

It was put to Robbie that he might just be enjoying an increased total if it were not for his six weeks out after the win over Boro, which only served to reinforce his theory over not looking too far ahead.

"Exactly, there are so many ifs and buts in football and that is why I don't go into statistics or say how many I should have or want to get," he explained. "Football is a strange game, one minute you can be flying, like me against Middlesbrough when I came on and scored and then I was out for six weeks.

"That is how up and down football can be."

It is the reverse fixture against Gareth Southgate's side next up for the boys, the first of what Robbie agrees is something of a four-game mini-season with the prize of a return to European football up for grabs.

"It is because we've got something to play for. We've got four games to go now, which are going to be tough, but we've got to be confident going into every one of them and believe that we are going to qualify for the UEFA Cup. It would be very disappointing if we don't.

"It was a good game last season at the Riverside that finished 3-3 and could have gone either way. On their day Middlesbrough are a good side, if you look at their players, the likes of Viduka and Yakubu - they are two great strikers.

"Jonathan Woodgate is a tremendous player so they have got a lot of quality. Middlesbrough proved their quality against Manchester United when they could easily won the game. It will be tough, but we have got a lot to play for and we know how important these games are for us."

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