It was the day the Irish came to town. There were hundreds in
Highfield Road Stadium to roar their delight as new boy Robbie Keanes two goals
pushed the Sky Blues to their first victory of the season.
Irish loyalties will be divided on Wednesday night however when Roy Keane, no relation,
arrives with mighty Manchester United.
But there was no denying the Dublin teenagers dream debut after his £6 million
transfer just 48 hours earlier from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
There were some who thought it was too much money, Sir Alex Ferguson among them, for a
First Division player with everything to prove at the top level.
The 19-year-old showed no signs that such a big transfer fee was any burden.
He was pulled out of the action with six minutes remaining, to conserve his energies,
and the Coventry fans rose from their seats in their thousands to honour him with a
standing ovation. He had another when he trudged slowly along the running track to the
It was heady stuff for the teenager, but he gave a nerveless display, and it is certain
he will be going flat out on Wednesday to repay Ferguson for his calculated insult.
Uniteds manager was quoted as saying he would have paid £500,000 for Keane and
then played him in the reserves for a few years. The player said it did not bother him but
it clearly rankled with Coventry manager Gordon Strachan who made an oblique reference to
it in his after match comments.
Strachan said scathingly:
"Robbie was rated among the top four young players in the country last week. He
joined us and everyone immediately began questioning his worth, whether it was £500,000
and so on. All I can say I count myself very lucky to have him here."
And Aston Villa boss John Gregory must have felt like kicking the cat. Villa would not
pay the extra one million to take Keane to Villa Park and he chose their big rivals
Coventry. Gregory knows he would have been a sensation alongside Dion Dublin and now that
chance has gone.
It was unfortunate that Keanes debut had to be such a poor match, but he did not
His first goal was scored in the killer period just before half-time. There
were two minutes to go to the interval when Moustapha Hadji sent him flying down the right
wing. The Irishman cut into the penalty box, slipped past Jacob Lauren with dazzling
footwork, and fired in from the narrowest of angles, the ball nestling just behind the far
Derbys manager Jim Smith called it a lucky goal but Steve Froggatt, a
team mate of Keanes at Wolves said:
"I have seen him score those a hundred times in training."
Keanes second in the 69th minute was made for him by Froggatt, who
went on as a second-half substitute.
The winger ran the ball at the defence which retreated before him, Keane made a little
diagonal run into the box and Froggatt slipped him the ball. The rest looked easy. Keane
ran around goalkeeper Martin Poom and coolly slotted the ball into the empty net with the
inside of his right foot.
It was game over and the excited youngster said:
"I am really looking forward to playing against United. Coventry are a great team
and Gordon Strachan is a great manager."
Hedman, Edworthy, Shaw, Williams, Burrows, Telfer (Froggatt, 59 mins), McAllister, Hadji
(Aloisi, 85 mins), Chippo, Whelan, Keane (Gavin Strachan, 84 mins)
Subs: Nuzzo (gk), Breen
Poom, Carbonari, Prior, Eranio (Bohinen, 68 mins), Laursen, Delap, Borbokis, Johnson,
Powell, Burton (Beck, 29 mins), Sturridge (Harper, 76 mins)
Subs: Hoult (gk), Schnoor
GOALS: Keane (43 mins, 69 mins)
REFEREE: Jeff Winter (Stockton-on-Tees)
Coventry Chippo (10 mins, handball), Williams (85 mins, foul)
Derby - Burton (4 mins, encroachment at a free-kick), Sturridge (4 mins, encroachment at a
free kick), Johnson (60 mins, foul), Laursen (76 mins, foul), Harper (85 mins, foul)