Keane sits out training as King plans for five-man midfield

The Republic of Ireland captain was absent from training with an ankle problem, allowing interim manager Noel King to tinker with a 4-5-1 formation ahead of the Germany game
Ireland's interim management team made the issue of Robbie Keane’s fitness crystal clear after the striker sat out training on Wednesday morning just two days before the World Cup qualifier in Germany.

Goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly insisted that the LA Galaxy frontman’s absence from the squad session in Malahide was a precautionary measure after suffering a minor ankle problem. “The medical staff are looking at that to get him right and sort him out,” he said.

“As per usual, we always take precaution with players who have niggles and sitting out training to rest their respective parts of their bodies is normal. There’s no difference in terms of that with Robbie.

“We’ll see how it goes. We fly out there [Germany] now and it’s being closely monitoring with further assessment to come. It’s just a precaution we have to take," Kelly added.

Keane scored twice for the Galaxy at the weekend and only joined up with the squad late on Monday
evening after his transatlantic journey but is expected to captain the side in Cologne on Friday, as well as play the ‘lone’ role, which caretaker boss Noel King hinted at yesterday.

FAI High Performance Director Ruud Dokter has been present in Malahide all week but took an active role in training on Wednesday morning as he assisted King in preparing the players for the challenge of Germany at the RheinEnergieStadion.

However, King still seems unclear on which players will best be suited to the system he will adopt in Cologne. Yesterday’s ‘tactical’ 11-a-side game provided hints but King opted to chop and change the personnel as well as tactics throughout the work-out.

The under-21 manager is tactically astute and has spent a lot of time trying to formulate a winning strategy with his preferred formation veering towards a 4-5-1 system.

Everton duo Darron Gibson and James McCarthy were partnered in the engine room by Glenn Whelan on Wednesday in the ‘bibs’ while Crystal Palace’s Damien Delaney looks likely to get the nod at centre-back alongside Ciaran Clark.

King revealed the dilemma he was facing over the versatile Marc Wilson with the 26-year-old operating in midfield this season for Stoke but he is now certain to line-out at left-back in Cologne after occupying the berth in training all week.

With a cloud hanging over the fitness of Robbie Keane, rejuvenated Wolves striker Kevin Doyle was given the task of leading the line in training but Shane Long will provide stiff competition for that role while Celtic’s Anthony Stokes, another re-called player, is being tipped to operate the left flank.

McCarthy and Coleman could be the only players on show to have featured in the 6-1 demolishing at the hands of Joachim Low’s side last October and goalkeeping coach Kelly insists the squad must not reflect on past failures.

"If you look at the team it’s completely different and if you look at the squad it’s different as well," King admitted. "We have to go into this game and treat it on its value. Everyone knows about Germany, everyone knows about Bayern Munich and the attacking football they are playing.

“You can’t run away from it, you can’t hide from it, you’ve got to try and deal with it. That’s what we’re trying to do in training this week and that’s what we’ll continue to do going into Friday.”

It’s been made previously clear that King won’t be appointed the manager on a full-time basis no matter what is achieved over the next seven days and Dokter, who has the task of appointing Trapattoni’s successor alongside Ray Houghton, was reluctant to comment on the recruiting process.

“We are doing it together. There has been a lot of interest and yes, we have talked to some people, and that’s actually all I want to say about it because it’s an ongoing process.”

Asked if that process could take some time, Dokter replied: “Yes. We’re looking for a  good manager for the senior team. That’s all I want to say about it."