Robbie Keane ATKISL

Robbie Keane - 'In the next few years and into the future, I wanna be a manager'

Indian Super League (ISL) side ATK's player-manager, Robbie Keane dropped hints of hanging up his playing boots after they lost to FC Goa 3-1 in their Round of 16 game in the 2018 Super Cup in Bhubaneshwar on Tuesday.

37-year-old Keane, who took additional charge of the Kolkata outfit for the last game of the league season after Ashley Westwood stepped down, faced his first defeat in a managerial role. Earlier, he had guided his team to a win in their last ISL 2017/18 game and also won the Super Cup qualifier last month, completing both games in entirety as a player too.

Speaking to the media after the loss, the former Liverpool and Spurs forward was at first reluctant to answer any questions related to a contract extension with his current club ATK. He said, "For me, it is not the right time to speak about my future, at this moment."

Later on, when asked about his experience in the three games in a player-manager role, he stated, "I have enjoyed it. It has been a good experience. It is something (managing) I want to do in the future. I have made no secret of that in the last few years.

"I will sit down and see what I wanna do for the next year and the next couple of years. Certainly, in the next few years and into the future, I want to be a manager. I've done my coaching badges and I am excited about the future."

Robbie Keane ATK NorthEast United ISL 2017-18Vipin Pawar / ISL / SPORTZPICS

Keane, who missed half of ATK's ISL games through injury, still managed to score eight goals in eleven games, with one each in the last three.

He explained how it was tough for ATK coming into the knock-out tournament. "We finished ninth in the league, need to understand that. We're never the favourites. We were optimistic of course and wanted to win the cup. At the end of the day, sometimes you have to hold your hands up. We got beat by a better team," he said.

The former LA Galaxy man was asked what impression did football in India have on him. He replied, "There are some good things going of course. But, there is certainly a lot of things they need to improve on. It's not for me to sit and tell the league what to do. In the MLS, there were things that needed improvement and they have (improved). This league has only started. This is the fourth season. Certainly, a lot to improve on, if you want to be a top, top league."

He also took a potshot at the dwindling stadium attendances in the ISL, highlighted none more than his own franchise, which had a mean attendance of 12,669 across the season at a 68000-capacity Salt Lake Stadium.

Robbie Keane ATKISL

"I just wish we were playing in front of thousands and thousands of fans. Need to have a look at that really with most stadiums. The only full house we played this season was against Kerala (Blasters). The rest were nearly empty. I understand the Indian culture that when you are winning, people come to watch the games, when you lose, they don't.
"That is just one example. There are a lot of things that they can do if they want to take themselves seriously and look forward and try and create that. There is some good stuff, of course, some good players coming through. I certainly wish them luck in the future."

Finally, there was high praise for 20-year-old Hitesh Sharma, who Keane touted to be a future star. "If you look at Hitesh, he's got a great goal in the last game. He's gone from being a wide player to a number ten to a central midfielder. I think he was fantastic in those two games.

"Eugeneson was a big problem for us this season as he was injured for the whole season. So, that was a player that we missed. Hitesh has been great and one for the future for a manager thinking of playing him in the middle of the park. He retains the ball very very well and is confident in possession. He got a great goal last time and was brilliant today," he concluded.