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Thursday, January 12, 2012
GALAXY: Keane to Villa a done deal

By Scott French

Robbie Keane was introduced as Aston Villa's newest signing Thursday morning, hours after the long-anticipated loan deal with the Galaxy was finalized.


The Irish striker figures to debut for the Birmingham-based club Saturday afternoon at Everton, where he will line up against Galaxy captain Landon Donovan.

Robbie Keane
Keane
Keane, who previously has played in England for Wolverhampton, Coventry City, Leeds United, Tottenham and West Ham United, has a goal for the game: To pull a “Titi.”

Thierry “Titi” Henry sealed his legendary status at Arsenal by scoring a sizzling winner off the bench last weekend in his return on loan from the New York Red Bulls, and Keane's primary job is to score goals.

Just ask Alex McLeish.

“I saw Thierry Henry's goal the other night, and it was a fantastic moment regardless of which team you support,” the Aston Villa manager told the media Wednesday. “I thought, 'Wow, it would be good if Robbie can make that kind of impact.' "

“Can I do a Thierry Henry? I hope so,” Keane said at Aston Villa's weekly news conference. “It would be great to do that. It was written that he was always going to come back and score on his return to Arsenal. Good luck to him, he is obviously a legend at Arsenal.

"If I can do something like that in the six [league] games, and help the team, that is great.”

Keane could play in as many as eight games during the 6-week loan period, which will run through Villa's Feb. 25 EPL match at Wigan Athletic. He'll then join Ireland's national team, preparing for Euro 2012 with a Feb. 29 friendly against the Czech Republic in Dublin, before returning to the Galaxy before its March 7 first leg at Toronto FC in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

“I’m delighted to be back in the Premier League,” Keane said. “This is only short-term, of course, but there has been a lot of speculation over the years linking my name to Villa and, finally, I’m here. I’m excited about it and I know I’ll really enjoy my time here. It’s only for two months, but I will do my absolute best in these two months.

“Villa is a great club, a club with a massive tradition and standing in the game, and Villa Park is one of the finest stadiums I’ve ever played in. If selected to play on Saturday, I will genuinely be looking forward to it, and I’ll be excited to be involved in Premier League action again.

“I’ve been training with the players here for the past few days, and it’s been great and I’m not naive enough to think I’ll just walk straight into the team. There are really good players here, but if I can help and contribute to the overall effort of the team, then, hopefully, I can be of benefit to Aston Villa. That’s my aim.”

Aston Villa, which is looking to bolster its attack after Emile Heskey last weekend suffered a tendon injury that will sideline him for a month, is excited to have Keane. He's a superb finisher with world-class ability to open space with his movement up front.

“He's a great player and he has been for many years,” said Villa forward Darren Bent, who was Keane's teammate at Tottenham. “There is no doubt he will give absolutely everything during his time here. He knows the game inside-out, and from what I have seen of him so far, he's bright as a button.

“He will help all the other strikers here, but, more importantly, he will help Villa. He will bring experience which will aid a few of the younger lads who are breaking through into the team and the other youngsters in and around the place.”

McLeish targeted Keane after the forward arranged a training spell with Tottenham before the Galaxy's preseason camp opens later this month, and the forward joined Aston Villa's training sessions on Monday.

"We have been pursuing Robbie to bring him in with his extra experience in terms of the attack,” McLeish said Thursday. “I believe we could be doing with that when you see one or two of our players getting injured over the last couple of weeks. It does leave us a little bit short.

"We've got young kids trying to prove themselves in the Premier League, but it's very scatter-gun the experience they are getting with 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there. I really believe we could be doing with that wee bit of experience that someone like Robbie provides.”

Aston Villa has a half-dozen Irish players in its first team, and Keane will be joining three Ireland teammates -- goalkeeper Shay Given and defenders Richard Dunne and Ciaran Clark -- with the Villans.

“Aston Villa has had great Irish connections down the years with players of the caliber of Paul McGrath, Steve Staunton, Andy Townsend, Ray Houghton and many others having played here,” Keane said. “Since I was a kid watching English football on TV, there have always been Irish players at Aston Villa, and people in Ireland have always followed the team closely because of that tradition.”

Keane says he is “looking forward to seeing my L.A. Galaxy team-mate Landon Donovan” in Saturday's game at Goodison Park in Liverpool.

“I know he was looking forward to coming back to the Premier League, and I know he enjoyed his time here before,” Keane said. “So I look forward to seeing him, and I look forward to shaking his hand, hopefully after securing three points for Villa.”