Ireland have no special plan to nullify Welsh superstar Gareth Bale in Friday’s crucial 2018 World Cup qualifier because it would never work anyway, assistant manager Roy Keane said.
Keane, himself a standout if different type of player to Bale when he played for Manchester United and Ireland, said many teams had tried — and failed — to stop the Wales and Real Madrid forward.
Group D leaders Ireland, who have lost several key players to injury and the influential Robbie Brady to suspension, have a two-point lead over Serbia and a four-point advantage over the Welsh going into Friday’s clash.
Keane, whose chance of playing in a World Cup came to a dramatic end in 2002 when he stormed out of a pre-finals training camp, said Tuesday: “Do you not think other players and coaches have tried to come up with a plan before?
“But the top players seem to figure it out and they’ll affect the game.
“Bale has done that for a number of years for Madrid and on the big occasions. I can’t say we have any particular plan, but having said that, we will respect all the Welsh players.
“They have got some good players around Bale who give him that foundation to go and express himself, so that’s why he has a big impact on all their results, whether it be goals or assists. The stats will tell you that.
“But your eyes don’t lie to you: He’s a good player and we look forward to the challenge of challenging ourselves against him.”
Bale, who shone in Wales’s fairytale run to the Euro 2016 semi-finals and has scored four goals in four games in the World Cup qualifiers, has always had the notoriously demanding Keane as a fan.
“He’s a top, top player,” purred Keane.
“He’s a brilliant player who has been doing it regularly at the highest level now for the last few years.
“I have always liked him. I even liked him when I was manager at Sunderland (Bale was a teenager at Southampton).
“He’s a top player, I like watching him playing. He’s a big player for Wales and a big player for Real Madrid.
“Do you know what? Our lads should look forward to the challenge of playing against the best.”