Keith Francis Keane (born 20 November 1986) is an Irish professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for League Two club Cambridge United. He is a former academy player who graduated from the youth ranks at Luton Town. A versatile footballer, Keane played in every position for Luton other than in goal or as a striker, and played for the club across four different divisions.
Born in Luton, Bedfordshire, Keane made his first-team debut for Luton Town under manager Mike Newell at the age of 16, in a Football League Trophy victory against Rushden & Diamonds early in the 2003–04 season. Keane played well and stayed in the side for a further 16 games that season, his league debut coming in a 0–0 draw at Wycombe Wanderers in February 2004. Newell predominantly played Keane at right-back as cover for Kevin Foley, but he also featured in midfield. He was called up to play for the Republic of Ireland under-19 side in February 2004. Keane scored his first goal for Luton on 17 April 2004 as a last minute winner in a 3–2 victory over Bristol City.
During the 2004–05 season, Keane became a regular squad member. Appearing at centre-back, full-back and in midfield, he made 19 appearances in all competitions. Luton went on to win League One that season with a massive 98 points, rewarding Keane with a winner's medal.
The next season started with Keane as a Championship player, and as a Republic of Ireland under-21 international after making his debut against Cyprus, joining Foley in the side. Utilised at right-back, left-back, in central defence and in right midfield during the course of the 2005–06 campaign, Keane's ability to play in numerous positions saw him make 12 appearances, scoring once. He was awarded the Young Player of the Year award that season for his performances, and was rewarded with a new two-year contract.
In the 2006–07 season, Keane made 19 league appearances, scoring one goal, as Luton were relegated to League One. He was called up to the Republic of Ireland under-21 team for their games against Sweden and England in November 2007.
The next season, after Newell's departure, Keane was frozen out of the first team by new manager Kevin Blackwell, who preferred to play his own new signing Richard Jackson. However, Keane was eventually brought back into the team to replace Jackson, and later made the position his own when Luton Town fan favourite Mick Harford replaced Blackwell as manager in January 2008. Harford made Keane club captain, but the price of administration condemned Luton to another relegation, this time to League Two. Keane won the Supporters' Player of the Year award at the end of the season, as well as the Players' Player of the Year and Internet Player of the Season award.
Luton were docked 30 points for financial irregularities at the beginning of the 2008–09 season, and although Keane made 40 league appearances (primarily in midfield), he could not prevent the inevitable as Luton were relegated from The Football League for the first time in 89 years. Some solace could be found as Luton beat Scunthorpe United 3–2 in the Football League Trophy final at Wembley, with Keane producing a superb performance in midfield. His displays earned Keane the Supporters' Player of the Year and Internet Player of the Season awards for the second year in a row.
On 15 January 2010, Keane was placed on the transfer list at Luton. His refusal to sign a new contract, which would expire in June 2010 and effectively mean he would leave the club on a free transfer, was cited as the reason. However, the January transfer window closed with no bids for the player received. Then-Luton manager Richard Money stated the club was in negotiations with Keane over a new contract regardless of his transfer status, calling him a "talisman" to Luton. On 9 February 2010, Keane scored direct from a corner kick in the last minute of the game, his first goal in over two years, to earn Luton a dramatic 2–1 win against then-league leaders Oxford United. He was subsequently shown a red card for a second bookable offence after celebrating the goal with the Luton fans. This goal later won Luton Town's Goal of the Season award as voted for by fans.
Keane dismissed any speculation as to his Luton future by signing a new two-year contract with the club on 9 June 2010. Keane played the full 120 minutes of the Conference play-off final against AFC Wimbledon in May 2011; a game that saw Luton miss out on a return to the Football League by losing the penalty shoot-out.
League One side Stevenage, then managed by Graham Westley, made two bids for Keane in August 2011, though both were rejected. Defensive injuries meant Keane was moved back into defence at the beginning of the 2011–12 season, with two performances described by manager Gary Brabin as "outstanding". Keane went on to make 42 appearances on what turned out to be his final season at Kenilworth Road.
Preston North End
Keane scored his first goal for the club on Good Friday 2013 in a 1–1 home draw with Portsmouth. He intercepted an attempted clearance before volleying home from the edge of the 18-yard box. On 17 December 2013, Keane extended his contract with Preston for a further twelve months, thus keeping him at the club until the summer of 2015.
Keane was restricted to four league appearances due to injury. In January 2016, he rejoined Stevenage on loan until 20 February 2016. On 25 March 2016, Keane rejoined Stevenage once more on another one month loan deal.
- As of match played 25 March 2016.
|Club||Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Other||Total|
|Luton Town||2003–04||Second Division||15||1||1||0||0||0||1||0||17||1|
|Preston North End||2012–13||League One||26||1||1||0||2||0||2||0||31||1|
|Crawley Town (loan)||2014–15||League One||12||0||1||0||—||2||0||15||0|
|Stevenage (loan)||2014–15||League Two||7||0||—||—||—||7||0|
|Cambridge United||2015–16||League Two||4||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||5||0|
|Stevenage (loan)||2015–16||League Two||6||1||—||—||—||6||1|
- Appearance(s) in Football League Trophy
- One appearance in FA Trophy, two in Conference Premier play-offs
- Three appearances in FA Trophy, three in Conference Premier play-offs
- Four appearances and one goal in FA Trophy, three appearances in Conference Premier play-offs
- Appearance in League One play-offs