Robbie Keane and Mike Stowell are still making the absolute best of the move to the Middle East that continues to throw unique challenges at them.
The former Wolves duo might have feared their season with Maccabi Tel Aviv would soon be over after the war declared by Israel in the first week of October.
But, from a desperate situation in which they were playing only Europa Conference matches, the club have now resumed their League programme – initially in empty stadiums but now in front of supporters once more.
And the fact Tel Aviv are six points clear at the summit of their country’s top flight gives the duo much to look forward to, on the pitch at least.
‘The Yellows’ have won ten of their first 11 league games of 2023-24 and, with terrific results in the cups as well, have the outstanding overall record so far of 21 wins, three draws and only one defeat in 25 matches.
Recognising the sensitivities of the situation in the region, we have not chased either of the ex-Molineux men for interviews but have eagerly been looking at their team’s results and were encouraged by the press conferences given by Keane this week.
Looking upbeat, he spoke in one of them of a nice Christmas lunch having been prepared for the players and staff in the days leading up to the game against Beitar Jerusalem and referred to his gratitude at being on Facetime on Monday with his family, who would presumably have been spending the festive holiday in Israel in safer times.
We know the wife and daughter of Keane’s goalkeeper coach, Mike Stowell, had planned until the autumn to be in Tel Aviv at this time and can only imagine how grateful they all are to the Internet and to the long run of victories that has helped spirits hugely.
For our readers who want to see and hear what the Irish legend had to say about the Christmas separation and a host of on-field matters, we urge a click on this link Watch: Keane ahead of Beitar Jerusalem – Maccabi Tel Aviv Football Club (maccabi-tlv.co.il)
Maccabi have had six odd-goal victories in a row since the league resumption, with games coming thick and fast to make up for the lost time.
They are away tomorrow to Hapoel Haifa, the 8pm kick-off time underlining that New Year’s Eve is not such a celebrated occasion over there.
But the fact that advance notice of fixtures contains links to how fans can buy tickets has to be a welcome development.
Maccabi, who finished third in the table last season under Aitor Karanka, last won the premier division title in 2019-20 and include Avram Grant (two spells), Paulo Sousa and Jordi Cruyff among their other past managers or head coaches.
Their progress in the Conference League this season is similar to the impact Wolves made in the 2019-20 Europa League, They won five games out of six to top their group, having had four victories and two draws in three earlier two-leg knockout rounds.
They also won both games they have played in the domestic Toto Cup this term.