Fair play to the lad, obviously


FICTION:Roy Keane’s Labrador is nearly as famous as her master – and she plays a highly entertaining game

Triggs: The Autobiography of Roy Keane’s Dog By Paul Howard Hachette Books Ireland, 392pp. £13.99

ONE OF THE WORST things about getting older is that bits of you work less well than they should or than you might like them to. It begins to define your life. So it’s not exactly ideal when you wake up one morning to see your death emblazoned across the front pages of the tabloids, even if those reports are premature and therefore plainly wrong.

This was the situation that greeted Triggs in the not too distant past. Triggs is Roy Keane’s walker and, as a close associate of Roy’s, a creature keen on rigour and the truth. Oh, and Triggs is a dog. And a bit of a hypochondriac, so death stories are even more unwelcome.

Triggs has just published an autobiography, and it is as fascinating as it is funny and moving. It sets out to dispel many inaccuracies. For example, Triggs is female: yup, she’s a she, not a he, in spite of what most people think. Yes, she does cock her leg to pee, but there’s a reason for that, and she reveals it. Far from being any old mutt – she’s a Labrador, actually – she can read a game of football like a master, although it was not always so. As a pup she preferred documentaries on the History Channel to matches, but once her interest in football was aroused she never looked back. Her understanding of historical battle tactics as a result of her puphood viewing stood to her and Roy throughout his career. Her knowledge of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, in the Korean War, is just one case in point. When Triggs explained this battle to Roy, he declared that there was “no excuse for bad planning”, and you might say that was a feature of his gripes with clubs and country down the years.

She describes beautifully, and with much love, Roy’s voice rising in tone and pitch as he gets more and more uptight about something, his random use of “obviously”, “as I’ve said in the past” and “fair play to the lad” – even, at one point, mentioning “the lad, Zedong”, and, er, that would be Mao Zedong – all the while influencing how his team-mates speak. When Triggs relates proceedings at team meetings called by Alex Ferguson for his players to let off steam, they’re all speaking in Roy parlance – and it is, frankly, hilarious.

She has always been a keen judge of personality and is, as she says herself, “a bitch”. She tells tales of Beckham, the Neville brothers, Wayne Rooney, Alex Ferguson and Dwight Yorke and, at times, has had to remove the names of others on legal advice. Although not an aggressive dog, she has always had a terror of the baby-faced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that no one can quite explain, least of all herself.

But there is an especial hatred of Bob Dylan, who is, she points out, a bad poet and a terrible influence on Roy. Whenever Roy listens to “a bit of Bob” bad things happen. “The man is a dangerous lunatic,” Triggs declares.

Her ill health has always been directly related to Roy’s crises, but, as with all other aspects of her life, she is no slouch and has researched the many complicated things that are wrong with her. Most extraordinary is the occasion when she learns how she was named, and is so shocked that she goes into a decline as hysterical as it is historic.

And of course, there are the walks. You’d have to have lived on another planet not to recognise the iconic photographs of Triggs and Roy tramping the roads of Greater Manchester, usually after one of his transgressions – for example, the bust-up in Saipan. Triggs doesn’t spend much time on that but does give a refreshingly succinct and extremely rational analysis of why it happened and how the trouble started well ahead of the event itself.

She has always found it best to bring Roy walking when he’s planning – or trying to resolve whatever trouble he might have got himself into. And it has made her famous. She gets fan mail, gifts and requests for play dates and appearances, but she has declined all of them, as she is not in the fame game and, besides, her life is all about Roy. So much so that she has managed to write a book that never mentions his happy marriage and kids – tunnel vision of a canine kind, but understandable because of the level of her devotion to the lad Keane.

This is a big book, but you’ll whizz through it with delight. I laughed out loud many times while reading it, both in private and in public, and had a loony grin on my face when I wasn’t giggling audibly. Fair play to the lad Howard, who ghostwrote with Triggs.

The bitch can be prissy and overblown in her language – it’s a result of all that self-education in front of Roy’s many televisions – but she talks a great game of football and a lot of sense about life. She moves at speed from dissecting an international side’s tactics to scavenging the bins for interesting vegetable peelings, from advising Roy on tactics to smelling other dogs’ poo. You end up adoring her, and maybe Roy too.

If you love football you have to read this, obviously, book.

Pauline McLynn’s first young-adult novel, Jenny Q: Stitched Up, is published by Puffin

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