Let Roy be unconfined!

It’s been an extraordinary few days in the short managerial life of Martin O’Neill and his glamorous assistant, Roy Keane

No prizes for guessing who got back today, and the wild-eyed boy had much to say. Roy Keane did not disappoint, in his first press conference as Assistant Manager of the Republic of Ireland soccer team.


Let Roy be unconfined!

Despite speculation to the contrary, the only gags in episode one of the MonKeano double act have been of the humorous variety.

It isn’t every day a soccer manager goes on the record to insist he won’t try to “gag” his second in command before he appears at a press conference. But then, Roy Keane is no ordinary number two.

There were two principals at the top table in Malahide’s Grand Hotel: Roy and Roy’s Reputation.

And it seemed the Reputation was the main attraction.

There was a sense of giddy excitement in the conference room before the former Ireland captain arrived.

Would the irresistible Roy (he’s box-office gold – the undisputed star of the nation’s original and longest running ‘Love-Hate’ drama) behave for the media or would he spontaneously combust before the cameras?

It’s been an extraordinary few days in the short managerial life of Martin O’Neill and his glamorous assistant.

On Saturday, we gazed upon The Presentation of the Manager. And yesterday afternoon came The Adoration of The Roy.

The build-up to Keane’s official “unveiling” was most unusual. His decision to join the Ireland camp after a tumultuous past with the national team almost eclipsed the appointment of his boss, who then had to declare he would not be muzzling his notoriously volatile assistant.

The way people had been talking, there seemed every chance Martin would park Roy in the Aviva stadium dug-out tomorrow night strapped to a parcel trolley with an ice-hockey mask on his face.

It’s all been wildly over the top but fantastically

Pulses racing

The room hushed and a delicious frisson set pulses racing. “He’s here! He’s here!”

It was just as well all the lads were sitting down, because they were weak at the knees.

Enter Roy through a thicket of cameras.

We were a bit disappointed he wasn’t accompanied by Martin O’Neill wielding a whip and a chair.

The number three was embroidered on his team jacket, which confused some of us. But no, he hadn’t already been demoted; it was just the sponsor’s logo.

The questions began. Roy dealt with them calmly and thoughtfully, and as the press conference progressed, so too did his bemusement at the obsession with his temperament and convenient casting as a sort of lovable pantomime villain. It was a pussycat who padded out to meet the press.

Repeated references to the boss deciding he wouldn’t “rein” him in and inferences about his ability to manage his mutinous tendencies while in a subordinate role finally evoked a mildly exasperated response.

“There’s nothing to tame. I’m not some sort of animal, you know what I mean?”

We wanted to cheer.

“I’m a footballing man, I like to work hard and push people, and sometimes I suppose I have got that slightly wrong on one or two occasions over the years” he added.

Humility striking

His humility throughout the press conference was striking. While refusing to dismiss his successes, Roy recognised he hasn’t always got things right. And yes, he is still learning and needs to learn more.

He knows what people say, that they “might see me as a threat, or some sort of a troublemaker of some sort . . .” In a way, he mused, it was “a compliment in itself that Martin thought I could help him”.

Where all some can see is volatility, it was a touching vulnerability that struck a chord with us.

But Keano also made clear he would not be not be a soft touch. He’ll get on with people who respect him, and he’ll say what has to be said to the lads if tough talking needs to be done.

As Roy explored his emotions, his passions and his hope “the chemistry will work” between him and Martin O’Neill, it sometimes felt like stumbling in on a group therapy session with one patient and a roomful of analysts.

“Roy, it strikes me you’ve always been very true to yourself in what you say . . .” began one question. Someone else asked if he feared “losing the passion”.

The patient listened and answered, sitting slightly hunched at the table, barely moving. He never once raised a hand as he spoke, unflinching as the analysts conducted their examination.

The mood was different in Malahide to what it was like with MON on Saturday. Then, there was an air of barely suppressed celebration. The blazers were out in force.

Roy made some mischievous quips, allowing a bold smile to flit across his face – most notably when referring to himself as a saintly Mother Teresa to his manager’s bad cop. He once famously dismissed Niall Quinn as Mother Teresa.

The football journalists laughed with him at every little aside, hanging on his every word. Maybe not besotted, but damn near it.

‘Fire and ice’

If the evidence of their two appearances w

as to be taken at face value, Roy would be the straight man to O’Neill’s larger personality. Already playing the supporting role.

The boss thought he did the wrong thing in Japan by leaving his team during the world cup.

“Martin is entitled to be wrong,” said his number two, sweetly.

When asked if he was surprised to get the call to serve his country again, Roy deadpanned: “Nothing shocks me, I didn’t fall off the kitchen table.”

“Fire and ice” is what they have been calling the new partnership. Keano the fire, O’Neill the ice.

Going by yesterday’s performance, it’s more like ice and lemon – in equal parts. Both men cool and crystal clear in their press conferences, with the occasional zinging twist from some tart quips.

First hurdle successfully cleared for MonKeano and a winning – not to mention winsome – start for Martin’s glamorous assistant.

Future entertainment seems assured.

Let Roy be unconfined.