Roy Keane cuts to the chase and says new management team here to qualify
Corkman believes Ireland have enough quality players to get to France
Fionn Slattery (10) has his Republic of Ireland jersey signed by Roy Keane in Malahide yesterday. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.
Like Martin O’Neill before him, Roy Keane said yesterday the Republic of Ireland’s new management team will have failed in their roles if they and their players do not reach the next European Championship. Both men, it seems, believe they have inherited the basis of a squad that is good enough to make it to France and neither expects there to be any second chances.
“Let’s cut to the chase – we’re here to qualify,” said the Corkman yesterday at his first press conference since being named as assistant to O’Neill. “We look forward to the draw, we look forward to the games coming up on Friday and Tuesday, but ultimately, that’s what we’re here for.
“There might be circumstances – and Martin has mentioned this – if we’re a bit unlucky and we’ve done really well and the progress has been there for everyone to see, but in terms of qualifying, that’s the remit, you know.”
And that, he says, should not be the end of it with the 42-year-old, who has previously criticised the FAI, the players and the fans for not travelling to major tournaments with sufficiently high expectations, again suggesting that “making up the numbers,” should not be enough.
“Let’s try and qualify,” says the former Manchester United and Ireland skipper, “and, please God, if we manage to do that, kick on and not just go to tournaments thinking well we’ve qualified and that’s great. Let’s go and have an impact, but first and foremost, before you can have an impact on any tournament, you have to qualify. That’s the aim. Let’s see how it goes.”
It was typically forthright stuff from Keane whose appearance in Malahide yesterday attracted huge media interest. He skipped over some of the more contentious questions he was asked during the course of the hour-long event while dealing fairly frankly, often humorously, with others.
On the team and its prospects, though, he was open and upbeat, strongly suggesting that many of the players are more talented than they are sometimes given credit for or realise even if he did draw the line at Ray Houghton’s claim last week that he had said several were more talented than him.
“I don’t remember saying that,” he said, “maybe Ray had a few pints in him . . . No, maybe I’ve said something along the lines that maybe there’s more potential . . . sometimes the players are the last to think that.”
The extent of the players’ ability to deliver on that potential, it has become clear, will heavily influence the new management team’s tactical choices but Keane is confident, he says, that they will not be unduly restricted.
“From what I’ve seen over the last day or two,” he says, “there are plenty of good options from players who can play in different ways. Listen, I’m not saying Ireland can all of a sudden start playing like Brazil or Barcelona , I understand that. But don’t have a closed mind to it. Believe you can play some attractive football.
“Ireland have some good players – the boy Hoolahan, McCarthy, Ireland if he gets back. And every time I see Anthony Stokes,” he continued, clearly warming to the topic, “he affects games. I’ve worked with Stokesy, Aiden McGeady . . . they’re all talented boys, no matter what way you look at it. And you hope that when they turn up for Ireland, they believe they can get results. We want to win football matches, that’s the name of the game.”
McCarthy, he seemed especially impressed by: “Clearly he is a good player or Roberto Martinez would not have taken him to Everton but I’ve looked at him over the last few years because Wigan is only down the road from where I live so I have been to see them a few times and he is certainly progressing very, very well.
“Certainly when I have seen him against the very good teams he has stepped up, which is a very, very good sign and my first impression over the last two days is that the boy has a chance of being a top player.”
One or two of the others – Stokes included – Keane has had his difficulties with but he dismissed the idea his falling out with Jon Walters, when the striker wanted away from Ipswich, would affect their relationship now.
“Jon Walters did very well for me, very well for me,” he said. “I was disappointed with the way it ended but any time a player wants to leave a club . . . it’s not going to be a pals’ act.”
He had similar takes on other squad members and the FAI itself, rarely suggesting he had been wrong in a particular instance but contending instead that if he and various other parties had found themselves at loggerheads on a particular issue then there is still no reason why they cannot work perfectly well now.
Given how many times down the years he has returned to its failings, his apparent enthusiasm now for working with the association, or more particularly its chief executive, is perhaps the most surprising shift in his view point but then he couldn’t resist hinting that his employers may have come a little further than him over the last 11 years.
“We’ve had a lovely few days,” he observed casually at one point. “The hotel’s been lovely, the food has been excellent, the training ground is lovely . . . no pot-holes, we’ve had footballs, it’s been great, bibs, everything. Major progress.” Beside him, the association’s communications director smiled politely. Somewhere farther off, Delaney might just have thought “uh-oh” to himself.