Keane happy to be pressed into action

Republic of Ireland assistant manager pitch-perfect as he delivers first pitchside update

Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane speaks to the media after training at Gannon Park in Malahide, Co Dublin, yesterday. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane speaks to the media after training at Gannon Park in Malahide, Co Dublin, yesterday. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho


Pitchside updates by Ireland’s assistant managers have not

been headline events, with even those given by World Cup winner Marco Tardelli generally leaving the assembled press corps wishing they could have been baffled for another day by his boss.

The task is mundane enough: throw out a bit of team news along with the odd usable quote, to keep things ticking over on the media front in the build up to a game.

It’s not a concept you would want to be selling Tardelli’s successor, Roy Keane, but as tends to be the case with the Corkman, once he had been persuaded this was what he was supposed to do, he did it exceptionally well.

Yesterday’s post-training exchange, in fact, lasted more than half an hour, unheard of since Bobby Robson used to get so carried away he’d use all of the assembled voice recorders to represent players in order to illustrate some tactical or technical point. It was generally enthralling stuff.

With Keane set to make his debut on the beat yesterday, numbers pitchside were up and he was worth the trip.

It got off to a decidedly awkward start, though, when a member of the broadcast media decided to kick off with the seemingly innocuous opener:

“Any update?” Keane replied with a flat “No” then stood and stared at the journalist as though the update request in question had been in relation to the 42 year-old’s marriage.

A moment or two passed, slowly, and then he asked what sort of update we were looking for. Injuries, came the clarification. He seemed to relax and then we were off.

Tardelli would talk for maybe five or six minutes because people kept asking questions in the hope he would eventually say something interesting. Yesterday, people kept asking questions because Keane’s replies almost invariably were.

He sidestepped the two potential controversies: Alan Pardew’s ludicrous behaviour with regard to David Meyler on Saturday and Mick McCarthy’s suggestion in an interview the following day that Keane had apologised for Saipan.

The first time the latter was brought up, the out was build into the question. “When you saw the papers did you roll your eyes?” Keane’s reaction seemed instinctive, with the former Manchester United star replying: “Well, I roll my eyes most mornings.”

The reporters laughed while Keane’s frown initially held firm but eventually he joined in.

Pressed again later, off camera, about McCarthy’s claim, he held firm: “You want to talk about certain things; make a few comments? I’m not going to bother, nothing, another day,” he said, before adding with a grin, “maybe tomorrow”.

When Meyler came up again, he joked: “He did exactly what you would expect him to do. He’s a Corkman, isn’t he? I had to put that one in. We don’t go down easily.”

On most things, though, he was engaging and on message, positive about how things have improved within the FAI (“Where do I start?”), the squad he and Martin O’Neill inherited (“People say we will be up against some tough teams but we are a good team”) and his own role in the set-up (“I’m enjoying it. I feel very lucky, that’s not worn off in three months”).

He sounded genuinely enthused by the prospect of being able to make the players in the squad better but also genuinely taken by how good they are already; as when he got talking about the ones he had watched playing for Stoke City over the weekend.

“They’re really good players,” he said. “I know people have been criticising Glenn Whelan but I’ve watched Glenn since he was at Sheffield Wednesday . . . always liked him, really good player, good pro. When you’re in the trenches, they’re the people you want with you. So we can be a bit more positive about what we have and we’ll have a chance – that’s including the media – we’re all quick to write our own chances off for our own players and obviously even the game yesterday – you go to League of Ireland matches – I’ll tell you what – you give all of these players credit. All good stuff; really good stuff.”

‘Doom and gloom’
For all that, he admits he is prone to a bit of “doom and gloom,” himself at times but appears to have made a conscious effort to check any negativity in at the door.

James McCarthy, he agreed, could be a really big player for Ireland, one who not only performs but inspires those around him, but, Keane suggested, he needs both time and space in which to develop.

“He’s a quiet lad,” he said. “We’re all different. People always look to when I played but that only came later on in my career when I was a bit more mature and put a bit more demands on people. But it certainly wasn’t the case when I was at Nottingham Forest or I first went to United. It’s just a case of James learning his game.

“There’s high expectation (but) let the lad enjoy his football and mature and if he continues at the pace he’s going we’ll be all pleased. He’s at a brilliant club in Everton, a fantastic club, working under a manager he already knows and I’m looking forward to working with James. And, to be honest, with all the players.”

It was positive stuff although the mood shifted a little again when he was asked about the decision to team up with Roddy Doyle for the second volume of his memoirs.

“Who else,” he asked about a brief stare, “did you want me to go with?” Moments later, with it becoming apparent the questions really were running out, he was gone.

Damien Delaney, by the way, picked up a knock playing for Crystal Palace, while Brian Murphy had been called into the squad as a replacement for Rob Elliott.

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