Roy Keane needs to publicly accept a few truths
His radio chat with Today FM’s Ray D’Arcy suggests he’s not equipped to handle new shift in player power
Former Manchester United legend Roy Keane at the recent game between Everton and United at Goodison Park.
A little over a decade ago when Jaap Stam was shunted out the Old Trafford door to Lazio after revealing in his book that Alex Ferguson had tapped him up during his PSV days, Roy Keane observed: “His transfer . . . illustrates how little power footballers have in the game.”
Having suggested last week that the current Manchester United crop ought to be ashamed by their roles in the failure of David Moyes at the club, it seems reasonable to assume that Keane’s position on players and the power they wield has shifted a little.
The issue is a live one for a man who acknowledged in an interview with Ray D’Arcy on Today FM yesterday morning that he is anxious himself to get back into club management. He dismissed the idea that he would “even in a dreamworld” fancy the United job but it’s hard to imagine that deep down he doesn’t hanker to manage at that level some day.
Just a few short years after the end of his outstanding playing career, though, Moyes’ fate highlighted how Keane’s stints at Sunderland and Ipswich have made him vulnerable to the vagaries of a star-studded dressing room although for the moment his more pressing challenge is to persuade somebody to give him a shot at one of the big clubs.
Through much of yesterday’s chat, which was essentially a promotional event for this week’s Irish guide Dogs’ national Shades fundraising campaign, it wasn’t hard to imagine how one of them might be brought around to the idea.
Keane can certainly be humble, humorous and insightful when he wants to be but his capacity for self awareness still seems to be on a trip switch that sometimes clicks to the off position mid-conversation without the Corkman appearing to realise.
It was evident when he recalled his time at Sunderland: “I really enjoyed it. I had good people behind me, Niall (Quinn) was a good chairman. I had a good chief executive and people backed me. I recruited really well in terms of characters to the club and we had an element of success.”
Obviously that success – getting promoted to the Premier League in rather spectacular fashion in 2007 – brought a far greater challenge in terms of top-flight survival but the club apparently reckoned it was still being supportive a year and a half later when what seems to have been a misunderstanding between the manager and Ellis Short led to the Irishman turning his car around on a motorway and instructing his representatives to negotiate his departure.
Still, what for some looks like a fit of pique seems to fit in rather well with the “man of passion and purpose” image that many people find irresistible in Keane. His departures from Saipan and United are the key examples of what supporters see as typifying his great courage and the price he has paid for it.
To fans, those high-minded principles are an important part of what made him fantastic but would-be employers, if the job offers or relative lack of them are anything to go by, have seen them view him to be more trouble than he’s worth, especially given how he has actually done as a manager since that first remarkable season in charge at the Stadium of Light.
It’s understandable he might want to tone down the image but to suggest that the “old Roy” was little more than a media construct, as he seemed to yesterday, might just be pushing it a little.
“The media play games,” he told D’Arcy. “As I say I’ve maybe played a small part over the years but a lot got exaggerated, certainly about the things I was supposed to have said, even when sometimes it’s that ex-team-mates are supposed to have said this or that . . . a lot of the time if I’ve said something I’m having a laugh with somebody, it’ll be tongue in cheek.”
That’s fair enough with regard to his “So what?” reply to Gary Neville’s text message letting Keane know his new phone number but less so in relation to something like the apparently humourless reply to Dwight Yorke after the striker sent him a message in the wake of his departure from Sunderland.
Maybe Yorke deserved it but the fact remains that with Keane it wasn’t all banter blown out of proportion by the media.
The Corkman may or may not have told Alfe Inge Haaland to “take that you c**t” as he took the then Manchester City defender out in a derby game in 2001. Either way the challenge was appalling, his attitude afterwards equally so. And the media didn’t make any of it up.
“People always throw at me that maybe when I was a manager people didn’t live up to my standards and all this nonsense,” he said yesterday, “but as long as people are doing their best I’m quite happy.”
It’s certainly not the way everyone who played for him remembers it although there are clearly those who liked him as a manager and the reaction within the Irish squad seems to be generally positive so far.
He also revealed yesterday that his ongoing feud with Alex Ferguson is unlikely to end any time soon.
In the meantime, taking the job as number two to Martin O’Neill should pay dividends but if he is to get any sort of real platform on which to rebuild his managerial reputation in England he probably needs to publicly accept that when he went out and slaughtered his team-mates – some who also played under Moyes – MUTV didn’t make him do it.
* This article was amended at 11.15am to correct the date of the Alfe Inge Haaland incident