Keane believes future is out of his hands

 

CHAMPIONSHIP:If TEAMS are supposed to be moulded in the image of their manager then somewhere along the line at Portman Road, the message has been lost in translation. Ipswich Town bear few, if any, of the hallmarks which set their manager apart from the crowd during his distinguished playing career.

Roy Keane was feisty, confrontational, aggressive and, most importantly, rarely looked as if he knew the meaning of the word defeat during his 635 appearances for Nottingham Forest and Manchester United. Ipswich, by contrast, are a shrinking violet of a team, low on confidence and wilting at any sign of adversity.

It is a malaise which has seen them lose six Championship matches in succession, and nine of their past 11, this latest defeat allowing the bottom-of-the-table Preston to claim a first victory in eight games and serving only to intensify speculation over Keane’s future.

The Corkman, who signed a two-year contract in April 2009, intimated after this latest defeat he would not walk out, as he did at Sunderland little over two years ago. But he also conceded the club’s run of results and performances are “unacceptable” and his future is now “out of his hands”.

Keane retains support in the dressingroom, particularly from the midfielder Grant Leadbitter, whom he signed from Sunderland for €3.1 million in September 2009 and who has called on the club’s board to back, not sack, the manager.

Leadbitter said: “Every player in the dressingroom wants Roy Keane to stay. Everyone is behind him and we still have faith in him. It’s us losing the games, not the manager, and we have got to put things right.”

Keane is being forced by Ipswich’s financial policy to play more young players than he would like, and pointed to his own centre-backs Tommy Smith and Troy Brown, both 20, in comparison to Preston’s veteran Wayne Brown, 33, and Leon Cort, 31.

“Don’t ask me questions about things I have no control over,” said Keane. “Nine defeats in 11 is not acceptable. The run we are on is not acceptable. I have been in football since I was nine years of age and this is just not good enough. It is poor at any level, in any league, in any country.

“The first half was fine, no problem. But the game is 90 minutes long and once again we didn’t seem to be able to score goals. We gave a soft one away and suffered for it. But this isn’t just a problem right now, it has been going on for a few months now, even last year.

“We are in a relegation battle at the moment, that’s for sure.”

Few players are more so than Preston’s on-loan striker Iain Hume, whose 50th-minute goal eased some of the pressure building around their manager, Darren Ferguson.

Hume, who returned to Barnsley after the game but hopes to sign for Preston permanently during the transfer window, has fought back from an injury which almost ended his career two years ago.

The 27-year-old suffered a fractured skull in a collision and still bears the scars physically, if not psychologically.

Guardian Service