Keane calls on players to justify selection for Euro 2016 finals

Assistant manager resists temptation to kill, but wants to see more from squad survivors

Republic of Ireland soccer team assistant manager Roy Keane:   “telling good lads they’ve  not made it – obviously the manager spoke to them – was very difficult.” Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Republic of Ireland soccer team assistant manager Roy Keane: “telling good lads they’ve  not made it – obviously the manager spoke to them – was very difficult.” Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Having suggested not long before that he “wanted to kill a few of them,” over the course of Tuesday’s game against Belarus, Roy Keane has called on the players that made Martin O’Neill’s travelling party for France to justify their Euro 2016 selection during the weeks ahead.

O’Neill’s assistant was appalled by some of the performances in the team’s final friendly but hopes the unexpected defeat might be for the best as peripheral players up their game on the training pitch and so improve the manager’s matchday options.

  “It would probably have been no good winning 4-0 last night,” he says, “with everyone thinking we’re a decent team and then going over there and coming unstuck. It was a good reality check for everyone; that’s what football does to you.

  “So hopefully we’ll be peaking in a week or two. We’ll be going over there next Wednesday and I think that’s when the buzz will kick in, when you get to the hotel and your training camp and the lads know this is the squad, barring any injuries and you’re ready to go.”

  Readers should feel free to insert a gag if so inclined after that last line. Journalists mustered only  polite inquiry as to what Ireland’s assistant manager might do in the event that things at the camp are not up to scratch. Keane, forced himself to play a long for a moment: “I’ll obviously head home,” he said before, more seriously, moving on to talk about the progress that has been made on so many fronts since the dark days of you know where.

  Several of the squad’s biggest stars look to have fit some form at just the right time but the performance of what almost a second string at Turner’s Cross was clearly a cause for some concern and Keane was completely dismissive of the notion that allowances should be made in various cases for their lack of recent action.

Second Captains

  Instead, the 44 year-old insists, the players should make amends on the training ground by doing enough to create genuine competition for places ahead of Ireland’s opening game with Sweden.

  “It’s up to the players to give the manager a headache,” he says, “that’s up to the players and sometimes you find that out in a 11 v 11 out on a training pitch... put yourself up against a good player and sort yourself out.”

  Given the tone, it would have interesting to hear Keane’s contribution to the last minute debate amongst the management team on just who should make the cut. The former Manchester United star acknowledged that delivering the news to some of those being let down had been difficult but, anxious as ever to add to the breadth of his experience, he said that the decision making procedure itself had been a positive one.

  “I found it the process enjoyable,” he said. “Not leaving lads out but looking back over the last few months. Seamus (McDonagh) and Wally (Steve Walford)and Gupps (Steve Guppy) would have been involved too. Just general chit-chat about who’s done what, who’s brought what to the party.

  “People ask me what it’s like to be a coach – I’ve never actually experienced that before. That was good. Really enjoyed that. And looking after lads you think had done well and then ultimately looking at the lads who missed out – they probably just haven’t seen enough first team. So it’s almost fallen into place. So the process was fine.

“But telling good lads they’ve  not made it – obviously the manager spoke to them – was very difficult. Particularly when they were leaving the hotel last night. It’s not as if they were going to hang around for a few days and you’re going to have another meal together, or whatever it might be. But it’s kind of like that in sport, isn’t it? It’s cruel, it really is cruel.

  “But it was up to these players to make sure they were in the 23, to get games, play regularly and play well. And the lads who’ve missed out just haven’t played enough games. Not that they were bad lads or bad players; they just lacked that bit of first team action over the last, not just month or two, probably year or two.”

  Daryl Murphy, of course, was one of those who made it but Keane admits that his fruitless search for a first international goal is not ideal. Belarus had looked a decent opportunity to get off the mark and while the 33 year-old was not helped hugely by the service he received, the suggestion by the assistant manager that Ireland might well have won the game had Shane Long started, it somewhat damning in its way.

  “We appreciate all the other stuff that Murph does. He has played a big part in the other games for us...his work rate, he tires people, is physically a handful but, again, skipping to the chase, could he do with a goal? Absolutely. And there's only one person who can do anything about that and that's Murph.

  He has to make something happen. He has got to knock people over, make something happen. But I think if Murph scores a winner in one of the group matches I don’t think any of us would be too critical of the previous chances that he missed.”

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