Roy Keane is fighting the same lonely war – for sport

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The only surprise was that Roy Keane didn’t break into a chorus of ‘The Langer’.

Once ITV switched back to their Moscow studio from the Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday night, we knew Keane was on it.

That devilish glint was in his eye.

He was clearly finding it hard to suppress a smile – or even laughter – as fellow pundits Gary Neville, Ian Wright and Lee Dixon lamented England’s World Cup semi-final defeat to Croatia.

Now, Keane has lived in England for nearly 30 years.

His wife and children were all born and raised in England, but he’s still a Rebel at heart.

And it was pretty clear that Keane still sees value in the old line – England’s misfortune is Ireland’s opportunity.

Opportunity to twist the knife, in this case.

Wright had been cheerleading for the English cause over the past fortnight, and Keane did his best to put him back in his box.

“You were planning the final, where the parades were. You need a reality check.”

Wright showed he was in the mood to exchange punches.

“Why shouldn’t we get excited about it? It’s something to get excited about. People weren’t even expecting us to get to the semi-final, why couldn’t we have got excited about being in there?”

Keane pulled out his dagger from Wright’s back, sprinkled salt on it, and plunged it back in.

“Just take it one game as it comes. Take it a game at a time. You’ve no idea what it’s like to get to a finals, or even get to a World Cup. You’ve never been to a World Cup finals.”

Wright then started to mock Keane’s Leeside accent, repeating the word ”final” in a stage-Irish brogue.

“You know what I’m talking about. You’ve embarrassed yourself,” snapped Keane.

The video clip quickly went viral and former Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, even had his say on Twitter.

“Roy Keane is just awful, I am sorry.” At least he didn’t go on Strictly Come Dancing, Ed…

What Miliband mightn’t have realised is that Keane has been fighting this particular war for decades.

Nothing gets under his skin more than celebrating what he sees as under-achievement or players and supporters accepting mediocrity.

Think of his words in the tunnel after Ireland’s 2-2 draw with Holland in a World Cup qualifier Amsterdam in September 2000.

Manager Mick McCarthy ran on to the field celebrating at the final whistle but Keane was fuming as Ireland had been 2-0 in front.

“We have to start giving ourselves more credit. We have good players and you get a bit sick and tired of the whole ‘well, the Irish will have a good time no matter what the result’ stuff,” he said.

“Sure, the fans will be happy and rightly so. But we’re professionals and we have to raise our targets.”

Keane’s words set the tone for the rest of that successful World Cup qualifying campaign.

So did his actions. Ireland wouldn’t have been anywhere near Japan and South Korea in 2002 only for him.

wayne rooney

Back in April 2001, Manchester United bowed out of the Champions League in the quarter-finals with a 3-1 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich.

As was his way as captain, Keane had his say and was cold-eyed and brutal in his assessment of where United were:

“The players gave it their all but we are just not good enough and maybe it’s time to move on,” he said.

“Maybe it’s the end of the road for this team.

“You have to face the facts and I think the signs have been there this season – PSV, Anderlecht, Panathinaikos – while we were also lucky to get to the first stage even.”

This was just five months after Keane also made headlines in the wake of a Champions League match.

United had actually beaten Dynamo Kiev at Old Trafford but the Corkman was furious at what he saw as a lack of support from the home fans

“There were one or two stray passes and they were getting on players’ backs. It’s out of order,” he said.

“I don’t think some of them can even spell football, let alone understand it.

“Away from home, our fans are fantastic.

“But, at home, they have a few drinks and probably the prawn sandwiches.

“They don’t realise what’s going on out on the pitch.”

Roy Keane is one of the most fascinating and intelligent men in football and is often lauded for his honesty. 

But it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that Keane’s honesty is highly selective. 

Back in the day, Keane was laid up with an in injury.

Sky brought him on board for a United match. 

They threw him a soft-ball question, asking Keane who was performing better in the Premier League, Thierry Henry or Ruud van Nistelrooy. Keane’s answer was Henry. 

Honesty from the then United captain or a thoughtless jibe at a teammate that would hardly help team morale? 

Keane has always been full of contradictions. 

He did his best to engineer a new contract at United while, at the same time, badgering Alex Ferguson for not having signed a world-class replacement for him. 

He hit out at McCarthy for going on about ‘furry burgers’ on They Think It’s All Over but pocketed a hefty pay cheque for dressing up as a leprechaun for a Walker’s Crisps ad. 

Often, he was dismissive of pundits and punditry but has kept on his ITV gig, even though he is well paid to be Ireland’s assistant manager.

Money has often been a motivating factor for the Corkman. 

Keane, remember, had a clause written into his United contract that guaranteed he would be the club’s highest earner. 

Trying to get into his head is a fruitless exercise.

This is the man who took his management ambitions seriously enough to travel 12,000 miles to New Zealand to watch the All Blacks train as part of his coaching badges’ course.

Yet this is the same man who, as Dwight Yorke pointed out in his autobiography, often went three or four days without showing his face at Sunderland when he was the manager of that club.

We can’t figure him out, but we’re still fascinated by the Roy Keane circus.

Maybe he’s just taking us all for a ride.





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