News Comment

Saturday 23 August 2014

After 12 years a slave to Saipan, Roy sticks around for a shot at redemption

Mandy Johnston

Published 03/06/2014 | 02:30

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The manager's role is even more pressurised than a player's.

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Roy Keane has been '12 years a slave' to the saga of Saipan which may have been a crucial factor in his decision not to be considered for the position of manager at Celtic Football Club. In choosing to remain on as second in command with the Republic of Ireland, it appears that he has favoured redemption in Ireland over a major challenge in Scotland. But there is certainly much more to his decision than that, perhaps the step into arguably the only remaining football club in Europe to have a real heart and soul was an emotional rollercoaster too far for our Roy.

Celtic is not just a club; it is a social movement in Glasgow and beyond. Names like Jock Stein, Sean Fallon and Billy McNeill are writ large. The enormity of Celtic's sporting and social legacy are a daunting endeavour for any manager to embrace.

But for Keane, the stakes were even higher as his next choice will dictate his future, the difference between managerial success and professional obscurity.

Celtic would have provided Keane with immediate exposure to European football, something that is crucial for his managerial curriculum vitae.

He will not get this type of experience as the Republic of Ireland number two. There are ostensibly only five teams in the Premier League at present which could realistically offer him similar scope for professional progress.

Teams like Chelsea and Arsenal are not likely to come looking for him any time soon, and so this may have been his only chance in the short term.

But the demand for success at Celtic is unrelenting. Roy would not have been afforded a lengthy honeymoon period. Celtic fans will not accept mediocrity. They are committed, avid and atavistic.

Defeat does not rest lightly with them as Liam Brady found when he became manager in 1991.

"You need to be on the inside to realise how big the expectation is, it's like leading a community rather than just being a football manager," Brady said.

Having played for the club, Roy Keane has experienced those expectations first hand he knows what it is like to have skin in the game at Celtic Park.

The manager's role is even more pressurised than a player's role and financial considerations do little to ameliorate anxious fans seeking European success.

To understand the financial dichotomies which exist in the Scottish League and the Premier League in England, one need only look at the rewards on offer.

The winners of the Scottish Premier League receive just over £2m.

In contrast, the team who finish bottom of the English Premiership receive a staggering £60m.

This is because Celtic are closed out from the big television money circuit beyond Scotland's border – and are unlikely to find a way to unlock that door any time soon.

This further limits their earning potential and their ability to mix it with the big boys in Europe.

It is because of such considerations that Celtic FC's operations are based on prudent and sometimes frugal financial decisions. The club is structured to survive financially rather than to speculate on players. This financial model makes it difficult to develop a squad which can compete with the likes of Real Madrid or Manchester City in between league games against Motherwell and Ross County. The financial conservatism can be frustrating for managers and fans at times, but ironically it also helps to maintain the integrity of a club whose origins stem from an ambition for social progress for the people of Glasgow.

Never one to court publicity, Keane has grown to accept its importance in the modern game. Nowadays he plays the media game a little better.

He has even cultivated a sense of humour, evidenced by his press conferences following his appointment as assistant to O'Neill.

His appearances on the ITV panel are never dull.

Keane's Brian Clough-type approach to commentary has made him box office material.

In a world of football clichés and anodyne assessment, he brings a whiff of cordite to the studio.

However, dealing with the media in Scotland would have been a different ball game.

The myopic evaluation of club and the constant need to feed the media beast may have been a considerable challenge for a man who wears his heart on his sleeve and values deeds over words. He is smart enough to know his limitations.

The day that Roy Keane was signed by Manchester United from Nottingham Forest for almost £4m, we sat slack jawed in FAI headquarters on Merrion Square (where I worked in the press office) as the media clamoured around to learn the back story of this boy from an FAI/FAS scheme in Cork who had become the biggest name in English football.

Whilst he was never the easiest personality to placate on the team bus, his professional capacity was evident from early on as he has always displayed an intense maturity beyond his years.

To avoid creating another political football out of his career Roy Keane took matters into his own hands yesterday and made it clear that he was staying put.

He was never one to go with the flow. This is what makes him strong enough to stay when everyone thought he would go. Good Bhoy Roy.

Irish Independent

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