James Lawton: Keane can’t afford another failure
Ireland legend must learn to take the best and live with the rest to save his managerial reputation
Published 05/10/2012 | 17:00
In any case study of Roy Keane, one would have to include the striking image of the Corkman's very latest cry for inclusion.
It is the one this week that caught his welcome at Istanbul by Kasimpasa, the ambitious Turkish team which were apparently eager to invest £1.4m in what so many now see as the irreparable image of a natural-born winner who lost his way.
Keane is there, to all intents and rather confusing purposes, but then, when you look closer, he is not.
This is so when you consider, specifically, his eyes. They are set on the middle distance. The smartly-dressed football entrepreneur who wants to hire him might be someone offering dirty postcards, so aloof is the man he hopes to engage.
Keane is in jeans yet his hauteur is bespoke. But then if this is a picture of an odd couple, the news of the potential interest of Blackburn Rovers -- the club, which on another planet, Kenny Dalglish once led to the Premier League title -- has also caught the attention of Keane as he so glumly performs his Champions League television analysis?
Predictably, it quickly provoked a series of wretched jokes about the dilemma of Keane in choosing between cold Turkey after his disasters at Sunderland and Ipswich, and the over-cooked ambitions of Indian chicken producers Venky's at Blackburn.
The jokes were inevitable, of course, but they could never be so biting as the question that rears up once more: what is to become of Roy Keane?
And there is also the question about when, if ever, he will disperse the angst which he built so devastatingly over the years in a career which, for so long, seemed to be some ultimate expression of the force of one man's competitive edge?
Examining the picture is to strip down some of the last available optimism.
That Keane owns some formidable football values, that his intensity while performing for Manchester United and Ireland made him arguably the most influential player of his generation, can never be seriously questioned.
There are times when the rigour of his thinking still emerges powerfully when he is invited to go along with some bland generalisation before the TV camera on the touchline. If he sometimes agrees that a result is a result, and has its value, it never comes at the price of overlooking a poor performance.
Yet twice now he has, under patient ownership at Sunderland and Ipswich, had the chance to integrate such thinking into the growth of teams which might have carried his ferocious imprint.
But instead we had only the accelerating evidence that this was a man congenitally incapable of living with any degree of tolerance beyond his own skin.
Now the suggestion is that he might -- at a rather late hour given the decline of a reputation, which once suggested he could be a likely successor to Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford -- find himself in Blackburn, a football club which for some time has made itself a parody of well-grounded organisation.
Keane is said to be attracted by the potential of a famous old football club, but, really, what can it be that he sees in that faraway gaze? Can it be a dynamic relationship with an ownership which was unpleasantly surprised by the news that membership of the Premier League brought not only the possibility of new exposure for its chicken products in India and a guaranteed £50m worth of a TV deal, but also the trap door of relegation.
The elevation and then the torment of Steve Kean was one salutary warning to any successor -- and that was before a Malayasian international and pundit and one-time manger of a reality TV football team became an extremely voluble director of football at Ewood Park.
Shebby Singh has already apologised for his dismissive remarks about the fallen manager and a veteran player, while referring to the dangers of his own 'blunt honesty,' and now says: "There's a lot of interest in the manager's job, but we will not be rushed into a decision."
Keane's own decision to put on hold the Turkish possibilities suggests a similar caution, but what he cannot do, plainly, is disguise the fact that the pummelling he took at Sunderland and Ipswich has not separated him from his belief that one day he will find, in the manager's dugout, that sense of destiny which informed almost everything he did on the football field.
The contradictions are still rampant. The man who so easily justified the outrage of his vengeful tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland and his defection from the Irish team he carried, virtually on one leg, to the 2002 World Cup, still believes that he holds vital secrets about the nature of managerial success.
However, having entertained -- albeit briefly -- the idea of leading Kasimpasa in the company of Galatasaray and Besiktas and Fenerbahce in one of the world's most impassioned and volatile football cultures, when he seems to believe that he can impose new levels of professionalism at Blackburn, he has clearly reached a critical point in his own tumultuous voyage of self-discovery.
Logic can only suggest that he is now teetering on the verge of a most unwelcome status -- that of a three-time loser in the perilous stakes of football management.
What must he do to avoid such ignominy, one which would surely represent a last withdrawal of all that credit accumulated in a brilliant playing career?
The trick, you have to believe, would be one of humility. The man who sneered 'Mother Teresa' at his international team-mate Niall Quinn in the aftermath of the Saipan fiasco, who refused to return phone calls from his Sunderland owner, and who roundly dismissed the professional life of Mick McCarthy, has to learn, if it is not too late, that in football, like life, you have to take the best and live with the rest.
You have to live with players who do not know how to hurt in defeat quite as much you did; you have to accept the world how it is and not how you want it to be.
If you do that, you give yourself a chance of making your way in a business where insecurity lurks around every corner.
Maybe Roy Keane is saying as much, at last, when he looks into a future which may just be Blackburn Rovers.