Daniel McDonnell: It would be easier to accept Roy Keane's verdict had his views been consistent
DECEMBER, 2007. Roy Keane is angry. His Sunderland team has just been denied a badly needed win over Aston Villa by a refereeing decision, with Steve Bennett ruling that Danny Collins had fouled Scott Carson when he nodded home in the last minute.
"I think this referee will enjoy that he is the centre of attention over the next few days," Keane rages. "I saw him at the hotel last night and I just thought ... "
He didn't finish the sentence, but it didn't take people long to draw the association. Bennett was the whistler who famously sent off Keane for taking a pop at old foe Alan Shearer in a fraught Premier League encounter with Newcastle.
Keane never forgets and inferred that Bennett shared his mindset. In his short, stalled, managerial career, he was generally quite supportive of match officials, yet there are exceptions and it is no surprise that the most vicious outburst was reserved for someone who was deemed to have wronged him in the past.
There is still a lot to admire about the 41-year-old, but you would imagine that if a straight-talker feels strongly about an issue – as Keane appeared to on Tuesday – then he would have a consistent track record of speaking on the strict application of rules. Not so, in this case.
Consider his reaction to Liam Miller's dismissal at Stamford Bridge during his time as Black Cats boss. "Obviously, it was a foul, but that was it, there was no nastiness to it," he said, when Miller was sent to the dressing room early for raising his hands.
In October, 2009, the under-fire Ipswich supremo raged at the match officials after the awarding of a soft free presented Barnsley with a victory at his expense. "I'm sure I was brought up to believe this was a man's game," he argued. "If there wasn't contact, then stadiums would be empty."
So, if we are to take his post-Madrid thoughts as a reflection of his doctrine, Keane has altered his views with regard to the letter of the law. What appears more consistent is his willingness to show little sympathy for those in his own little black book.
Keane told the Irish players to 'get over' their hand of Henry play-off heartbreak without seeing the irony of using the same rant to go over personal grievances which dated back decades. Last year, to mark the Saipan anniversary, he vented his frustration by delving further into the memory bank to recall his treatment on an U-17 trip in Malta.
The brutal manner of his departure from Old Trafford hurt Keane, and the sniping between himself and Alex Ferguson subsequently is a dramatic contrast from the bond they shared in the peak of his playing powers. He was never going to join in with this week's outpouring of grief on behalf of a stern figure who showed little compassion when it came to showing his former lieutenant the door.
Instead, he revelled in taking the devil's advocate view to the extreme. There are some diverse views out there with regard to the Turkish referee's decision to produce a red card, but Keane is in a minority dominated by gloating fans of other clubs when he says with absolute, unconditional certainty that it was the right call.
Is he embittered? By all accounts, Keane has grown to enjoy aspects of media life, even if he has underwhelmed in the broadcast sphere compared to what was expected. The widespread reaction to his Nani comments has brought the kind of reaction which employers want, even if his modus operandi is more Eamon Dunphy and less Gary Neville.
Successful pundits appreciate the value of taking a stand and it seems that Keane finds it easier when dealing with those who he considers to have kicked a chair from under him.