'You've got to have balls... footballs, I mean'- Roy Keane on the secret to ideal preparations
Roy Keane is not renowned for being a man who enjoys repeating himself and, at times, will address certain questions with nothing more than an unsettling glare but today in Abbotstown he was willing to play ball.
Since assuming his role close to three years ago, the Republic of Ireland assistant manager has perpetually preached the significance of not looking beyond the task at hand but, ahead of the upcoming friendlies against Switzerland and Slovakia, he had occasion to speculate beyond the week ahead.
With just under 12 weeks to go before Ireland begin their Euro 2016 campaign against Sweden, Keane and Martin O’Neill will now be refining the blueprint they hope will be sufficient in engineering a seemingly improbable progression to the knockout stages in France.
One particular member of the press corps was eager to ascertain whether or not Keane was suitably satisfied with the preparation process and if he had a hand in selecting the Fota Island base Ireland will occupy for five days prior to departing for France.
Of course, once there, the squad will be stationed in Versailles and the former Manchester United skipper gave the figurative thumbs up to both locations.
“I’ve obviously had an opinion about it. We travelled there (Versailles) after the draw with the manager and John Delaney, some of the security staff and done a recce on it, as you’d expect.
“There were good options then for the training camp and, obviously, everyone was in agreement that Fota was a good option, and it is. Everything is good to go.”
However, the reporter in question ventured further. He was curious to know what lessons, good or bad, on matters of training hubs had Keane taken from his playing days. Intimating, with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, if, perhaps, an incident on an island in South East Asia roughly 14 years ago had coloured his view on such matters.
Keane gladly responded in his own inimitable fashion.
“Yeah. You’ve obviously got to get your preparations right. The right facilities, have some gear, have some balls….. footballs, I mean. A decent training pitch and some facilities for the players to unwind because there are only so many hours we can train. Have part of the day where we go for a walk or a coffee.”
Nervous laughter abounded before attention turned to Friday’s clash with a Swiss outfit that qualified as runners up behind England and then Slovakia, who did likewise in the group of champions Spain.
The Slovakians come to the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday and then Ireland meet Holland in May, and Keane was adamant that fringe players will be facilitated in proving their worth for the European Championships.
“The manager has made it clear that there are places up for grabs. It’s nice to have the two games within a few days of each other to give lads an opportunity and the Dutch game to eventually cement one or two places. There’s lots to play for and we’re all glad to be back together.”