Sunday 23 July 2017

'You bump into a lot of idiots on your travels' - Roy Keane on the reality of management

Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane
Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane
Roy Keane believes some players spend too long enjoying big victories instead of preparing for the next challenge. Photo: Daragh McSweeney
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The suspicion has lingered for some time that Roy Keane's personality is suited to international football.

He doesn't have to deal with the buying and selling of players and the manoeuvring with agents and hangers-on that comes with it.

Nor does he have to worry about the whims of owners and chief executives in an increasingly volatile profession.

And he doesn't have to face daily interactions with players who he doesn't really trust to put it in when match day comes around.

The Irish assistant is quite happy with his current lot, working with a group that he admires because he always trusts they will deliver maximum effort.

And results are going well, with tomorrow week's encounter with Wales offering the opportunity to make a giant step towards Russia.

But it's not all plain sailing. Don't be fooled into thinking that Martin O'Neill's number two loves every part of the gig.

His weekends now mainly consist of scouting players and, in a lengthy interview with Newstalk that was broadcast last night, he discussed the perils of that existence.

"This idea of travelling to the matches and meeting people for a cup of tea at half-time... Let me tell you that doesn't rock my boat," said Keane, flipping into his trademark deadpan mode.

"Sometimes when you go to these grounds you can't even get a decent cup of tea and make a lot of small talk with people you don't want to have small talk with. It's a battle to get into the car park. You bump into lots of idiots on your travels so don't be kidded that it's all glamorous.

Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane
Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane

"It's nice to watch good players. Whether you're watching Champions League football or League of Ireland matches or Championship matches, I watch all sorts of matches and I do enjoy that part of the job.

"But the idea of networking and having a cup of tea and small talk at half-time and sitting in car parks and motorways for hours, that doesn't give me a buzz in the mornings when I wake up."

There was, of course, a facetious element to his observations. Despite the caricature of the angry man, the tongue is often in the cheek when the studio lights are on.

Keane was bemused when a quip about ignoring negative bulletins from the Irish medical staff - a line from a Q and A at Cobh Ramblers - was picked up elsewhere and interpreted in a manner he didn't like.

"It's all part of being in the public eye," he says.

Still, in the course of a 40-minute discussion with Off The Ball, Keane gave the impression that he is still slightly torn about his next career move from here.

He referenced another trio of Championship sackings last weekend, a reminder that picking the wrong club can have scarring implications, a lesson he knows from experience.

Faraway fields may not always be greener. But, at the same time, a more detailed discussion of his roles and responsibilities with Ireland revealed that he retains ambitions to be the man that makes the final call. And he will not be shutting any doors.

The specifics of his role under O'Neill has allowed the 45-year-old to hone his skills on the training ground and he concedes that he probably didn't do enough of that at Sunderland or Ipswich.

"When you're a manager you're getting pulled left, right and centre and you've got staff around you to share the load so if I go back into club management I'm pretty sure I will be a bit more hands-on on the training pitch," he said.

"Now I don't think I'm a coach coach. I know lads who've gone into coaching who think about it 24 hours a day. I enjoy being on the training pitch but I don't think I'd want to be on it four, five six hours a day which you wouldn't be anyway.

"It's 50-50 for me. I still like the idea of being a manager and calling the shots but the beauty of international football is that I'm getting a taste of being on the training pitch and then also having a big input with Martin in terms of selection and the final XI - I'm getting the best of both worlds.

"Between the elements of management and coaching, I'd sway for the management side of things I have to say.

"But if you want job security, you don't really go into football management do you?" he continued, when asked if there was an addiction that kept individuals coming back for more in a bruising profession.

"That's a strong word to use, but there is an addiction. The turnover now must be at its highest level, it's crazy. I'm talking about good people and good managers. Sometimes you don't need to be near the top of the table to be working wonders.

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"A lot of people involved in the game have nothing else to fall back on and as you say people go into media and TV and that's a bit of... That helps a lot of ex-players but the majority of people out there want to get into the coaching and management and that's where the addiction comes into it."

Keane remains a regular TV presence with ITV and will review that contract in the summer, like he does every year. Since losing the main Champions League rights, he's mostly confined to the studio for highlights when he would prefer to be out experiencing the atmosphere of huge matches - even if there's small talk.

The Welsh encounter should deliver on the atmosphere front and he reckons that the mindset of O'Neill's panel should allow them to tune up perfectly for the game from when they arrive in next Sunday.

As it happens, the first duty of their gathering will be the 2016 International Awards and that will involve looking back on the highlights of France.

One can't imagine Keane enjoying that too much when he prefers to drive on to the next challenge rather than living off past glories, but he tackled the perception that he isn't capable of taking enjoyment from the good days. He did express regret in his most recent autobiography that he sometimes failed to enjoy success.

"You have to enjoy the victories and don't go overboard on them because I see other players now enjoying them for far too long and I'm talking about weeks, months and years later," he stresses.

"But if I'm taking it in a bit more now, it's sitting in the dressing room and watching players enjoy themselves. And I am (happy) - but I probably show it in a different way.

"When we qualified for the Euros, it was absolutely brilliant. I get my enjoyment from watching other people and getting a buzz out of it.

"Robbie Brady's night in Lille is a great example, you don't get many of them in your career. I remember as a kid going up to watch Ireland.

"The fact I was fortunate enough to play and now still be involved at senior level, I do enjoy that, don't think for one minute that I take it all for granted. I do take great satisfaction from it."

The question with Keane, as ever, is how long that satisfaction will last.

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Roy Keane on...

WELSH PREPARATIONS

"There's no point ranting and raving next Monday or Tuesday. It's about balance and giving the right information. We've got to make sure we are in the right zone on Friday, and that's where Martin's experience comes into it. The players will know a lot about Wales already anyway."

LEARNING FROM MISTAKES

"Club owners seem to have no patience these days, so you have to try and make less mistakes as you get older and wiser. But experience and making mistakes is part of life."

GOOD MIDFIELD PLAY

"There's a lot of lazy midfielders out there, I look at them when they get the ball and the full-back is on and they kind of pass it to the side of them, or just behind them. Pass it in front of them, you can dictate the play by passing the ball ahead and forcing them to get onto it."

THAT OVERMARS TACKLE

"He wouldn't have been the toughest player on the planet. I wouldn't worry going into a tackle with Overmars. If a player takes a bad touch and shows me a little bit of the ball. . . and he played for Arsenal. . . that was all part of my job. There's no point in praising me. If I couldn't dominate Overmars in a tackle, I should have been sitting in the stand."

ENJOYING HIS JOB

"I'd never say I lost my love for the game but you can get frustrated with what's going on around the outside of the game with chief executives, agents etc. The beauty with the Irish job is that I can home in on the matches and the players on the pitch and not get bogged down by off-the-field stuff."

HIS TRAINING-GROUND FOCUS

"I tend to look towards the midfielders if we have the 11 v 11 because I'd like to think I have that extra bit of information to give them, just like Steve Guppy would talk a lot to the wide players and Seamus (McDonagh) would focus on the goalkeepers. Steve Walford does a lot defensively, while Martin would have an overview."

Barcelona v PSG

"That was a freak game, you could analyse it and say defensively it was poor and PSG gave some bad goals away but in terms of attacking play it was fantastic. I'm not sure we'd want that much goalmouth action in the Wales game."

Irish Independent

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