Keane all out of answers as Ipswich adventure unravels
ROY KEANE is the man with an answer for everything. But he is running low on excuses after another miserable weekend for Ipswich Town.
A trip to relegation strugglers Preston provided an opportunity for the Tractor Boys to get back on course. Instead, they suffered a sixth consecutive league defeat, or a ninth in 11 games as Keane himself helpfully pointed out.
They are relegation strugglers now too, having dropped to 18th position, just three off the drop zone. "I'm hurting," said the Corkman. "You wouldn't believe how much I'm hurting."
Despite receiving a vote of confidence at a midweek AGM where he won the verbal jousts with those with questions to ask, results on the pitch appear to be making his departure inevitable.
Indeed, were it not for his team's progression into the Carling Cup semi-finals, it's possible that the 39-year-old would be out of a job by now; realistically, he's got until January's semi-final with Arsenal to turn things around in the league.
The backing that Keane has received from the club hierarchy is contradicted by his contract situation.
His two-year deal expires at the end of the season, and the East Anglian club are in no rush to extend it.
There is no surprise or outcry from the terraces over this fact; unlike the disillusionment over Chris Hughton's situation at Newcastle.
Keane has failed in his mission in Suffolk and acknowledged as much when asked this week what would represent a good campaign.
Here was a man who rode into town targeting nothing less than promotion.
"What would be deemed as a successful season is open to debate," he said. "A Carling Cup final, perhaps, and top half of the table finish."
It's not the Keano we know.
Ostensibly, his team's problems relate to the lack of a prolific striker; an unsurprisingly common refrain for any side that is consistently losing. They have enjoyed good spells in recent matches without converting time on the ball into goals.
"To achieve anything in football, you have to put the ball into the back of net," said Keane after the Preston reverse.
Yet his critics also feel that some of his team selections have been erratic, with the latest talking-point his exclusion of fellow Corkman Damien Delaney over the past two weekends.
Keane brought Delaney to the club and stood by him after some below-par performances at the outset.
Now, he's in the bad books, failing to make match-day squads after returning from a setback. "He's got to fight for his place," said Keane.
Considering the defending in last weekend's defeat to Swansea would embarrass a schoolboy, the reluctance to bring the 29-year-old back into the fold has surprised people.
But then, the Ipswich dressing room rarely know what to expect. This is, after all, a regime that banned high fives before matches.
Naturally, the players that remain at the club have come out in support of the boss when asked.
"We want him to stay," said on-loan signing Darren O'Dea. Grant Leadbitter, who Keane brought to Suffolk from Sunderland, uttered a similar sentiment.
But those who have served time in his regime preach a different message from a safe distance.
Jonathan Walters, who was quick to stress in an interview with the Irish Independent last month that it wasn't all bad under his stewardship, revealed how the strangest period was the couple of days that followed a poor result.
In time, we will learn what the atmosphere around the training ground was actually like during this period of reverses.
"It's getting harder and harder as the run goes on," admitted Keane. "It's unacceptable. At any level, in any league, in any country, that is not good enough
"But whatever happens my contract situation is the least of my worries. My profile can lead to everybody getting bogged down with my position."
He might need that profile to get another gig when this adventure ends.