Keane star appeal suggests he will not be idle for long
Published 10/01/2011 | 05:00
SO now we can add one more to the strange list of teams that Irish football fans care about for a while, but then let drift off into irrelevance. Roy Keane's Ipswich Town are no more; they will now simply be known as Ipswich Town.
It has happened to David Connolly's Feyenoord and Ian Harte's Levante, while, before Kevin Moran went there, most people thought Gijon was a tasty piece of breaded chicken. Outside of those at the top of the Premier League, there needs to be a name attached to a small club to let people know why they should care.
But without Keane, the pub or office will no longer be punctuated by the question "how did Ipswich do today?" This morning, if people haven't seen the game against Chelsea, there will be a degree of interest; it will be the same against Arsenal in the Carling Cup and, for a few weeks, the peculiar and irrelevant practice of comparing the team's post-Keane results will keep Ipswich in the sports section for a while. After that, nothing.
Since he left Manchester United, Keane's presence has shone a light on some football backwaters. Remember Broadwood Stadium? It's the answer to a five-year-old quiz question of where Keane made his Celtic debut in a defeat to Clyde in the Scottish Cup.
Such was the level of demand for the press-box that journalists found themselves sitting along the sideline shielding their eyes from the low January sun with nowhere to plug in their laptops or charge their phones. For a profession that is very fond of its comfort, they would have endured this for very few other players.
Then there was Sunderland where Keane took over a team that had lost its first four Championship games, had just been knocked out of the Carling Cup by Bury and whose attendances were dropping at the same rate as their league position.
By the end of that season, Sunderland's supporters weren't complaining about having to find their way in to the away end at Kenilworth Road (the entrance to which is in a row of terraced houses) because that was the day they clinched promotion with a 5-0 victory against Luton Town. The journalists who were there, however, longed for the luxury of Clyde.
For all of the amateur psychology written about Keane and fabled tales to dressing-room meltdowns, the amount of coverage he brings to a club is something that chairmen and directors can't fail to notice and, for many who desperately want to be associated with a club in the spotlight, there is no such thing as bad publicity.
With an opinion on everything from the FAI to Jack Warner to snoods, Keane is guaranteed to be seen on Sky Sports News almost as much as a blonde female presenter.
It might be none of his business, and he may be distracting attention from a poor run of results, but Keane's opinions on a variety of subjects bring air-time, which brings sponsors' names into shot, which brings money, and attention, and maybe ticket sales, and a whole cycle of exposure which chairmen, unlike the ultra-private Marcus Evans, find difficult to resist.
Yet for the purposes of his future career prospects, Keane might thank Evans one day for his decision to wield the axe sooner rather than later. When he took over at Portman Road, Ipswich were a mid-ranked Championship club and, 20 months later, they are worse off -- but not by much.
It's not ideal, but, at his next interview, Keane can at least say that he brought them to a cup semi-final and wasn't holding the reins when Chelsea hit them for seven yesterday -- if they prosper in the league in his absence, they will have done so with his players; if they go down, he won't have been the one steering the ship.
It's a similar story at Sunderland who now find themselves sixth in the Premier League. Even the most devoted of Keane's many loyalists wouldn't suggest that he could have brought them there, but the jump from second last in the Championship to a potential European place in just over four years wouldn't have happened without him.
Craig Gordon, Phil Bardsley, Anton Ferdinand, Steed Malbranque and David Meyler were all brought to Sunderland by Keane and, other than the unfortunate Meyler, have all reached double-figure league starts in what has been a remarkable season under Steve Bruce.
As a player, Keane never undersold himself when it came to renegotiating his contract and, while he has made plenty of mistakes, there's still enough meat on the CV that he could sell himself as having potential.
Keane won't be comparing himself to Pep Guardiola, who is seven months his elder, but with three of the Premier League's top four clubs managed by men in their 60s, there's still enough time for him to make an impact.
Wherever he ends up next will inevitably be flooded by journalists and supporters waiting for an eruption that goes with the caricature. If ever he is unveiled to an apathetic press and public, and his name isn't immediately attached to his new club, it really will be time for him to worry.