'Basically, you are s***e. You’re probably going to get beat. But just enjoy being s**t' - Roy Keane's bizarre Sunderland team talk revealed
Roy Keane is known for his honesty, a little bit too much at times and in Danny Higginbotham’s autobiography, Rise of the Underdog, he reveals how that trait caused a bit of uncertainty in the Sunderland dressing room.
We all know how controversial the Corkman can be but the words, according to Higginbotham, he chose to pump his Sunderland players up for a match were quite unusual to say the least.
Higginbotham tells of one team-talk from Keane that was the most "bizarre he had ever heard but turned out to be a stroke of genius".
"The Newcastle result [a 2-1 win] had been decent, but it was in a run of results that were far from it – six defeats in nine games before we played Aston Villa was enough to tell us that. That game was the scene of one of the most bizarre team talks I’ve ever experienced, and that’s saying something from someone who had a childhood acquaintance give one. It was bizarre at the time, but turned out to be a stroke of genius.
"Listen lads," he said. "Basically, you’re shit. Try and enjoy the game. You’re probably going to get beat. But just enjoy being shit."
"Then he just walked out. Those words have got to be insulting to any professional, no matter who they come from, and I’ll admit it served as the perfect motivation to get out there and prove him wrong. I scored after 10 minutes and we were leading at half-time. We ended up drawing.
"It was a decent result, Villa were doing okay and Roy’s reverse psychology had worked – on me, at least. He’s a far cleverer person than people realise or would like to acknowledge. He knew what he was doing when he said that, he knew the reaction he would get from some of us, and that was a trick right out of the Brian Clough handbook."
Here is another story where Keane addresses the younger players at Sunderland.
"[After watching the reserves lose 1-0 to Manchester City] he went round us individually, addressing the kids first. 'You’ve got to start applying yourselves in games. You’ve got to give everything. If you carry on like last night, you’ll find yourselves working at f*****g Sainsbury’s this time next year. You’ll be on the dole,' he’s growling.
"Gets to me. 'Danny,' he says, 'All I’m f*****g hearing from you when I’m watching that game yesterday is f*****g encouragement. That’s all I’m hearing.' I thought, well, that’s not so bad. 'I don’t f******g want that. I want you to tell some of them they’re being c**ts. Tell them.'
"It wasn’t in my nature – I wasn’t going to do that but, equally, I wasn’t going to bite back at Roy. I was close to making my return and didn’t want to put it in any risk. To me, even through the hard words he had said, I could see there was a genuine compassion from Roy for these kids. Even though they didn’t have a future at Sunderland, he wanted them not to waste the talent they did have."
Higginbotham tells of another incident involving Keane in 2008 against Bolton.
"In our penultimate game of the [’07/08] season, we lost at Bolton 2-0. Roy came in after the game and the mood around the dressing room was essentially, 'Okay, we’ve lost, we could have done better, but we’ve just secured our safety'.
"Roy went ballistic – scary at the time, but looking back, another indicator of his standards and expectations for the club.
“You’re the reason I’m driving up and down the f*****g country to find another player, you’re not f*****g good enough,” he yells at one player. “Your attitude is shit. You’re not good enough,” he bawls at others. “Next week we’ve got our last home game, against Arsenal. You know at the end of the season when you walk around the pitch, thank the fans for their support? I’m ringing Umbro and getting you some hooded jumpers, because you’re a f*****g embarrassment, it’s a joke and this is not going to stay this way,” he finishes.
"I was taken aback. That was the time when I really began to believe that his expectations for us were simply much too high. It’s not just something with Roy. It’s something I’ve noticed with other great players who have gone into management. Maybe if I’d been younger it would have been a perfect situation for me, but particularly coming off the back of such a wonderful [first spell] at Stoke, it never quite felt right. That’s not down to Roy. It’s me."