Roy Keane: In from the cold
Roy Keane looks to be gearing up for a return to the spotlight after a prolonged period in the wilderness
Published 01/10/2011 | 05:00
ALMOST nine months have passed since Roy Keane's sacking from Ipswich and we are still waiting for the rebirth.
This is the Corkman's longest break from the limelight since he packed his bags and left Mayfield for Nottingham 21 summers ago. Miraculously, he has succeeded in finding anonymity again.
Certainly, it's a quieter world without his vocal presence. But, as much as football misses Keane, the indications are that the feeling is mutual. The return is overdue.
In the past fortnight, he has emerged from hibernation. An appearance on the ITV panel for the Champions League final in May was considered to be something of a novelty, a one-off, yet he was back in the pundit's chair for Manchester United's trip to take on Benfica.
That was followed by a trip to Nigeria on a gig organised by Guinness. He joined Marcel Desailly onstage for two lengthy question and answer sessions, happy to oblige requests and press the flesh.
Then came a third public outing, a trip home to Cork where he popped along to watch his local side lock horns with Derry City in the EA Sports Cup final.
Perhaps that was the most significant outing of the lot. Keane is a sports fan who likes to take in a Munster game when possible, but his trip to Turner's Cross is a reminder that he is keeping in touch with the next generation of players in case a job opening pops up over the horizon.
Keane is moving in football circles again. The biggest change in the last nine months has been geographical. After relocating to East Anglia to fully commit to the Ipswich job, the premature end left the 40-year-old out of work and away from the action.
In the short term, that was no harm, for it allowed time to pick up the pieces from a promising job that developed into a disaster.
The seclusion eventually became a hindrance, so, a couple of months ago, he moved back to the Manchester area.
With the north-west of England being such a football hotbed, numerous clubs are in close proximity. There are ample first-team and reserve games that he can go along and watch without major attention. There is also an opportunity to chat to people around the game and get a handle on who is coming and going.
Nevertheless, he retains old fashioned principles when it comes to certain aspects of his situation. He is aware that turning up at a ground when a manager is under pressure could be interpreted as angling for a job.
There have been no sightings of Keane at Nottingham Forest, but it's inevitable his name will be bandied about with Steve McClaren on the brink. Don't expect to see the Corkman taking his seat at the City Ground as the pressure intensifies. Of course, it might be optimistic to suggest Keane as a serious contender, given how the Ipswich experience has damaged his stock.
On his flight home from Lisbon after the Benfica match, onlookers say that Keane was in a chatty mood, speaking about the upcoming trip to Nigeria and a desire to take the chance to travel the world while he can.
In April, there was a holiday in Australia, although that trip grew into a circus when it was speculated that he was Down Under to become the new boss of Melbourne Victory; his old Manchester United team-mate Mark Bosnich fuelled it by inaccurately tweeting that a deal was imminent.
It was a nonsense story.
Still, he may have to broaden his horizons to find employment. A recent link to the vacant manager's job at Iceland was genuine, with Keane understood to be impressed by the respectful manner in which they approached him.
He stalled before an advanced meeting about the position and there's no doubt that accepting the role would represent a huge step down on his ambitions. That sentence is couched in the present tense because the Icelandic FA has yet to appoint a new man and the line of contact could still be reopened.
Keane was grilled on his future intentions in Nigeria, covering a range of topics in Lagos and the nearby city of Ibadan.
"He was very accommodating, but frank and honest in his responses," said one Nigerian official who was present. "He said he's happy to do more of these events, to travel around and see the other side of the game. But he is desperate to return to the management."
Desperate is a strong word to use when it comes to Keane, who is used to calling the shots.
His Ipswich experience was souring. By and large, he has kept his counsel on what unfolded at Portman Road.
Keane believes that the club never followed through on promises that were made upon his appointment. There was a shortage of cash to bring in targets, and he was frequently outbid when it came to the crunch. His working relationship with CEO Simon Clegg was poor and, speaking in May, there was a thinly concealed reference to that issue.
"My only regret is I agreed to take it before I met the chief executive," he said, while reflecting on his second management job. "I won't be doing that again."
His standards are hard to live up to in the modern game. As his exile continues, the perception that he is damaged goods will grow and it will be hard to walk into a club with a list of demands when they might feel they are doing a favour by taking a punt.
But he may just have to swallow his pride to get back on the carousel. At his pomp, Keane spoke wearily of TV panellists who made a living from sitting on the couch.
However, if no acceptable post crops up in the near future, then it's likely that he will become a more regular presence on ITV's Champions League coverage. Station insiders feel that he is growing into the job and would love to develop his profile.
They know it would be the fallback option, a recognition that Keane is still attracted by the challenge of succeeding in management. His period of obscurity can only last for so long.