Doyle's challenge is to ghost in the window that Keane has left open to him
Roddy Doyle in the role of ghostwriter for Roy Keane's "new memoir" prompts one rather obvious question – how can a Man Booker Prize winner possibly be the invisible hand, scripting a manuscript the publishers promise will be delivered in Keane's "own original voice"?
That, after all, is the definition of a ghost. You don't see them. They exist, according to my Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary "as a faint, shadowy trace".
And, when it comes to writing sports memoirs, most publishers would suggest the more shadowy the better.
Many remain reluctant even to carry an acknowledgement of the writer hired to collaborate with their client. This helps spin the illusion that the book in your hand has been physically, lovingly written by the subject. Which, in almost every case, it hasn't been.
So how much of his own personality will Doyle now have to repress to capture the authenticity of Keane's voice? Well, that depends upon the sincerity of the project.
It's a little difficult to see the point of hiring a revered novelist for this job if the plan is to keep his imagination at arm's length from the story. The mind that wrote so brilliantly through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy would seem extravagantly over-qualified for the task of playing an ex-footballer's Boswell.
Equally, Paddy Clarke was Doyle's creation and – thereby – a compliant projection of his writing skill. Roy Keane, presumably, will be neither.
The best "ghosted" books are those in which the writer has been granted many, many hours of time with their subject. Books that, accordingly, reflect the natural flow of that subject's thought processes, their prejudices, their sense of humour even. In a sense, the challenge is to end up actually hearing their voice in your head. To become them.
It could be that Keane is ready to open that kind of window now, allowing Doyle access to a mind that has – hitherto – found expression largely in caricature and stereotype. In the "take that you c**t" snapshot of a baying dog standing over Alfie-Inge Haaland.
Keane is definitely changing. The extent of his engagement with the recent ITV4 documentary Best of Enemies was unusual for him, albeit undoubtedly franked by respect for his fellow subject, Patrick Vieira. Indeed, the very fact that he is committing to a second memoir now, 12 years after his first, hints at quite a fundamental shift in the thinking of someone who has, of late, taken a derisory view of Alex Ferguson's decision to do the same.
An access-all-areas badge into the world of Roy Keane would be considered a jackpot win for most self-respecting sportswriters in this part of the world.
I interviewed the man just once, in Macedonia many years ago. I decided to doorstep him as the Irish players emerged from lunch in the hotel restaurant.
To my surprise, he agreed to the request and – for an hour or so – sat chatting with disarming openness about life behind the image. But, as we parted, he did choose to deliver one addendum.
"Just because I agreed to talk to you today," he said, "don't take it that I'll agree if you ask again!"
A great, largely unexplored landscape sits in front of Roddy Doyle now. The question is will he gain true access or just write beautifully around it?
VINCENT HOGAN IS CHIEF SPORT FEATURES WRITER AT THE IRISH INDEPENDENT. HE GHOSTED PAUL MCGRATH'S BACK FROM THE BRINK, WHICH WON THE WILLIAM HILL IRISH SPORTS BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD IN 2006.