Wednesday 13 November 2019

Keano's on-pitch mind games: 'My gaff is bigger than yours'

Celtic legend Neil Lennon calls Roy Keane 'world class' and 'a warrior' and says he would laugh at a BBC panel snub, writes Niamh Horan

Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane. Photo: PA
Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane. Photo: PA
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Celtic legend Neil Lennon has come to the defence of ex-Manchester United hero Roy Keane after the midfielder was left out of the BBC's all-time greatest Premiership football team, drawn up to mark the 25th anniversary of the competition.

A BBC panel of former stars, including Gary Lineker, Ian Wright, Danny Murphy and Alan Shearer, caused outrage among sports fans when they failed to include the seven-time Premier League winner and leader of the most dominant team in the league's history in the final 11.

Even more perplexing, however, was the fact that references to the Corkman didn't go beyond the point of one of the panel, Alan Shearer, asking: "Have we mentioned Roy Keane yet?"

Football fans and commentators reacted to the announcement by taking to social media to call the decision "unacceptable", "absolutely laughable" and "egregious".

Lennon told the Sunday Independent that the personal bias of the Match of the Day panellists could have affected their choice.

"Roy is synonymous with the Premier League. He is one of the greatest players of my generation," he said.

"A lot of people in the game wouldn't have taken to Roy because he is outspoken and he was a warrior on the pitch and he ruffled a few feathers, the same as myself over the years.

"He wasn't very popular with some people, but we were there to do the job and maybe it was a case that it was a personal thing with some of them.

"I was always a huge fan of Roy and sometimes people can forget in all the controversies surrounding him that he was actually a phenomenal footballer. World class.

"I am not being biased, I played with Roy at Celtic but Roy would certainly be on my greatest team."

When questioned as to whether the wrong panel of judges were lined up to make the choice, Lennon replied: "Yeah, they should have asked me."

Asked if the Corkman, now Ireland's assistant manager, would care about the slight, he baulked: "Roy? Are you kidding me? He wouldn't bat an eyelid at that. It would take a lot to upset Roy. Roy is very happy in his own skin."

Sharing personal anecdotes from his years playing against the footballing legend, Lennon revealed how, as a young player, Roy used mind games to psyche him out.

"The first time I ever played against Roy, it was my first year at Leicester, and the programme at Leicester had a feature every week called 'Through the keyhole' where they came to your house and wrote a piece about you.

"I had just moved in, I was a single guy, and all I had was a sofa bed and nothing much else except a TV, so the guy who was taking the photos tried to make it look a little bit habitable.

"Anyways, this came out as a spread in the programme on the night we played Man United.

"So me and him go in for a tackle and the two of us are pulling each other and we get up and push each other away and the next thing he goes to me, 'I just seen your house in that programme… me double garage is bigger'," he laughs.

"It was funny. I took it in the spirit that it was meant."

A fearless midfielder, Keane joined Manchester United from Nottingham Forest where he was already showing huge potential.

While at the Red Devils, he played more than 400 games and scored over 50 goals.

He was part of the treble-winning side in the 1998-99 season and won seven Premier League titles and four FA Cups.

He also won the Community Shield four times and the Intercontinental Cup once.

He was voted Footballer of the Year and Players' Player of the Year in 2000, and in 2004 he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.

Sunday Independent

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