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Keane: No player rift

ROY KEANE insists there is no bad blood between him and Ireland players who have crossed swords with the new assistant manager of the senior side at club level in the past.

In the build-up to Keane's arrival back into the fold with Ireland, most of the attention focused on how the former captain would deal with the FAI as a body, and with John Delaney in particular following a series of public spats between the pair over the last 11 years.

But some members of the current squad, and recent squads, may have also been apprehensive, as internationals like Jonathan Walters and Damien Delaney had issues with Keane when he was their manager at club level, Delaney going on to refer to Keane's insistence on timekeeping in his defence of a speeding ticket.

Keane was also harsh at times in comments about players such as Aiden McGeady and Paul McShane, let alone the criticisms made by Keane of Ireland's general display at Euro 2012.



But instead of tip-toeing around each other so as not to cause offence, Keane says he's already managed to clear the air with McGeady - described as "crabby" by Martin O'Neill - and Walters.

"Damien (Delaney) is not in the squad. There's no real issue with Damien, to be honest with you," said Keane.

"Jon Walters did very well for me, very well for me. He was disappointed with the way it ended but any time a player wants to leave a club...it's not going to be a pals' act when someone is desperate to leave your football club and you're desperate for him to stay. That's only natural. I've been with Jon the last day or two and that's all been sorted out."

It was thought that smoothing things over with McGeady would be more tricky, seeing as McGeady responded to mild criticism from Keane over the winger's Ireland performances by saying: "he is just one of those guys who has something to say about everything".

But now? They're pals again. "Yeah, I had a bit of banter with Aiden the other night. No problem. That's never an issue," Keane explains, recalling that he had a similar experience when he returned to play for Ireland in 2004, after a lot of harsh things had been said - on all sides - after 2002.

"I had the same when I came back as a player - what's going to happen? All that's put to bed very quickly. I'm very comfortable with stuff like that. People have said something and it's taken the wrong way.

"People might have said that I had an issue with Aiden, that he could do better. I think that's a compliment because I rate the player.

"It's the lads you don't talk about or put demands on - they're the ones that should be worried.

"If you're putting demands on players, it's because you believe in them. Listen, you can do better. What is wrong with that? I'm sure you get that in your working environment.

"I think Aiden probably sees it that way. I had a bit of a chat with Aiden two nights ago and it was actually quite...it can turn into a bit of craic and a bit of banter.

"Aiden's trained well for the past day or two and I think he's a really good player. Hopefully, I think he can do better. Jesus, there's nothing wrong with saying that," Keane added.

On the day that their appointment was confirmed last week, O'Neill jokingly referred to the O'Neill/Keane relationship as "bad cop and bad, bad cop". Keane smiles at the idea, preferring the notion that he will be more like a kind uncle with the players, though with typical wit added "you all have an uncle you don't really like, don't you?"

He added: "I don't think that will be an issue with me and the players over the next few years because I'm not as bad as everyone makes me out to me in terms of criticising players.

"Demanding of players? Of course, and hopefully that will never change. But this idea of being - I don't know, being a bit more softer with players, because obviously I'm not going to be the one dropping players or leaving players out, that might give me the opportunity to be nicer to players, but without being a pal to them either.

"Hopefully, the players are in for a pleasant surprise particularly the lads who've not worked with me.

"I know people can believe what they hear and read and, if they're thinking for some reason that some monster's going to turn up and, all of a sudden, I'm quite placid."