Thursday 17 October 2019

Daniel McDonnell: 'It would be a stretch to say the Keane news will cause a stir in boardrooms around England'

Roy Keane has criticised Manchester United’s players (Niall Carson/PA)
Roy Keane has criticised Manchester United’s players (Niall Carson/PA)
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

By the standards of Roy Keane departures, it was decidedly low key. And bereft of acrimony.

A Sunday morning press release confirmed that he would not be extending his stay at Nottingham Forest.

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In doing so, it brings down the curtain on almost six years working as an understudy to Martin O’Neill. “A magnificent experience,” said the 47-year-old. All the soundings are that Keane fancies having another crack at management, a line that was repeated by O’Neill throughout their working relationship.

We now wait for the proof. Naturally, the news prompted speculation about what might be next. Birmingham, Doncaster and Derby are amongst the clubs looking for a new manager – although the latter are refusing to admit that yet with Frank Lampard’s pursuit by Chelsea ongoing.

But it would be a stretch to say that the Keane news will have caused a stir in boardrooms around England.

In truth, it’s the suits in Sky that are likely to be wondering if this development can benefit their position. Keane remains box-office in that arena. His stint at Forest was unremarkable; his punditry appearance for the Manchester derby in April got more of a buzz going.

There are people who have worked with Keane that would say that, deep down, he still views a career in punditry as failure compared to operating at the coalface. "An easy gig" was how he described it in a recent autobiography.

Yet there’s also a question about how low down the football ladder he is willing to go in order to make that return to the dugout. Taking the English ladder as a barometer, would operating below Championship level represent failure too?

Keane’s interest in Irish football is genuine and he’s watched a number of Cork City matches this summer and, seeing as they are looking for a full-time boss right now, the timing will likely lead to speculative links.

And if his home-town club were in a better financial place, that idea might even generate some momentum.

But that type of move would still be interpreted as a fall from grace.

 It’s over a decade since Keane left Sunderland and, at that juncture, there would have been an expectation that he would manage at Premier League level again. He’s further away now, barring an eccentric move by a publicity-seeking owner.

What he has become is a Premier League pundit, however, with Sky noticing the bounce from the pair of appearances last season where he lacerated Manchester United players and ended up becoming a part of the broader debate around the state of play at Old Trafford.

Indeed, that return to the spotlight even led Graeme Souness to float the idea that Keane should have got the nod for the interim gig at United.

“He was fascinating to be around,” said Souness. “He and I come from the same school of thought. We both like to win and there is nothing wrong with that.

“Maybe some people are too sensitive these days and that may be where Roy has had a problem at times in his coaching career. It’s not just in football that people are too sensitive, it’s in every walk of life.”

Those words might have caused a few chuckles in the Ireland dressing room, where Keane’s combative method of engagement chipped away at his legendary standing.

It’s a year since their WhatsApp chats were dissecting the attack on Harry Arter that became a big story a few months further down the line.

This was the same gathering where Jon Walters, a popular and respected member of the group, invited Keane to his hotel room to sort out their differences after growing frustrated by constant sniping.

The offer was refused.

Kind verdicts on Keane’s time in management centre around the conclusion that he struggles to engage with players who wouldn't meet the standards he reached.

There would be a fair few characters knocking around Championship level that might have achieved more with his attitude.

O’Neill and Keane also had the opinion that some Irish squad members had a high opinion of themselves relative to their ability.

After scaling the heights with their boots on, they have the confidence to believe that they belong with the elite.

If Keane wants his next job to be in that sphere, then he will have to settle for the studio. But if he wants to get back there on merit, he may have to lower his bar.

His next move will tell us a lot about where his career is going.

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