Thursday 22 February 2018

Homework impresses old-school Roy Keane

Ireland assistant fired up by squad’s work ethic ahead of double-header

Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane speaking during yesterday’s pitchside press conference at Abbotstown
Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane speaking during yesterday’s pitchside press conference at Abbotstown
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

In the aftermath of another training session in Abbotstown, a team effort which had clearly pleased him, Roy Keane wore a business-like demeanour.

There are times when the Keane show is a circus, and days where he seems happy to entertain it. In the Corkman's last press conference at FAI HQ, his soundbite about Arsenal players and their selfies and six packs ended up causing a bit of a splash across the water.

That was the product of a long series of round-table interviews that invariably throw up no shortage of quotable Keane insights when he warms to the theme and spots a window for an amusingly withering one-liner.

It tends to be different when he is firmly in Irish assistant manager mode. Certainly, it was the case yesterday as he strolled over towards the microphones with a pair of boots in his hand and a press officer over his shoulder studiously keeping an eye on the clock. He wouldn't be hanging around.

A curious aspect of the Keane fascination is that so many hours are spent searching for his views on the distractions that surround the game, we rarely get too much of an insight into his football philosophy.

Speaking after a lively workout, the 44-year-old outlined his straightforward take on what he is looking for on the training ground in the build-up to tomorrow's encounter with minnows Gibraltar in Faro. What he craves is an old-school work ethic; this is hardly surprising.

"We've had a good practice game today," he explained, "11 v 11. People talk about drills and possession but football is about 11 v 11 on a big pitch.

"And we've had a good day today, a good tempo to it and lads have said, 'Listen, I want to play on Friday night'. Which is what the game of football is about."

It's as simple as that.

What brought him down that line of thought was a common discussion theme of the week, the proliferation of players at Martin O'Neill's disposal that have arrived here without having figured for their employers.

Keane is asked if this double-header is an opportunity for those individuals, with Aiden McGeady an obvious example, to send a message to their club managers.

He's not sold on that idea when, in his eyes, they should be doing that with the aforementioned application in their daily work.

"Well, the club managers are working with them every day of the week," he shrugs. "I always think as a professional footballer, you're sending a message to your club manager every day of the week.

"The way you train, the way you behave around the training ground, how you speak to the staff, how you treat the younger players at the club. I don't necessarily think the players here are going to make a big shout-out to their club managers. The club managers probably know them better than us."


"What we hope when they turn up is, well, the beauty of international football is you have a group of players with different dynamics. Some players are playing regularly, some aren't, you're just hoping you get the balance right and that the lads who come in plug into what we're about.

"And, yeah, if I wasn't playing regularly I'd turn up thinking this is an opportunity to get a game. I'm pretty sure there's places up for grabs. And when we're training this week that's what we're saying to the players. Every day: 'Listen, impress the manager.'

"What most managers and staff do then is go back to the hotel and chat about the training - who's doing well, who's looking sharp, who has a good attitude, who's making it impossible to be left out. That's what I tried to do as a player."

Applying that logic to this week, it appears that Bournemouth's Eunan O'Kane is making an impression on his debut call-up.

Keane has noted his confidence with the ball, an attribute he feels is of greater significance in this sphere than it might be in aspects of the English club circuit.

"I like him," he said, "The higher level you go, especially in international football, as long as you can deal with the ball you've got a chance. And he's impressed everybody.

"Some lads might find international level slightly easier - if you're playing in the Premier League or Championship - because other teams do let you have the ball.

"And if you can control it and deal with it, which you hope most professional footballers can but believe me a lot of them can't do, you've got a chance.

"If he's playing regularly at club level, and they play really good football Bournemouth, they're excellent to watch, and what we've seen here over the last couple of days ... the first impressions are he's got a chance."

Similar lingo was applied to another Derryman, Darron Gibson, when he was coming through the ranks at Manchester United. Keane recalled as much in discussing the latest travails of the Everton midfielder with his drink-driving shame adding to his injury problems.

"Young players are going to make mistakes," he said. "What age is Gibbo now?"

"Twenty-seven," comes the response.

"Well, that's not young to ye lot, is it?" he smiles. "He's still quite young but he needs to play regularly, whatever about the off-the-field stuff.

"Gibbo's got to do something. Get in that Everton team, or go out on loan and get some game-time.


"I know he's injured at the minute but go out and start showing people what you're capable of because obviously I remember Gibbo when he was at United and they always said that he's got a chance but we've seen before that talented players fall by the wayside and hopefully that won't be the case with Gibbo."

His Everton colleague James McCarthy is here, and appears to have shaken off a problem with his knee although O'Neill will have to trim his squad from 28 to 23 before flying today.

Keane was happy enough to see that the Glaswegian was showing signs of wear and tear from his early-season endeavours.

"He did get a knock last week but I think if you're playing midfield, you should be getting knocks every week," he said, matter of factly.

"You're hitting people, they're hitting you and I'm always concerned when lads turn up, particularly the midfielders, and they've not had any knocks. You're supposed to get knocks in games. You're supposed to get knocks in training. It's part of the game."

That is the Keane way.

Irish Independent

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