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Living in spotlight will make Keane loser in long run

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Roy Keane's prospects of returning to top-flight management are not being helped by off-pitch distractions. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Roy Keane's prospects of returning to top-flight management are not being helped by off-pitch distractions. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Roy Keane's prospects of returning to top-flight management are not being helped by off-pitch distractions. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

IF you are sick of the Roy Keane 'media obsession' then turn the page. Move along. There is nothing to see here.

By now, so many commentators have complained of Keane fatigue that we have reached the point where Keane fatigue is fatiguing.

The contrarian view is hackneyed, the ultimate nightmare for any contrarian.

Granted, the retort that the Corkman is 'box office' has also become clichéd, yet that's because it's true. Keane is, by some distance, the biggest name in Irish sport.

It is for that reason that the FAI struggled to contain their giddiness when he was unveiled as Martin O'Neill's assistant; they knew it was going to put Irish football back on the front and back pages.

That's why the launch of Keane's autobiography was held in the Aviva, not the function room of a pub.

That's why 2,000 people paid €40 into the RDS a fortnight later to listen to well-told stories.

That's why when the Irish group walk off the training pitch at Malahide past the supporters gathered by their bus. Roy is the face that all eyes are looking for.

Put simply, the media obsession reflects a national curiosity.

FASCINATES

Within football, he also fascinates. Everyone who has worked with Keane has a story; the anecdotes are valuable currency inside the code of the dressing room.

Once news of his scrap in the lobby of Irish hotel broke, former colleagues were desperate to find out the gossip. Gordon Strachan was overheard reading the details to his staff.

Let's just make one thing clear, as self-serving as it may sound.

When a figure of this standing is involved in a flashpoint which leads to the gardai being called 48 hours before a major qualifier, then it is a huge story.

When he made his next media appearance in Portmarnock last Sunday morning, he simply had to be asked about it.

All Keane had to do at that point - and it's easy to say in these shoes - was to respond that he had no interest in going there or discussing his own position.

By that juncture, he had already given some very newsworthy material on Everton and Jack Grealish; another fraught chapter in his media relations was completely unnecessary.

This is an era where the vast majority of sporting interviews are monotone affairs tied in with the release of a product.

Keane is quotable because he is believable. In a desert of blandness, his inability to hide his true feelings is an oasis.

His forceful response to what he deemed an unfair query was always going to generate pages of material. They were devoured, topping the 'most read' lists.

There was no agenda behind the prominence it was given. Nor does it justify every conclusion drawn off the back of the outburst. Joe Brolly led an absurd chorus.

Too many make the mistake of allowing the short fuse to colour the perception of a person with more layers than the popular caricature.

His acts of generosity to help Gary Charles and Gary O'Neill are just two examples of his decency.

Losing the rag at a press conference was an error and it's possible he will regret the extent to which he wound up Everton.

When Roberto Martinez came back in with studs up last Thursday, it became more of a headache for O'Neill. But it is a leap from there to argue Keane is a liability.

To ask if his considerable presence is a negative distraction for the Irish camp is a valid question, but raising it doesn't automatically mean that the answer is yes.

His quirks at Sunderland and Ipswich were the talk of dressing rooms in England. No such stories have leaked from O'Neill's camp; he has a good rapport with this group.

Ireland were on course for a fine year until the loss in Scotland. The theory that the book was a hindrance was destroyed by the fact that a draw with Germany came at the end of that week. Approaches from Celtic and Villa were the product of good reviews.

Inevitably, events in Celtic Park prompted hand-wringing, and the problem with the hotel altercation and press squabbling is that it challenges the depiction of Keane as a mellower figure.

Fury was supposed to be past tense. Bringing Mick McCarthy into it reminded us that he will never quite forgive and forget, even if he has ostensibly built bridges.

A few people in the FAI may shift uneasily at that realisation.

Still, for all that's been written on the premise, no convincing argument or evidence has been presented which demonstrates that Keane is hindering results.

What is relevant, though, are the implications for the number two's personal future.

O'Neill fully expects Keane to go out on his own again when he is ready.

That responsibility entails being in the spotlight every week; his willingness to speak his mind on a range of issues at Ipswich was problematic.

Experienced managers know the public face can sway employers. Some of the grumpiest figures turn on the charm for the cameras.

Keane made many fair points during his Portmarnock episode. However, once the voice was raised and historical differences were dredged up, he was never going to emerge as a winner.

"Anger is a useful trait," he wrote in his book, "But when I'm backed into a corner, I know deep down that when I lose my rag and I might be in the right - it doesn't matter - I know I'm going to be the loser."

Last week's 'distractions' have no impact on his current gig, but they may complicate the process of landing a better one.

Policing of Ireland fans leaves sour taste

IT would be remiss to let this international window slip from memory without referencing the fan protests at the Aviva last Tuesday night arising from the shortage of tickets for Scotland.

Hardcore supporters who are frustrated with the FAI's role in that saga made their feelings clear, yet they were still prevented from raising banners and have made strong allegations about their treatment at the hands of security.

The minutiae of this episode - from start to finish - may continue to be disputed by the respective parties. And it is correct to say that quite a few League of Ireland fans are bemused that it has taken a ticket issue for swathes of international fans to reach long-held conclusions.

But there should be one thing that everybody agrees on. There is absolutely no justification for the heavy security and police presence in a section of home fans at a senior international, especially in one of the few areas that is consistently populated even when other parts of the ground are empty. Suppressing protests succeeds only in making them louder the next time around.

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