Sport Soccer

Saturday 20 January 2018

Final Straw?

Keane a lame duck manager as core support turns against him

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

ROY KEANE has been booed at Lansdowne Road by Ireland fans, faced a torrent of abuse at multiple away grounds, and had every negative aspect of his character examined at length in newsprint.

He is in unfamiliar territory now, however. And, while he has previously managed to shrug off the aforementioned attention without any lasting scars, it could well be the case that he has met his match in the 'Ipswich Evening Star', a newspaper that wouldn't have crossed his radar until he moved house and home to a quiet, inoffensive part of England.

They went front page yesterday, imploring Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans to bring an end to Keane's troubled tenure in East Anglia. "Time for change, Marcus," roared the headline. Inside, it was more of the same, with the newspaper's editor penning the criticism rather than the football writers.

There was nothing particularly new in the charges levelled at Keane.

The results, unfortunately, speak for themselves. But it is significant when a local publication -- albeit one that has consistently been vocal in their questioning of the 39-year-old -- takes such a strong stance.

impact

It would be wrong to underestimate the impact local papers can have in the UK. They provide wall-to-wall coverage of their town's football team each day, and are generally given extra access to do so.

Usually, the football correspondent will have a closer line to the manager than national reporters, with the game's skilled politicians always mindful not to get on the wrong side of the local press.

You might recall Joe Kinnear's memorable opening press conference as manager of Newcastle where he charged into the room and responded to the mocking of his appointment and his approach to the first day by name-checking certain national journalists for their coverage.

Kinnear threatened the hacks present by stating that he would ban them all from his conferences. The exception was the two local papers. He wasn't going to leave them out of it, as they are potentially a direct line to the hardcore support every day.

That's the way it operates in certain towns; some managers will apply a different code to the scribes in the parish.

In some places, that approach goes down a treat, with the local publications happy to quash speculation in 'the London media' or whatever term they wish to apply to those who only turn their attention to smaller-town clubs in times of crisis.

Keane was never going to play that game, though. His predecessor Jim Magilton was also unpopular with some of the Ipswich media and had one famous spat that was caught on tape which became a stick for his detractors to beat him with.

Nevertheless, one of Keane's first initiatives at Ipswich was to make the training ground less accessible for all comers.

His feeling was that the club was, perhaps, too friendly and welcoming. It wasn't just media who were capable of walking through the front gate.

With results going badly, though, the perception now is that there's a distance between the team and the supporters, a feeling that will have been reinforced by Keane exchanging verbals with certain fans after Monday's home loss to Nottingham Forest -- his team's 10th league loss in 14 outings.

Certainly, they're not used to that in Ipswich, a club whose patience with their managers has been mentioned so often in the past 18 months that it is almost becoming a cliche.

If Keane picked up yesterday's paper, he would have noticed that his boss, Evans, has escaped the vast majority of the flak.

The club are £35m in the red, and made a pre-tax loss of £14m last season. In Evans' first full season in charge, the 2008/09 campaign, they shed £12m.

Keane has made several pleas for funding to bring in players, and there's a suggestion that he was promised more than he received upon taking the job.

Yet the Ipswich editorial says:"Determined Evans, who has grown to love the Portman Road club, has watched in despair as this ITFC season has collapsed in on itself." They add that Keane had "the owner's full support and funds."

There's an inevitability about what comes next.

Irish Independent

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