Sport Soccer

Monday 16 September 2019

From Saipan to Sir Alex: Roy Keane's Top 10 football rows

Force of nature: Roy Keane at the friendly against Turkey last March. Photo: Stephen McCarthy
Force of nature: Roy Keane at the friendly against Turkey last March. Photo: Stephen McCarthy

John Brennan

Roy Keane hasn’t managed a football team in eight and a half years. Yes, not since Ipswich Town fired him in January 2011 has this wonderful football player been entrusted with sole control of a football club or national team’s fortunes.

In that time, perhaps a club chairman or two, or a President of a National Association has asked the 48-year-old Corkman to lead a team.

If they have, neither they nor Keane has mentioned it too loudly.

He has been linked with lots of jobs by the media, but never actually got one. Again, we have to say some of that might have been by his choice.

You see, the born winner in Roy wants to manage a club or country that will win something or achieve at a high level.

He does not want to cruise along in mid-table taking the money, or be happy, as he once accused Ireland of, to be at a Finals just to kickstart the party.

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Roy Keane was Sunderland manager for two years (David Davies/PA)

But winning in football now means an English Championship chairman with a very large chequebook, or being at one of the Premier League's 'Big Six'. Neither of those two parties seem interested in employing Keane.

Why? Because he had two shots at management and they ended badly. Sunderland started off well with a wonderful promotion to the Premier League.

But when Keane told the then Black Cats’ owner, Ellis Short, that major money would have to be invested to make Sunderland a top side, Short demurred and Keane walked away.

Short has since sold the club and Sunderland are now a League One team. Keane was proved spectacularly right, but other club chairmen noted how he walked away – they don’t like managers walking out on them – they prefer to fire them!

And Ipswich Town’s boss Marcus Evans didn’t like it when his club was wallowing in mid-table in January 2011 – more than a year and a half after he had begun to give the Irishman serious funds.

And club chairmen, above all, do not like it when their manager is all over the media ranting and having a go at someone else.

When you employ Roy you always risk that he will say what he believes to be true, honestly, very honestly, sometimes far too honestly. Here are ten Roy Keane specials when the red mist descended.  

1) THE ONE THAT GOT ROY THROWN OUT OF WORLD CUP

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Keane divided the nation when walking out of Ireland’s training camp in Saipan ahead of the 2002 World Cup following a row with manager Mick McCarthy. Photo: Andrew Paton/INPHO via Getty Images

The Daddy of them all. A furious row in Saipan, that had been festering for a while, but which exploded before the 2002 World Cup when then Irish manager Mick McCarthy is alleged to have accused his player of faking an injury to avoid going to Tehran for the World Cup play-off against Iran at the end of 2001. During the rant, Keane told then Irish manager Mick McCarthy. "Mick, you're a liar... you're a f*****g w****r. I didn't rate you as a player, I don't rate you as a manager, and I don't rate you as a person. You're a fucking w****r and you can stick your World Cup up your a**e. The only reason I have any dealings with you is that somehow you are the manager of my country! You can stick it up your b******s."

2) THE ONE THAT LED TO ROY LEAVING MANCHESTER UNITED

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Keane left Manchester United after attacking several of his teammates in an MUTV interview. A fuming Alex Ferguson ordered the tape to be pulled. Photo: Phil Cole/Getty Images

Roy Keane left Manchester United after attacking seven of his team-mates on the club's TV channel, MUTV. Keane's most stinging vitriol was reserved for Ferguson's record signing, Rio Ferdinand. "Just because you are paid £120,000-a-week and play well for 20 minutes against Tottenham, you think you are a superstar," he said.

3) THE ONE WITH THE SNAPPED LIGAMENT

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Roy Keane stands over Alf Inge Haaland during a Manchester derby clash in 2000

After Keane suffered a season-ending knee injury while trying to trip up Alf Inge Halaand in September 1997, the Irishman stewed for three years before exacting his revenge in the Manchester derby. "I'd waited long enough. I f***ing hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c***," he recalled in his autobiography in 2002. "And don't ever stand over me again sneering about fake injuries. And tell your pal (David) Wetherall there's some for him as well. I didn't wait for Mr Elleray to show the red card. I turned and walked to the dressing room." Keane later denied using those exact words.

4) THE ONE WITH THE PRAWN SANDWICHES

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Roy Keane famously hit out the 'prawn sandwich brigade'

Keane hits out at sections of United's support in the wake of what he felt was a dire atmosphere in the club's Champions League clash with Dynamo Kiev in 2000. "Sometimes you wonder, do they understand the game of football?" he splutters. "We're 1-0 up, then there are one or two stray passes and they're getting on players' backs. It's just not on. At the end of the day they need to get behind the team. Away from home our fans are fantastic, I'd call them the hardcore fans. But at home they have a few drinks and probably the prawn sandwiches, and they don't realise what's going on out on the pitch. I don't think some of the people who come to Old Trafford can spell 'football', never mind understand it."

5) THE ONE WHERE PLAYERS ARE "PIECES OF MEAT"

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Jaap Stam's time at Manchester United ended when Alex Ferguson sold him to Lazio in 2002

It's 2002, and Jaap Stam's £16.5m departure to Lazio leaves the Irish player fuming. "His transfer to Lazio illustrates how little power footballers have in the game. Contracts mean nothing," he fumes. "He has discovered that, to football clubs, players are just expensive pieces of meat. The harsh realities remain and when a club decide they want to sell there is little you can do once the wheels are in motion."

6) THE ONE WHERE ROY PROVES TO BE A FORTUNE TELLER

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Roy Keane shows the disappointment of defeat to Bayer Leverkusen in 2002

Just prior to United's make-or-break Premiership showdown with Arsenal in 2002, Keane questions the desire of some of his team-mates and warns - prophetically as it turns out - the Red Devils could end the season without a trophy. "There are a lot of cover-ups sometimes and players need to stand up and be counted," he admits. "I'm not sure that happens a lot at this club. That's the least we should do. We shouldn't have to demand it from the players - they should be proud to play and give 100%. We're not asking for miracles. We're asking them to do what they should be doing. When players don't do that it's bloody frustrating. We're going to find it hard to win the league and if we end up with no trophies there's something wrong."

7) THE ONE WHERE HE BLAMES THE YOUNGSTERS

As United lose their grip on their Premiership title in 2004, Keane rounds on unidentified younger players, accusing them of not pulling their weight. "We have one or two young players who have done very little in the game," he spits. "They need to remember that and not slack off. They need to remember just how lucky we all are to play for Manchester United and show that out on the pitch."

8) THE ONE WITH THE IRISH BLAZERS

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Roy Keane pictured during an Ireland training session at the AUL Complex in Clonshaugh, Co Dublin back in 2001. Photo: Damien Eagers/SPORTSFILE

In 2001, Keane hints he might quit the international stage if Republic of Ireland officials continue to treat the squad like second-class citizens. Fresh from a brilliant performance in a 4-0 thrashing of Cyprus, Keane blasts the FAI. "Where we trained last Monday, in Clonshaugh, was abysmal and it has been for as long as I've known it," he says. "I was fairly critical about our seating arrangements on the flight out here, when the officials were sitting in the first-class seats and the players were sitting behind. For me that's simply not right and it's not just because I'm playing for Manchester United. The priority has to be the team - and I don't think that has always been the case here."

9) THE ONE WITH ALEX FERGUSON

Not so much a rant as an on-going row. Remarkably these two magnificent football men have not spoken for well over a decade, since the time Ferguson simply jettisoned Keane from the Manchester United dressing-room as the manager decided there can be only one figure in authority at the club. The pair sniped at each other in autobiographies, and neither man has ever said things have settled down between them. On Wednesday night, Keane said he had no regrets about falling out with Ferguson and their failure to patch things up 14 years later.

10) THE ONE WITH JON WALTERS AND HARRY ARTER

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Harry Arter and Roy Keane

In the summer of 2018, Keane has a go at the two Irish players before a friendly, saying they were slacking in training. Arter refuses to turn up for matches in the Autumn and so does Declan Rice – a huge blow to the national team’s future. Martin O’Neill and Keane’s authority with the team never recovered from the next game - a 4-1 thrashing by Wales in September 2018. They are gone two months later.

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