Wednesday 22 November 2017

I, Keano: Football, lies, loose talk and drink

DAVID KELLY: Remember the last pre-World Cup meeting we had? 2002? Outside your room in Saipan after everyone else had gone? You with no shirt on and Dylan's 'Positively 4th Street' blasting in the background?

ROY KEANE: You were trying to get into my room, was that what it was?

DK: Still as big a Dylan fan as ever?

RK: Yeah, of course. He's the man, no doubts. I go to see him live as much as possible, yeah. He's still going strong too.

DK: That really left a lasting impression, in terms of all the madness of the time, you seemed so chilled. Not necessarily switched off, but switched into something else. There's this crazy tumult convulsing the whole world, it seemed, and the guy in the middle is the calmest of the lot! How come?

RK: I think for years and years, or whatever, my frustration, whatever stuff had gone on then, I'd come to a conclusion. I mean, I wasn't listening to Bob Dylan at 3.0am, I was thinking about what was happening. But then the next morning, when I knew the team was gone, I said it is over now. I said to myself : 'Hey, I may as well chill out and play a bit of music.' Do you know what I mean?

I wasn't chilled out throughout all of it. But there comes a point where you say: 'Ah listen'. And if there was ever a morning to listen to Bob, it was that morning. I remember that now, yeah, now that you're asking me.

I do remember incidents like that, there are times in your life and career you recall as an important time. That was one. The team had gone by then. I thought there's no going back now. I might as well get my bag organised, pay my hotel bill and hopefully the flight will be okay. It wasn't like a doom and gloom moment. More, 'this is it'.

DK: Is that an easy thing for you to do generally, whatever it is, say, if you have a puncture?

RK: I think sometimes when it comes to the end of something, whether it be situations with Ireland, with Sunderland, United, Celtic, there can be times of indecision. But once you've come to that decision it's a case of, like Saipan, that morning, 'well it's done now'. There's no point worrying about it or thinking what if? It was done.

It happens in family life too. When you come to a conclusion, you might as well relax with it. Whether it's right or wrong, I don't know. The hard part is making the decision.

People look back over my career where I've had incidents or major stuff and they've gone: 'Oh, he's relaxed'. But I'm not and I've been hurt by certain stuff. But there comes a certain point where you go, it's over now, move on.

But a lot of stuff happens in between. But then you come to a point ... When I left United, people thought he's dead blasé about it, he's a tough man. But people get upset around me, I get upset with certain stuff.

But there comes a point ... get on with it. Whether that means listening to music, doing the school runs, taking holidays, whatever. You have to move on.

DK: Don't forget the dogs!

RK: Of course. People have this image. The usual clip comes up of me walking the dogs, as if I don't do anything else. It's the only one they show, perhaps it's the only clip they've got. Some people think it's the only thing I ever do. It's not. I've family stuff to do, friends to meet. There's plenty of stuff to do. And anyway now my dogs can't walk too much, especially the oldest one. I don't do it all the time.

DK: The last 10 years have been fairly interesting. Do you wonder what the next 10 years might hold or do you try not to look that far ahead?

RK: I try not to. I certainly don't want to be a manager that's changing clubs every two or three years. I know managers have less of a choice. It's different when you're a player, you get a four or five-year contract and if you're doing well, you stay there.

I don't want to be uprooting my family. But I do, in the back of my mind, know my choices are going to be less in terms of being able to make a choice like that. My family have moved down there (to Ipswich), we're happy there, but that can change this evening.

That's the down side of management. But then I suppose none of us know what's around the corner. I don't mind that, I don't mind that. You have to be brave as well.

The average employment is 13 months in the Championship. There's so much uncertainty being a manager, you can't look too far ahead, but I'm pretty relaxed with that.

DK: But you still want to be managing in 10 years, still in football?

RK: I do enjoy the management side of it. I've still got lots to learn. I've learned more this year than at any time in my entire life. Obviously, management is a hundred times harder than being a player, because then I only had to look after myself.

DK: Have you tried to do anything different this time around, with Ipswich?

RK: There's been different stuff thrown at us. If anybody had predicted the bad start, the amount of draws. There's stuff in the background which we've done, we do feel we've made progress there, myself and the staff. But you're judged on the results, I know that. They haven't been good enough.

But, hopefully, I've learned from the mistakes at Sunderland and the mistakes I've made here. Hopefully, I won't make the same next year. But I look at top managers and see them making mistakes.

I think what I've always been is very critical of myself, particularly towards the end of my time at Sunderland.

Sometimes I have to go easier on myself a little bit and that's something I hope will come from experience.

DK: About that overly self-critical side of your character, do you think that continuing quest for perfection is ever going to be realistic?

RK: It's not, you're right. There's a danger in that. Being a manager there's a lot more disappointments than ups, only a few of them can win trophies, usually the bigger teams. Even in our league, West Brom and Newcastle were always going up.

I've got to learn that it's more about progress rather than perfection. And that's something that's held me back a little bit, but also it makes me the person that I am. This is the way I was made and there are pluses and minuses to that, like with everybody. But as a manager, I have to go easier on myself.

DK: So, not change your core values entirely, maybe moderate them?

RK: Yeah, moderated a little bit.

"You got a lotta nerve

To say you are my friend

When I was down

You just stood there grinning"

DK: Trust is another word I have down. You, maybe, over-rely on people you trust.

RK: There's not too many I trust ...

DK: Sorry, I meant should there be more people you can trust?

RK: No, because generally speaking the people I have put a lot of trust in over the years have proved me wrong, believe it or not. I don't think that's too much I should worry about.

I see managers who take staff wherever they go. Martin O'Neill has three or four staff who have followed him around from Wycombe to Leicester and Celtic and you understand why.

Before, I used to wonder why they do that, but now I understand. They develop a trusting relationship with them and build on that. I'm only in this management game two minutes, but I bring the same staff with me now. There is that element of trust. I don't think you can go around trusting every Tom, Dick and Harry. No you can't. I did that a little bit at Sunderland, people I thought I knew, but no ...

DK: There are loads of assumptions out there, a public perception about your anger issues, going back to the quest for perfection, the intemperate behaviour on occasions ...

RK: Anger is an emotion. Do I get angry? Bet your life I do. Do I get angry like people think I do? Of course I don't! I wouldn't get a wink's sleep, I'd be too tired all the time. As you say, people assume things. But that's a very dangerous thing to do.

Hopefully I've had the balance right. At the beginning of the season, we'd a bad start, but I was as cool as a breeze.

The same at Sunderland, but there were a couple of incidents which were blown up as usual.

I've worked with managers and they could quite happily lose their temper, let me tell you. Alex Ferguson, Brian Clough. My manager at Rockmount. If you needed telling something, they'd tell you. I don't tip toe around players either. It will come from experience.

I appreciate some players need an arm put around them and others need a telling off. But you've got to be careful. You've got to make sure they know who's in charge.

DK: So, it's all about people management as much as football management?

RK: There's a skill to it, of course, and that's something I need to improve ...

DK: You're getting a little bit better ...

RK: Of course. It's like anything, there's skills to deal with being a good dad, being a good husband, skills for dealing with the media. There are different skills I think I'm okay on, certain others I think I can brush up on.

But it's not something that will keep me awake at night. That's something that will come down the line from being in management. Again, I see loads of football matches and top managers and say: 'Ah, I wouldn't have done that'. And they're top managers, vastly experienced managers. So, if I think I'm not going to make any mistakes, I'm kidding myself.

DK: Would you have put Messi wide against Inter instead of leaving him in the middle?

RK: But it's amazing. You're saying that, but he's had a decent start, that manager ...

DK: But you talk about managers making mistakes even at the highest level ...

RK: But we know that at the highest levels of sport, it's about the fine margins. Maybe he's sitting there this morning, thinking I should have done that. Or maybe not. Because they still had chances, the boy missed a header.

For some reason, we have a chat at work ... we talk about Inter like a pub team. But they've got established South American internationals, 50 or 60 caps.

We're saying Barcelona should do this or that. No matter how Barcelona play, they're going to have these five or six guys on the edge of the box. Good luck to them breaking that down.

We're all sitting at home watching it, saying he should have done this or that. But that's why we're sitting at home! I was in a hotel bar last night watching it thinking the same.

I'd love to have been on that sideline and then the next morning someone saying you should have done this. But I wasn't. So, you get on with your job and I'll get on with mine. Because we're all great managers. All the great managers are sitting on the sofa with a mug of tea and a chocolate biscuit. I'm like that as well. But at least I get a chance every Saturday.

DK: What are your best qualities as a manager? Or do you know what they are yet?

RK: I think you'd have to ask players I've worked with.

There'll always be the ones who are upset with you, usually the lads who don't play in the team. We saw an interview last week, the lad Boateng talking about the previous manager at Hull. What chance have you got with these type of players? They're slagging every manager off. I mean, you don't have to like the manager, but a bit of respect does help.

What are my strengths? I can tell you my weaknesses (laughs). Nah, there's loads of things I need to improve upon, spotting players, getting the right people around me.

"Do you take me for such a fool

To think I'd make contact

With the one who tries to hide

What he don't know to begin with"

DK: You've said that you're going to stop using your club press conferences to talk about subjects other than Ipswich Town. Why?

RK: With the television? Listen, I do the media every Friday. I spend10 minutes talking about Ipswich then at the end someone would ask me who do you think will win between Man United and Chelsea and then it's boom! I appreciate that happens, but I've stepped back from that.

Someone came over to me a while ago from an Irish paper and asked me about Munster, two questions. Then two days later, it's my insight into rugby, my knowledge of rugby. I answered two questions.

I know very little about rugby. But this stupid message goes out that I'm a supposed expert on rugby, it was the 'Times,' I think, exclusive about rugby! For Jesus' sake. You try to be respectful and answer their questions.

Let's not get sidetracked by rugby or who's going to be the next Celtic manager.

DK: But you answered that Celtic one didn't you?

RK: No, I didn't. They'll go back to something I said before a year ago. They'll ask me who's going to be the next manager and I'll say they have a manager. So, they presume that's 'Keane says give job to Lennon!' But I didn't actually say that!

You'll have to go to one of my press conferences.

It was the same at Sunderland. I know this is the way it is and I can't do much about it. Keane lashes this, Keane blasts that. It's lazy journalism, there are a lot of lazy journalists out there. Steve Bruce took his own PR person to Sunderland. I'd never do that, but I understand why he did it. All the politicians have them, they control the media, you write this, you write that.

I've never gone down that road and all the trouble I've ever gotten into is from what I'm supposed to have said, going back to Saipan, United. Silly headlines. Lies. And all of a sudden you're moving club and you're moving this ...

DK: But, in fairness, if someone goes from Ireland or London to Ipswich on a Friday, they're more interested in, say, Trapattoni and Andy Reid than who's going to start up front for Ipswich?

RK: It's amazing. Last year over here, someone was asking me about players in England. I was saying I couldn't get my head around the fact that players up and down the country weren't lasting 90 minutes, they were being taken off after an hour because they aren't fit enough.

A few days later, suddenly it was if I was having a go at Andy Reid. Amazing. I never mentioned the boy. But then there's these headlines because there'd been other silly headlines before about him when people asked me about the Ireland team.

But that's up to Trapattoni.

I don't know if you can stop it now, really, there's always something rolling throughout the last few years with my career. It's frustrating, as I say lazy journalism. I'd like to meet a reporter who'd ask me different questions instead of the same old stuff.

Who's going to get the Celtic job? What about United? Who's going to win the league? For Christ's sake?

DK: Can I ask you a very personal question? Were you really an alcoholic?

RK: Sorry?

DK: Were you an alcoholic?

RK: That's none of your business.

DK: Okay, It's an assumption out there, it's been written.

RK: I'm sure it is. It's nobody's business. There's been enough porkies told about me, this and that. I had it at the World Cup. There was a story I got this girl pregnant in Dublin ...

DK: But you drank a lot back in the days, over a weekend, after a match ... that's different ...

RK: In a sense, it is, but that's nobody's business -- what I was then and what I am now. And that's where I find you have to draw the line with certain people. People can write lies all they want. Stuff like that doesn't keep me awake, but you draw the line in certain ...

DK: But surely it's not nice to be called that?

RK: People get called worse. There'll be something next week about something else. If people want to say that about me, or anger ... Stuff like that doesn't upset me. Because a few years ago, I was the hero of Ireland, then I let them down. I was captain of United and then I'm not mentioned anymore. So, people betray you as something.

So, never get carried away when people call you a 'great one.' I certainly don't get carried away. If people say drink issues, anger issues, let the country down, whatever people want to add ... stuff like that. I know myself what's real and not real. Talk like that is nonsense, absolute nonsense.

DK: Do you still have a drink?

RK: No I don't have a drink, nah.

DK: A glass of wine with dinner?

RK: Nah, I've no interest. I think I've had my time with it. I don't go out much anyway. My relaxation is going to the pictures, walking the dogs, watching football. Ten years ago, I had a different way of doing things. I was going out with the lads in Dublin, back to Cork. Now I'm over here, drinking tea and tucked up in bed at ten.

DK: It's called getting old!

RK: I'm not old yet.

DK: What would your epitaph be?

RK: Who knows?

DK: Who knows? That would be a good one!

RK: I won't be worried about it at that stage.

DK: Would you like your kids to follow in a similar career path?

RK: They've taken more of an interest in Ipswich. They're older, I suppose. They've only been at one match, I think. But they've taken more interest in me as a manager than as a player. They don't really know me as a player. When they were younger, they'd no interest, but it was a military operation bringing them to matches, so my wife didn't bother too much with doing that.

We'd got to functions, we'd good nights out with the other families though, I wouldn't say otherwise. But my kids never got bogged down in what I was doing. My kids wouldn't have a clue whom I've played for or what I've won, not that I'm aware of, because we never discussed it.

I remember winning the league one year, I can't remember what year it was, they used to give us chocolate medals for the kids. The kids were more interested in that, not the fact we were after winning the league. That's what it's all about. When you've a good family around you, that's important, not getting too carried away with winning leagues.

I think they've their own paths to go down, they do all sports, the four girls and the young fella. I trust them to do what they want. And the kids don't worry about me either.

Hopefully, we can keep our base here if I can make this work. In fairness, it's the first time we've moved in 15 years. We've always been based in Manchester.

But I could be here for 10 years or gone this evening. Managers have lost their job after better seasons than the one I just had. I don't worry about stuff I'm not in control of anymore. I used to. The people at Ipswich are good to me, they treat me with respect and that's all I ask. But what will be, will be.

DK: That's the quirk of the whole managerial thing, isn't it? You don't know what's going to happen, you don't know where you might go next. And you haven't made a success of it yet?

RK: You're right. My family are switched on to that, especially my wife, if I have to move on. As a manager, I'll probably experience more moves than I did as a player. It's unusual in management. I'm open-minded.

If we have to move house and schools, we will. I don't want to do it every two or three years. I like being in a house, having dinner with the family.

"When you know as well as me

You'd rather see me paralysed

Why don't you just come out once and scream it"

  • Roy Keane was speaking at the launch of the annual Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind / Supervalu SHADES campaign

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