Thursday 20 June 2019

Comment: Roy Keane could have sorted this car crash weeks ago, now he's being forced to the negotiating table

Roy Keane
Roy Keane
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

FEW have stood up to Roy Keane and emerged with their pride and dignity intact down the years, but Harry Arter appears to be about to break that mould.

It would have been easy for the the straight-talking midfielder to follow the old school football ethos of 'manning up' as Keane unloaded his bid on Arter and explicitly advised him to ignore the advice of the medical staff of his club and the FAI by training with an injury, yet instead he boldly decided enough was enough.

This was not the first time Keane had attacked him with a venom that has onlooking Ireland team mates confused and after consulting with friends and family over an extended period during the summer, the 28-year-old decided the moment was right to make a stand.

Arter has been through enough in his short life not to be spoken to in such a manner by a figure he wants to respect and so began a process that has belatedly taken Keane to the negotiating table, after Ireland boss Martin O'Neill confirmed his unpredictable assistant was finally ready to make efforts to break with a habit of a lifetime and make the first move to end a feud he had started.

Keane's views on Arter's abilities as a player and a person will not have changed in the last two weeks, but the Ireland management team now realise that the world they believed they were operating in has shifted under them and in a bid to cling on to power, they are giving an impression that they are willing to embrace change.

Calling your work colleagues 'pr***' and 'c***' may be standard practice for those who learned their football tricks with historical legend of the game such as Brian Clough, yet it has no place in a 2018 world where millionaire footballers do not not need to be lectured in such vile fashion.

The latest unprovoked attack on Arter exposed Keane to accusations that he was indulging in a vivid form of bullying in the workplace and while some continue to question the player's decision to turn down an Ireland call-up when it came from O'Neill, the battle of popularity must surely have swung dramatically in his favour.

Eyebrows were raised when the Sunday World ran a blow-by-blow account of Keane's spat with Arter last weekend and many websites were wary of running the story until the ugly content were followed by the leaked WhatsApp audio message from Stephen Ward, which detailed the rundown of events in equally graphic fashion.

There can be no excuse for Keane's behaviour. No excuse for O'Neill defending it. No excuse for the FAI's failure to condemn the culture being promoted by their celebrity duo's behaviour. This has been a failure on so many levels and it really didn't need to be like this.

It is also a soap opera that has highlighted so much more than the reality that a coaching team using their celebrated past as a weapon against the players they are trying to encourage to perform for Ireland are out of touch with a social media age that has no place for their brand of brash brutality that is now generally viewed as abuse rather than encouragement.

Football and society has moved on and those still following a rulebook that gave them success in a very different era need to move with the times or find themselves left behind.

Arter has emerged as a resounding winner in the PR war that has inevitably engulfed this story and he has not uttered a single word to the media, with the FAI not helping O'Neill enough as the firestorm lapping around his ankles threatened to burn his own reputation beyond repair.

This is a car crash that could have been avoided if Keane had made some effort to reach out to Arter three weeks ago and O'Neill as fully aware of that fact, but instead his assistant has been dragged reluctantly to the negotiating table and is now expected to contact the player under duress in a bid to broker a peace deal.

Keane has not been forced to offer these kind of olive branches amid his numerous spats over the last three decades, but he has been backed onto the ropes and is now holding on hoping the final bell is not as close as it seems.

The final chapter of a crisis that is can be compared of Keane's World Cup walk-out back in 2002 has yet to be written, yet both O'Neill and Keane have been shifted out of their comfort zone like never before over the last couple of weeks and both need to lick their wounds and learn lessons.

If they are to thrive in at a time when players need to be handled with intelligence and a degree of respect, they need to adapt the ways and find their place in a rebranded game.

Online Editors

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