Wednesday 20 November 2019

'It wasn't far off what actually happened' - Jon Walters discusses leaked audio message and bust-up with Roy Keane

11 November 2015; Republic of Ireland's Jonathan Walter, right, and assistant manager Roy Keane during squad training. Republic of Ireland Squad Training, National Sports Campus, Abbotstown, Co. Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
11 November 2015; Republic of Ireland's Jonathan Walter, right, and assistant manager Roy Keane during squad training. Republic of Ireland Squad Training, National Sports Campus, Abbotstown, Co. Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Jonathan Walters has given an insight into his bust-up with Roy Keane that caused a huge split in Martin O'Neill's Ireland set-up.

Ireland assistant manager Keane clashed with veteran striker Walters and midfielder Harry Arter during Ireland's international matches last summer, with details of his confrontations put into the public spotlight after they were revealed in the Sunday World newspaper before a leaked WhatsApp message from Ireland defender Stephen Ward highlighted the issue further.

Keane is alleged to have questioned why Walters and Arter were not training with Ireland even though they had been advised by FAI medical staff to sit out a session due to injury, with the backlash against Keane putting his position in the Ireland set-up in doubt.

Arter pulled out of last month's Ireland squad amid suggestions that he would not return without an apology from Keane, yet the on-loan Cardiff midfielder returned to the set-up and started against Denmark in Saturday's UEFA Nations League game in Dublin.

While Ireland boss O'Neill has persistently claimed the details over Keane's verbal attack on the two players had been over-exaggerated in the media, Walters told Sky Sports that the WhatsApp message was a fair reflection of what had taken place.

"Things go on in football and the public don't get to see a lot of it," began Walters, clearly picking his works carefully. "WhatsApp has got a lot to answer for here!

"On the eve of two big games that we have now, if I go into it all now, it will stoke the flames and it is probably not the best thing to go into.

"I don't think the WhatsApp message was too far off from my point of view. It wasn't far off what actually happened.

"Whether that's right or wrong, who is to decide. It's a difficult one. Do players need that (encouragement from coaching staff)? I don't know, I don't know."

Walters went on to welcome Arter's surprising decision to return to the Ireland set-up, as he suggested the English-born midfielder could be a huge asset in O'Neill's set-up.

"To have Harry back now is a very good thing," he added. "He is a good player to have in the midfield. He is tenacious in the tackle, he gets stuck in, but he is also very good on the ball. He is always available for it, left foot, right foot. He can play passes around the corner and link in, which we missed in the last game."

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