Thursday 20 June 2019

John Aldridge: Roy Keane should pick up the phone and call Harry Arter for the good of the Irish team

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Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane during a training session at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane during a training session at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

John Aldridge

ROWS in dressing rooms are part of every day life in football and I’m amazed that the fall-out between Ireland assistant boss Roy Keane and Cardiff midfielder Harry Arter was allowed to spill out into the public domain.

I don’t know why manager Martin O’Neill and even FAI chief John Delaney didn’t appreciate the gravity of the situation after Roy ripped into Arter at the team hotel back in June and left him questioning whether he wanted to be part of that set-up.

What we have now is a mess that needs a lot of clearing up.

The story goes that Arter and Jonathan Walters were told they should not train by the Ireland medical staff and Roy then took exception to him missing a training session and ripped into the two players in pretty angry fashion.

I’m of the opinion that sports scientists and medical experts are given far too much power to stop players from training in the modern game and I would guess that Roy shares those sentiments, but Arter could not ignore medical advice and just go out and train as that is not how the game works any more.

The end result as far as I know is that Arter met O’Neill last week and told him he would not be available for the game against Wales tomorrow night, but this should have been sorted out long before then.

I never had a problem with Roy. I enjoyed playing alongside him in my days in the Ireland squad and I’d guess he is very much old school in the way he goes about things.

Like me, I suspect his policy on injuries goes something like this: if you have a little knock, get on with it in training and put yourself on the line to try and play in the next game.

That was my ethos as a player and then as a manager during my time at Tranmere and I would have no problem telling players they were soft and using colourful language to let them know if I felt that way, but that isn’t the way football works these days.

As assistant manager, Roy needs to respect the authority of the manager and clearly, his rant at Arter did not have the desired effect as one of Ireland’s last remaining Premier League midfielders is no long part of the set-up.

Management teams in football often have a good cop and a bad cop and I’d guess Roy plays the latter of the roles in this Ireland set-up. Martin will oversee things and Roy will be his enforcer when he needs to be.

I had something similar when I was manager at Tranmere with my assistant Kevin Sheedy acting as the shield between me and the player and then David ‘Ned’ Kelly coming in and fulfilling a similar role after that.

There were times when I overstepped the mark in the way I dealt with players and I admit there were regrets in some of the things I said, but Sheeds and Ned got the players back on my side and we all got on with the job of trying to win football matches.

After James McClean’s withdrawal from the Ireland squad yesterday, I look at the midfield options open to O’Neill in a game that will see Gareth Bale unleashed on Ireland in Cardiff and I fear the worst.

Arter is not a great player, but he would have been one of the better options for tomorrow night’s game in Cardiff and what may have been an attempt by Keane to give him a kick up the arse has gone horribly wrong.

Declan Rice has opted out of this squad and with Arter also missing, we have one Premier League midfielder in Jeff Hendrick. What a desperate situation for O’Neill to find himself in.

I don’t know if it’s too late for Keane and Arter to have a chat on the phone and find a solution to this problem, but that is what should happen and if it needs Roy to pick up the phone first, then he should do it for the good of the Ireland team.

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