Saturday 24 March 2018

Keane looking on the bright side of bad news

Ireland assistant stressing the positive in debates about the direction of the game

Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane during training in Abbotstown. Photo: Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane during training in Abbotstown. Photo: Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

It is fair to say that Roy Keane would never have stood out as a likely candidate to defend the integrity of professional football.

The murky world of recruitment is one area where he struggled as a club boss and he has seldom disguised his contempt for the bluffers and the hangers-on that are now such a major part of the game. Loyalty, or the lack thereof, has been another bugbear.

In the course of discussing his own future yesterday, the Irish assistant again stressed that he doesn't employ an agent that could tout him for jobs that are doing the rounds. That wouldn't be the Keane way.

However, in the aftermath of a fortnight where the Daily Telegraph's investigation has raised severe questions - even if some allegations didn't quite live up to their billing - it was Keane that spoke out to accentuate the positive when the controversy that brought down Sam Allardyce was raised.


"Because of all the stuff that has gone on in the last week or two, with all these allegations and accusations, you need to remind people what a great game it is," he said.

"There are some brilliant people in football. Why do you think it is so popular? Yes, there is so much money involved. And when there is so much money involved, like any industry, there will be greed.

"That is not going to change. But don't allow it to take away from the brilliant people there are in football, the brilliant clubs, managers, brilliant chief executives. There are some good agents out there too.

"Let's not tarnish every agent as some dodgy, Italian bluffer. There are bluffers out there. I have used that word before. But it is the greatest game on the planet. There are some really great people involved.

"I'm not saying we brush it under the carpet, but let the clubs and the FA deal with it, whatever is going on."

That was the end of that discussion, with Keane briefly veering from Irish subject matter to discuss his old sparring partner Gareth Southgate.

"He's not as nasty as me," he smiled, after a complimentary review.

The ugly side of the beautiful game was a theme of Keane's press conference ahead of Ireland's World Cup encounter with Georgia at the Aviva Stadium.

He moved from off the pitch to on-the-pitch matters as the issue of Ireland's football philosophy was raised.

The opening draw with Serbia in Belgrade was more of an eyesore than the 2-2 outcome would suggest.

Keane can understand the criticism but, similar to Richard Dunne, he pointed out that Irish teams have mostly relied on substance rather than style.

"You obviously want to retain the ball better," he stressed. "I think Irish teams could have been retaining the ball better for the last 30 years, not just three months."

Can that be traced back to the Charlton years, he is asked.

"I don't know about Jack changing it," he replied. " I don't really know how Ireland played before that. It might be the quality of the players, maybe being able to look after the ball.

"Having said that, I played with some really good players for Ireland and I don't remember ever keeping the ball that great. I could be wrong and someone might remind me but I don't ever remember having 60pc or 70pc possession away from home and absolutely hammering a team.

"It's not just with senior teams, I remember that with underage teams too.

"My experience with Jack and Mick McCarthy and Brian Kerr, I don't think we kept the ball that well."

Were they encouraged to do so?

"Not by Jack and Mick, I don't think so. But to be fair, we were getting results so it was a case of we'll worry about that later on.

"People still have the good memories of qualifying for tournaments and I don't get pulled up in the street by people saying, you didn't pass the ball enough against Holland. Irish fans want to see winning teams as well."

Can it be improved in a short international window?

"We hope so," he continued. "But it depends what they are doing at club level. You'll get decent possession at clubs like Bournemouth and Derby. But we're also there to win football matches. It's a balancing act. That's the key word. Can we keep the ball?

"Everyone still loves watching Barcelona and Brazil and of course it would be great if we could just keep the ball and everyone was comfortable in possession and wear teams down and pick holes in them and get balls down the side of people and have that bit of magic.

"Our style will never be 60 passes between our two centre-halves. It's get the ball in the box and score goals."

That intense approach is likely to be on the cards ahead of the Georgian encounter with Keane speaking of his respect for the qualities of an opponent that Ireland has a record of inflicting misery upon by the narrowest margin.


Ireland look set to be without their Bournemouth man with Harry Arter still at his club having a groin problem assessed.

His inability to train 48 hours before the match was the end of his prospects of involvement according to the number two and he cannot envisage a recovery ahead of Sunday's date in Moldova.

James McCarthy is determined to figure, though, which is a surprise given that Martin O'Neill had indicated at the start of the week that the matches might come too soon.

Still, fatigue and shortage of match practice was highlighted as a possible reason for sluggish aspects of the Belgrade display so management will be conscious of that.

"I think we'll be physically stronger than maybe we were in the last game just because the lads have got more games under their belts," asserted Keane.

"We can't take our eye off the ball with this one. Every time I've watched Georgia, they look up for the battle."

With Ireland, that much will always be guaranteed.

Keane on...

Club opportunities

It's all ifs and ands. It depends who comes calling - Real Madrid, Barcelona, Altrincham, Barnet. It's not in my mindset, I'm not one for networking, I don't have an agent, I don't apply for jobs and I never have. Maybe I never will do, but that might change in a few years - who knows? I'm committed to the Irish job and if I wasn't committed then I wouldn't have signed. I have had one or two options while I have been in the job and it's not been the right job for me, so I'm happy to stay.

Gareth Southgate

I like Gareth. He is a good guy. I remember he tried to break my leg in an FA Cup semi-final. Luckily I got out of the way. Besides that, I try not to hold that against him. I bumped into him two or three weeks ago, watching Barnsley and Reading, then the other night I bumped into him at Everton and Palace. He is a good guy. Is he up to it? There is only one way to find out.

Scott Hogan

I think the manager has plans to meet him over the next few weeks and hopefully that falls into place. The manager is taking the leading role in that but if it helps the lad that I get involved, then fantastic. Any player that qualifies for Ireland and is scoring goals week in, week out in the Championship, then we have to consider them. It's as simple as that, because of the shortage of strikers we have.

Harry Arter

He has had a little bit of bad luck with us because we were expecting him to get a run of games. His form is decent at club level, but we have the same conversation every time we turn up with the national team. There will be players injured and that's just the nature of the game we're in.

James McCarthy

I'd like to think he'd be available for Thursday. Obviously we've been getting medical feedback from the club doctor and our own doctor but the most important feedback I always look for is from the player. He seems really upbeat and actually looked quite sharp in training.

Irish Independent

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