Martin O'Neill responds after leaked Stephen Ward WhatsApp audio describes Roy Keane's expletive-laden rant at Harry Arter
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has said that any criticism aimed at players by his assistant Roy Keane is his responsibility.
An audio file has been circulated on social media today, allegedly of Stephen Ward discussing Keane's altercations with Jon Walters and Harry Arter, which took place in Ireland camp over the summer. Ward was not with the squad at the time of the incidents. Last week Arter stepped away from the Irish squad due to the disagreement with Keane.
Speaking to the media ahead of tomorrow night's friendly against Poland, O'Neill addressed the audio, attributing it to Ward and said that disagreements between players and management have happened before.
"First of all, I don't think that Stephen [Ward] was there. Stephen wasn't actually there. He was just picking up on things; something that we talked about at the beginning of the week. Probably not anything more really to report," O'Neill said before claiming that Ward's version of events didn't tally with what he had heard from Keane on the rows.
"Jon [Walters] is fine. Harry is perhaps not so fine. But I said to you before, you would have to ask whether that is the complete reason why Harry is not participating in these games this time. I think you probably know that anyway, because Harry has let that be known to a few people anyway, on the reasons that he has decided not to come.
"First of all the incidents took place at the end of May. They have surfaced months later. It's not the first altercation between players and staff. I had one with the man beside me on Friday (David Meyler) and he took it on board.
"Sometimes I think the game has changed. Players need to go out and prove the management wrong. If you're asking about Roy's criticism of players, this is my responsibility. I will take full responsibility of anything that goes on.
"We have lost two competitive games on the trot. In the previous 11 we lost one. I've capped eight players this year to get us ready.
"These two confrontations took place months ago, they happen all the time, I will be astonished if there isn't one between now and November."
O'Neill denied that the altercations had adversely affected his squad.
"We could not have reached the EURO's, we could not have performed in the manner we did in the World Cup campaign moving from 4th seeds to second place, unless the morale was sky high," he added.
Asked if Keane had any problems with any player in the setup: "I would have to say, absolutely not"
Independent.ie have contacted the FAI for a statement on the matter.
Arter has called a temporary halt to his Ireland career, telling manager Martin O'Neill that he would not return to the squad after the altercation with Keane.
More to follow
Here's what Stephen Ward said in the WhatsApp message:
"So basically lads, Roy was getting on to the lads for not training three days in a row. Johnny's got a bad knee so he can't train all the time.
"They were at the training ground and him and Harry were just sitting on the bench, just relaxing and icing themselves and stuff. Roy walked over and was like, 'Why aren't you lads training?' and he blatantly knew why they weren't training because the manager would have told him and they were like, 'We can't do three days in a row'. 'What are you guys? Professional footballers? That's a shambles that is'. The both didn't say anything and Roy walked off and came back over again, 'So when are you going to train, I'm sick of people pulling out with injuries, what the f** is wrong with ya?' and the lads were like, 'Listen, we've got problems, we do it at our clubs, we can't do it'. Roy said something under his breath about Johnny and walked off.
"Johnny lost his head, jumped off the bench and walked after him, grabbed his arm and said, 'What's the story Roy? If you've got a problem say it to my face, don't f**king walk off' and he was like, 'I do have a problem, you're not training, you're getting soft, it's no wonder Dyche doesn't play ya, you're f**king always looking for an argument like you are now' and he was like, 'No Roy, you are the one trying to start an argument', and apparently they were squaring off to each other and having it off and had to be pulled off each other. All the lads were grabbing Johnny away from him... Johnny was going to kill him.
"Roy brought up something about when they were at Ipswich together, they had like a falling out as well. 'You're threatening me again Jon, like you did at Ipswich', and Johnny was like, 'Yeah, are you going to be a s**thouse again and send me my fine in the post rather than say it to my face?'.
"It blew over for a few days and then they flew out to France and Johnny apparently just text Roy was like, 'Listen Roy, I'm in room whatever, if you wanna come up, you've obviously got something on your mind that pisses you off about me because it's causing tension in the squad, let's talk it out'. Apparently Roy just wrote back, 'Nah, I'm just here to help players. People like you... stay out of each other's way. You don't need to reply to this message', and that was that.
"They got back from France and Harry felt his quad in training again. So he wasn't training. Apparently he was getting treatment in the treatment room and Roy walked in and was like, 'When are you going to train you fucking prick?' and Harry was like, 'What?', and he was like, 'Any chance of you training?'. He explained the situation again and Roy was going off going, 'You're a f**king pr**k, you're a c**t, you don't even care, you don't wanna train', and Harry was just going, 'Roy, I'm not speaking to you like this. I'm not listening to you. You're not the manager. You can't say anything to me'.
"Apparently Roy was going mad getting worse and worse and Harry got up off the treatment bed and was walking back to his room. As he was walking back Roy was shouting down the corridor, 'You're a f**king pr**k, you're a c**t you've been all your life' and that was really it lads.
"It didn't come to blows but basically just Roy losing his head."