Roy Keane: Martin O'Neill's big-game mentality in Clough-Ferguson bracket
Roy Keane believes that the pressure of a play-off brings out the best in Martin O'Neill and feels the Ireland manager's ability to strike the right tone in a big match build-up puts him in the same bracket as Alex Ferguson and Brian Clough.
The Ireland assistant - who hinted that he was open to staying on for another two years working with O'Neill - says that the squad preparing for the crunch World Cup play-off showdown with Denmark couldn't be 'in better hands' for an occasion of this magnitude.
Keane's relationship with Ferguson broke down at the end of his stay with Manchester United, but he agreed there are parallels between the Derryman and the Scot when it comes to handling weeks like this one. "The key to the really top managers - and I go back to the managers whom I worked with - is saying the right thing at the right time," said Keane.
"Obviously that will not be through the media but at a team talk, maybe in the dressing room, maybe at half-time, pre-match or even the hotel.
"And I know that if I was a player, I (would) like Martin's messages. Of course you are going to say that I have to say that because I work with him."
Keane added: “But I always try to picture myself as a player and, if I was a player and these were the messages that I was getting from the manager, I would be going, ‘Yes, I get that.’
“There are hundreds and thousands of coaches out there but management is different.
“It’s about saying the right thing at the right time, the right tone, the right message. You simplify things.
“I worked with Brian Clough and Alex Ferguson and I have obviously made it clear before about Alex Ferguson that, whatever you are saying about him, in team talks, it was to say the right thing at the right time.
“I’d certainly have no problem mentioning Martin in the same breath as them. Absolutely not. I wouldn’t blink an eyelid at that. I could not be learning from a better manager.”
Jeff Hendrick’s well-being is the main concern for the Irish camp heading into Saturday’s first leg in Copenhagen.
Hendrick went for a scan on a glute problem yesterday and Keane is hopeful he will join his team-mates training before the squad travel to Denmark tomorrow.
“I won’t be losing any sleep tonight about Jeff being available,” he said.
Stephen Ward also sat out training yesterday and is expected to be on the sidelines again today but the management are confident the left-back will be fine.
Denmark’s injury issues are clearing up, with skipper Simon Kjaer taking part in their training session yesterday and Feyenoord striker Nicolai Jorgensen being fitted for a protective cast to ensure he can play with a fractured wrist.