Tuesday 20 November 2018

'They can both be bad cops' - Given on managerial chemistry that has led Ireland to brink of World Cup

Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane keeping a watchful eye on their players during training at the Telia Parken Stadion in Copenhagen last night. Photo: Reuters
Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane keeping a watchful eye on their players during training at the Telia Parken Stadion in Copenhagen last night. Photo: Reuters

Martin Hardy

"Good cop, bad cop? I don't know about that."

Shay Given is trying to explain the chemistry between Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane that has taken the Republic of Ireland to the brink of the World Cup finals. The unlikely lads are working again, 180 minutes from Russia.

Given played against Keane, with him, and for him and O'Neill. And, with 134 caps to his name, he has a unique insight.

"They can both be bad cops if they want," he said. "They are both passionate about the job. I think Roy has a humorous side to him people might not know or see at times. "Obviously, I have played with him as well but I think everyone sees the serious side of him.

"You know, if someone's phone goes off, he'd tell you to put that phone off, but he has a soft side, although not that often - I would agree with you there.

"He does like a joke at the odd time as well, though. People don't really see that."

Shay Given. Photo: Sportsfile
Shay Given. Photo: Sportsfile

There is a YouTube video of the Irish training and just as a coach is about to take a shot, Keane sneakily toe-ends a ball in his path.

The coach has not noticed and kicks the wrong ball and tumbles to the ground. Keane walks away laughing.

He would become frustrated at the notion of being one-dimensional when he was in charge at Sunderland and had his greatest success as a manager.

"Roy brings huge qualities because of what he's done as a player, and as a manager and as a person," added Given. "So when Roy speaks to you, you listen. And, if you don't listen, then there's something wrong with you.

"I know he is only the assistant manager but if he goes around the changing-room speaking to you, individually, just a few quiet words at half-time or something.

"If something has to be said, he'll say it. He's got a calmness when he speaks to you but people know he has that fire inside as well.

"If you are not doing something, he'll tell you, and players sometimes need that as well."

The dynamic he shares with O'Neill remains intriguing.

"Martin will know the answer to how it works but they work really well together," said Given.

"Martin is obviously educated - the way he speaks to people and the way he does his team-talks. Sometimes he does lose his head but most times he is quite educated the way he speaks. He can put you down or pick you up with his words. He's very clever when he speaks to people.

"The way they work together, Roy would have a go at someone if he felt it was needed.

"I just think both are well matched in the sense they are two of the most famous people out of Ireland and they're both in charge of the Irish team.

"It's great for the country and I just hope they now get across that final hurdle and into the World Cup. Last summer, they were great getting us out of the group and we lost out to France."

And now it is Denmark and potentially 180 minutes from those finals. Given was victorious in a play-off with Iran.

"It's probably the highlight of my career, getting to the World Cup finals with your country. That realisation in Iran that we're actually going there. It was the final hurdle and we'd qualified.

"There was relief as well because I'd been a fan as well all my life, remembering the Jack Charlton era.

"Watching at home with my brothers and sisters and if they won a game in the World Cup, jumping in the car, going to the village a mile away, all the flags out of the windows. All the horns.

"It was as if we'd won the World Cup. That's what it was like. Great memories as a kid growing up.

"So it was kind of that realisation going full circle. I was still a fan but not a fan actually because I was going to be crossing that white line and people back in Lifford or wherever in Ireland, going, 'My God, he's one of our own.

"For me personally, going from a fan to a player and now back to a fan again, it is unreal. I was growing up watching these guys playing in World Cup finals, my heroes.

"And now, maybe I'm not someone's hero but kids might think they are Shay Given diving around the garden because I was Packie Bonner when I was a kid, diving in the garden because he'd played in a World Cup. So all in all, very special.

"The good thing for these guys is that they have not been to a World Cup before so that's a burning desire. They are hungry to get there. Two good things.

"It's just about trying to keep our emotions intact, be focused on what we need to do, which is the job in hand."

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