Thursday 22 February 2018

'It's the lads you don't talk about or put demands on ... they're the ones who should be worried'

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

ROY KEANE'S unveiling was largely dominated by discussion of his personality and why he chose to return to football as an assistant manager to Martin O'Neill.

However, he also touched on his knowledge, both personal and professional, of the current Ireland squad, his views on what they can achieve and what lies ahead over the winter and in the long term.

RELATIONSHIPS WITH IRISH PLAYERS

Keane is relaxed about encountering former team-mates such as Robbie Keane and John O'Shea and addressed matters pertaining to those panel members who felt his wrath either under his management or in his role as a pundit.

On Monday night in the hotel, he joked with Aiden McGeady about their war of words arising from his comments at Euro 2012.

"People might have said that I had an issue with Aiden, that he could do better. I think that's a compliment because I rate the player," he said.

A ‘wordle’ of the most popular words used by Keane during the hour-long press conference with the word ‘Players’ proving the one used most frequently
A ‘wordle’ of the most popular words used by Keane during the hour-long press conference with the word ‘Players’ proving the one used most frequently

"It's the lads you don't talk about or put demands on – they're the ones who should be worried. If you're putting demands on players, it's because you believe in them."

A similar sentiment applies to Anthony Stokes, who he regards highly even if he was left exasperated by the Dubliner at Sunderland. Keane also had a brief chat with Jon Walters, who he clashed with when the striker left Ipswich to join Stoke. "Jon Walters did very well for me," he recalled.

"I was disappointed with the way it ended, but it's not going to be a pals act when someone is desperate to leave and you're desperate for him to stay. I've been with Jon the last day or two and that's all been sorted out."

IMPROVING JAMES MCCARTHY

In his opening address, Keane mentioned that his presence could really benefit the midfielders and that led to an obvious question about what he might do for James McCarthy, Ireland's great white hope.

Keane is a fan, and can understand why Roberto Martinez splashed out to bring him to Everton. He believes that the 23-year-old has the attributes to go to the very top.

"Wigan is only down the road from where I live so I went to see them a few times when he was there – he is progressing very, very well," Keane said.

"I have seen him against the very good teams and he has stepped up, which is a good sign, and my first impression over the last two days is that the boy has a chance of being a top player.

"He probably plays a little like me – maybe not as aggressive – but that will all come with maturity. From the way he trained today and the game we had, he was getting in very good attacking positions and making very good forwards runs, which I think is always something I did when I was a young player, particularly at Forest.

"But I don't want that to be twisted round that I am comparing him to me, far from it. Hopefully over the next few years he is going to be a top midfielder."

THE JOB DESCRIPTION

After touching on his desire to do more work on the coaching ground, a task he largely left to others in the club sphere, the No 2 later expanded on what might occupy him once the games with Poland and Latvia are over considering that the March 5 joust with Serbia is next on the calendar. Keane envisages attending matches on a regular basis and actively seeking players for a chat. Darron Gibson, a long-term injury victim, is on his list of people to visit.

While the League of Ireland embarks on a long winter break, he plans to go to games when it resumes – he enjoys attending matches on his trips home to see what's out there.

Keane also feels there is scope to have an input in underage development, and that senior team management should be cognisant of the lie of the land.

EXPECTATION LEVELS

Keane referenced Ireland's relatively poor record in crunch games in recent years and feels this group have to alter their mindset in order to deliver in those encounters and make Euro 2016.

"Our record has not been great over the last few years," he said. "From my own experience, when I played with Ireland, we had some good results – and we always felt had a chance of winning every match we went into.

"When you look against the Austrians and the Swedens... I always think Ireland should be getting better results. I thought we should have done better than we were doing."

Training has allowed him to inspect the talent in the ranks. "From what I've seen over the last day or two, there's plenty of options from players who can play in different ways," he said.

"Listen, I'm not saying Ireland can all of a sudden start playing like Brazil or Barcelona, I understand that. But don't have a closed mind to it. Ireland have some good players – the boy Hoolahan, McCarthy, Stephen Ireland if he gets back. Every time I see Anthony Stokes, he affects games. McGeady. These are all talented boys."

HIS OWN MANAGERIAL AMBITIONS

The 42-year-old does want to return to management one day, believing he was plenty of time on his side.

He rejected a chance to take over the Icelandic national team and a club in Turkey during his stint out of the game, and was a tad annoyed that some English sides didn't speak to him about specific roles which appealed to his personality.

But he was unwilling to discuss what might happen if a club came in for him now, asserting that his mind is focused on the next two years.

"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it," he said. "The contract is signed and it's dangerous if you're signing any sort of contract thinking about what might happen down the road. You have to live in the now. This role, this job, this opportunity really appeals to me."

Irish Independent

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