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Former Manchester United striker Andy Cole was in Dublin yesterday as part of Setanta Sports’ coverage of three upcoming games involving Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United.

Former Manchester United striker Andy Cole was in Dublin yesterday as part of Setanta Sports’ coverage of three upcoming games involving Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United.

SPORTSFILE

Former Manchester United striker Andy Cole was in Dublin yesterday as part of Setanta Sports’ coverage of three upcoming games involving Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United.

Andy Cole believes his former Manchester United team-mate Roy Keane is capable of managing in the Premier League again – providing he learns to control his temper.

Having shared an Old Trafford dressing-room with Ireland's assistant boss for seven years, Cole enjoyed a fiery, yet often very friendly, relationship with the Corkman – to the point where he wrote favourably about him in his autobiography.

Yesterday, however, his kindness came with terms and conditions attached. Keane, he feels, most certainly is officer material, but his boot-camp strategy needs refining.

"Returning to the Premier League as a manager will be his ultimate goal," said Cole. "And sometimes you have got to learn from your mistakes and take a backward step.

EXPERIENCE

"Now while I'm not saying the Ireland assistant's job is a backward step – it will be good for him to look at the game through someone else's eyes and say 'right I'm not a No 1, I'm a No 2 now'.

"At this moment in time, Roy needs to be asking himself, 'how can I use this experience to help me get back into management? Most importantly, how can I change?' Because Roy does have to change. In all the managerial jobs he has taken, he has been confrontational, falling out with someone.

"You can do that when you are a player. But as a manager, if you keep falling out with your players, at some stage they are going to say: 'I don't care who you are, I don't want to play for you.'

"So, if Roy is going to get back into management, he's going to have to go about things in a totally different way because the days of managers ruling by fear are long gone. Dressing-room culture has changed to the extent where if you criticise a player, he will happily say, 'okay, I have three years left on my contract, so you can either sell me or I will sit here for three years'. The modern day manager has to marry egos."

No one did this better than Alex Ferguson, whose ability to create an environment where harmony mixed with ambition resulted in his Manchester United team dominating English football for two decades.

Along the way, Cole and Keane were forged together, men from totally different backgrounds, but who thought along similar lines. "Roy brings fire and desire," said Cole.

"No one could compete with the winner's mentality that he had. He made sure if he couldn't win every game that he would at least go down fighting.

"I knew that when I stepped over that white mark, that he – as my leader – would do everything possible to help me win and you have to respect it. If someone had taken that fire away from him, he would not have been the player he was. I respect him as a person and think Martin O'Neill has done a superb thing by bringing him in as his assistant."

Yet for the archetypical leader to suddenly adapt to a subservient role seems like an accident waiting to happen. "That depends on how you look at things," said Cole. "For Roy, this Irish job provides him with a fresh perspective on the decision-making process.

"Roy was never afraid to make decisions, but sometimes when he went about it, he upset a hell of a lot of people.

"Being a No 2, under a good manager like Martin O'Neill, allows him to look at how Martin approaches things. If he can learn from that and then take that experience with him when he becomes a manager again, he can be a better man and a stronger manager."

Amid the schooling comes a challenge, however, namely for Keane and O'Neill to resurrect the fortunes of the national side.

"Ireland should be doing a lot better than they are because they have got some good players. Wes Hoolahan, for example, is a superb player yet, for some reason, was never in the team.

"There are also a lot of good, young players who, granted, don't play in the Premier League but that does not mean they are untalented. With two good people in charge now, Ireland can get good results."

His old club – Manchester United – however, continue to get bad ones and are clearly finding the transition from Ferguson to Moyes, from era to era, a traumatic experience.

"There is no fear factor anymore," said Cole. "Teams have arrived at Old Trafford this season and gone, 'right, the king is gone, it's the best time to attack when the king has left'.

"If I was managing a team this season, I'd immediately turn around to my squad and say 'what a great time to go and play Manchester United. Alex Ferguson has retired, there's a new manager in, let's go and attack'.

"You'd look on them as vulnerable whereas a lot of teams who have come to Old Trafford this season and won, would have lost the match in the tunnel last year.

"That's what happens in football when there's a change at the top. Liverpool were the same. When Kenny Dalglish left, people went 'right, great opportunity to beat Liverpool'.

"People always try and go for you when you are weak. That's life. David Moyes and his players just have to step up to the mark and rectify that as best as they can."

Irish Independent