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Thursday 19 September 2019

Kevin Kilbane thinks Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane could return to management - if they change their ways

Martin O’Neill with Roy Keane during their days on the Ireland sideline. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin O’Neill with Roy Keane during their days on the Ireland sideline. Photo: Sportsfile
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Former Ireland midfielder Kevin Kilbane believes there will be a route back into the game for Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane after a few months that have left their reputations battered and bruised.

After losing their jobs with the Ireland national team at the back end of 2018, O'Neill and Keane appeared to have been offered a perfect chance at redemption as they returned to their former club Nottingham Forest at the start of this year.

Yet their brand of management that became the subject of ridicule in Ireland in the final months in charge of the national team was then rejected by Forest players, with the club sacking O'Neill after senior members of his dressing room voiced discontent with his approach.

It was a duel fall from grace that led many to believe O'Neill and Keane would struggle to get back into the game, but Virgin Media Sport analyst Kilbane believes their reputations can be restored if they are given another chance on the touchline.

"I think there will always be an opening for O'Neill and Keane given their standing in the game," declared Kilbane, in an exclusive interview with

"I think it has been a difficult period for both of them, especially for Martin after what happened at Nottingham Forest in the end. It was a pretty ruthless exit as he was replaced a few minutes after being sacked and what happened at the end with Ireland wasn't very pleasant either.

"They both have to dust themselves down and go again, if that is what they want to do. I'm not sure what Martin's motivation might be at this stage of his career, but Roy will certainly want another chance in management and he remains a huge name in the game of football.

"Roy's standing, his character and what he brings means he can bring a lot to the game and he proved that in his first managerial post at Sunderland.

"He went into that club when they were at a low ebb, near the bottom of the Championship, and he got them promoted in his first season. That was an achievement that cannot be dismissed.

"It didn't quite go the way he would have wanted at Ipswich and we have seen since then that it is not an easy club to work in at the moment.

"So I think there will be an opening for Roy. That little bit of edge around him is not for everyone, but if you are looking for someone to go into a job and shake things up quickly, he could be the man for that."

Former Republic of Ireland player Kevin Kilbane during the launch of Virgin Media's 55-a-month 'Endless Football', Superfast Broadband and TV package, at Virgin Media Ireland HQ. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

O'Neill and Keane have been accused of adopting a management style that is not appreciated by modern players who expect to be treated differently, yet Kilbane suggests that barb is misplaced.

"The old school mentality has gone from the game, there is no doubt about that," he added. "I was witnessing that across the course of my career and there is a different breed of footballer in the game now. There is a very different mindset with the kids coming through and they are open to managers and coaching staff who bring fresh ideas and innovation to the training ground.

"They want to learn, they want to develop an understanding for the game and that hardline approach of O'Neill and Keane may not necessarily get the best out of young players these days.

"I would always have wanted someone to be forthright with me, to tell me what I was doing wrong and how I could fix it, but modern players may shy away from that. Now is is all about educating a player, helping them to get the best out of themselves and handling them a little differently compared to what I was used to back in the game.

"Is that for the better? I don't know, but managers now cannot go into a dressing room and try to shout and scream in someone's face because they won't listen. It was normal for me to see a manager shouting at a player, but the is not the norm any more and it will not work.

"If you are having a go at someone now, there needs to be a reason or people will question it and we don't know what happened between Roy Keane and Harry Arter in their row last year, but clearly Roy didn't come out of that situation too well.

"Our world has changed, not just in football. Anyone who says anything that is considered to be a little outspoken will run into trouble and someone will be offended. Society has changed and the successful managers like Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola seem to know how to handle players."

Former Republic of Ireland player and Virgin Media Sport panelist Kevin Kilbane was speaking at the launch of Virgin Media's €55-a-month 'Endless Football', Superfast Broadband and TVpackage.

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