Sport Soccer

Monday 15 July 2019

Kevin Palmer: 'Roy Keane needs to accept his skills are best deployed in a very different environment'

Roy Keane eager to return to management, but he may be better deployed as a firebrand TV analyst. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Roy Keane eager to return to management, but he may be better deployed as a firebrand TV analyst. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

After it was confirmed early on Sunday morning that Roy Keane's enduring partnership with Martin O'Neill had belatedly come to an end, speculation over what happens next for the most talked about figure in the history of Irish football began in earnest.

The word emerging from Nottingham Forest suggested Keane decided to activate a release clause in his contract as the club's assistant manager just five months after his arrival in a bid to 'pursue a return to management' and on the surface, that would appear to be a sensible move for the 47-year-old who has not been the chief decision maker at a club since he left Ipswich eight-and-a-half years ago.

However, that spell as Portman Road boss left a lasting scar on Keane's managerial reputation and the stories that have emerged from those who tried to work with him at Sunderland and Ipswich added to the questions around his ability to work in harmony with players.

Keane is not the type who is invited back to too many reunion parties with former employers as when he makes his exit, it tends to be with guns blazing.

Keane's infamous bust-up with Harry Arter and Jonathan Walters in the Ireland training camp last summer was the catalyst for the downfall of the O'Neill era with Ireland, with the revelations emerging from those infamous exchanges putting all concerned in an untenable position.

The uplift in Ireland's fortunes and spirits since Mick McCarthy and his management team took over added to the suspicion that the O'Neill/Keane bandwagon should have been halted long before it finally was, yet that tale could have been very different had the manager made a different choice with his first pick as Ireland boss.

While O'Neill should take much of the credit for the success he engineered at those two clubs, his somewhat aloof management style meant that his assistant John Robertson played a key role in acting as a buffer between the manager and his players at Leicester and Celtic.

"Martin is a great manager – and I know that from first-hand experience – but something seemed to go horribly wrong in his set-up and I wonder whether that was down to the people in his backroom staff," former Leicester defender Gerry Taggart told the Sunday World.

"Assistant managers are vital to a team's success and whether they are putting an arm around players or giving them words of advice at the right moment, having the right guy on hand to steer a team in the right direction is so important.

"In my time working with Martin, John Robertson was a vital cog in what he was doing and maybe Roy didn’t have that same positive impact in the Ireland set-up, as there were rumours of rifts with players and there was clearly some discontent in that dressing room."

Whatever is next on Keane's agenda, we can all hope to hear a lot more from a character who has yet to give his side of the story in that infamous Arter/Walters fiasco and we know that when the time comes for him to speak out on his time in the Ireland management set-up, his each and every comment will be a headline in the making.

A full 12 years have passed since Keane inspired Sunderland to promotion from the Championship and since then, there has been little evidence to suggest he has the tactical acumen or man management skills to get the best out of modern players whose egos bruise too easily.

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Roy Keane was Sunderland manager for two years (David Davies/PA)

Unless Keane already has a management job in his sights, his most lucrative job offer is likely to come from BT Sport or their rivals at Sky Sports, who have both flirted with employing the services of a firebrand character who is box office television when employed as a TV analyst.

BT Sport tried to hire Keane in the summer of 2017, but he was not ready to commit to a regular television role, but that opinion could change if jobs in football fail to come his way and the big-money that can be offered by satellite TV networks in the UK is floated in his direction.

Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher reportedly earn in excess of £1m-a-year in their roles at Sky and Rio Ferdinand will command a similar fee as BT Sport's lead pundit, with Keane certain to add to the viewing figures on any broadcast he is a part of.

Keane's two appearances on Sky Sports last season served up a series of rants that made for gripping television viewing and confirmed that he would struggle to get the best out of playboy footballers and the excesses they delight in parading on their social media platforms mean he is not cut out for management.

This football icon will only ever want to be the best at anything he does and with the events of the last decade confirming that Keane is not cut out for a man-management role, he should accept that his skills are best deployed in a very different environment.

Online Editors

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