Saturday 20 July 2019

Daniel McDonnell: 'Keane cannot afford to turn down chance to get back in game'

Return to work as assistant manager at Nottingham Forest makes more sense than waiting around for offers which may not come

Roy Keane, in his role as Ireland assistant manager, with Martin O’Neill during Ireland’s Nations League game against Wales last October. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Roy Keane, in his role as Ireland assistant manager, with Martin O’Neill during Ireland’s Nations League game against Wales last October. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Roy Keane is never going to be just another staff member. The additional time it has taken to confirm his role on Martin O'Neill's Nottingham Forest backroom team illustrates the point.

Steve Guppy and Seamus McDonagh were both caught on camera at the Forest training ground as O'Neill began work in his new brief. Thrashing out a deal for Keane has proved just a small bit more complicated.

His recent appearance on the Sky panel for Liverpool's win over Manchester United reminded us that he will always be a man in demand in some capacity, whatever the perception of his ability in the dugout.

He will never go hungry. With Ireland, he was overpaid given the actual demands of his role as number two.

His basic pay (which is believed to have finished up at around €600,000) was worth more than the €440,000 (£400,000) that Wales are paying their manager Ryan Giggs.

There is surprise in some circles that Keane is willing to talk about going back in as a number two again considering it was widely anticipated that his next career move would be to re-establish himself as a boss.

Perhaps the short-term goal of a hectic promotion tilt with his old club is an attraction. Perhaps he has realised that there won't be any better offers coming along in the near future.

Keane was never mentioned as a possible replacement for Karanka, and it's a while since he was floated as a serious candidate for a plum position. Keith Andrews said earlier this week that the fallout from the Harry Arter row and the associated WhatsApp dramas have knocked back the Corkman.

O'Neill stood by him, and has clearly not been put off by five years working together. However, that process ultimately did not succeed in rehabilitating Keane and restoring his reputation as a potential gaffer - although Celtic did come knocking during the 'dream team' honeymoon period.

Sitting idle is not going to improve his situation now. Time moves on.

Coaching and management can be a great leveller. Keane lorded it over the Manchester United dressing room, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the treble winner that's on the pedestal now.


His ability to connect with the Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, the millennials you might say, has been flagged as one of the reasons he might be an option for the longer term.

The positive reception of Keane at Forest is built on the belief that he is a 'winner' who will go into a dressing room and shake things up.

The question is if those methods are now actually effective when it comes to the business of delivering victories.

As an Ireland player, and then subsequently as an unsympathetic ex-squad member who turned a critical eye to the mentality of the group, Keane demanded more. He was the authority on what was necessary to succeed.

The cubs that stepped out of his shadow during the 2002 World Cup are now all grown up and finding their own way in the business now their own playing days have ended. Shay Given is goalkeeping coach at Derby. Robbie Keane has worked his way into the Irish set-up. Damien Duff has progressed from the Shamrock Rovers training ground to a new reserve team role at Celtic.

Lee Carsley is closer in age bracket to Keane and it could be argued that of all the squad that went to the Japan and Korea, his stock is now highest within the game.

He is a respected member of staff with the English FA, and it's a surprise that the FAI did not get in contact with him at all during their recent search for a new direction. The idea of selecting Carsley over Keane for anything would have been considered ludicrous a decade ago. Now, it would be the pragmatic call.

Keane is the risky proposition.

Of course, it must be acknowledged that the reason Keane's status suffered is because he has already tried out high-pressure roles whereas those listed above are taking the slow route - the safer route in terms of job security.

Keane's reputation earned him a drop into the deep end at Sunderland.

Anybody who has watched the Netflix documentary charting the travails of the Black Cats will appreciate that he inherited a serious job there.

The fact that he managed to handle it so well at the outset and galvanise the entire operation en route to promotion remains an extremely positive - if increasingly distant - line on his CV. Those opening months were exhilarating and Forest will be hoping for similar momentum from their new ticket.

There's a certain symmetry here, in the sense that they took a punt on Keane back in 1990 when others harboured doubts. Eventually he outgrew the club. Now, he can't really afford to turn them down.

Irish Independent

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