Tuesday 21 January 2020

Aidan O'Hara: Keane escalates a war of words he can't win

'My old man worked twenty years on the line, and they let him go/Now everywhere he goes out looking for work, they just tell him that he's too old'

WHEN footballers put on their enormous headphones and listen to music on their iPods, perhaps the demo version of Bruce Springsteen's song 'Glory Days' should be on repeat. With the world economy in meltdown, thousands are now finding that years of loyalty and service count for nothing when the numbers don't add up and a person's perceived usefulness and age are going in opposite directions.

In an industry as cut-throat as football, Roy Keane did well to even get a statement of gratitude out of Manchester United.

"I would like to think that I was more than another employee but maybe, ultimately, I wasn't," Keane revealed yesterday in an interview that, like everything that has surrounded his career, produced a mass of contradictions.

For a man who lived by the mantra that there are no friends in football and once replied to a text regarding a team-mate's new phone number with a dismissive "so what", Keane still seems oddly hurt by something that was blindingly obvious.

"People say he (Alex Ferguson) stood by me in difficult times," he said yesterday. "But not when I was 34, not when I was towards the end and had a few differences with Carlos Queiroz."

Keane acknowledges that, had he been 27, he wouldn't have been pushed so quickly towards the door but, like almost every other famous argument Keane has been embroiled in over the years, the current one with Ferguson has the same instigator and is one that he won't win.

In a previous interview, Keane spoke of the definition of insanity being somebody who does the same thing over and over again and expects different results but, it seems, he still hasn't learned not to take on battles that end up with him as the loser.

In his book, Keane attempted to justify his horrendous tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland, by recalling the moment Haaland stood over him at Elland Road and accused him of faking injury as he was clutching his left knee which had a torn cruciate ligament. But the point that's usually left out of the story is Keane's injury was self-inflicted because he tried to land a pointless kick on Haaland while the Leeds player was going into his own penalty area.

For the sake of a cheap shot, Keane paid by spending the rest of the season on the sidelines.

Regardless of the rights or wrongs of his words, both Keane's Ireland career -- before the comeback -- and his one at United were ended by him choosing to publicly run his mouth when engaging the brain would have been more beneficial to everybody.

There are many who see this as an admirable quality but those who marvel at his views normally can't see the difference between Keane "telling it like it is" and "telling it as he sees it". And there is a difference.

When United were knocked out of the Champions League for failing to beat Basel, Keane was right to say that they "got what they deserved" after only beating Otelul Galati in the group stages. Had he left it at that, few could have quibbled, but deciding that Ashley Young, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones were the ones who needed to "buck up their ideas" justifiably brought an angry response from Ferguson.

In the MUTV rant that, ultimately, cost him his job at United after a 4-1 defeat to Middlesbrough, it was the young players who again provoked his ire but, if Keane does return to management in the future, what young player would want to sign for him if he thinks that somebody as impressive as Jones has been this season isn't currently good enough?

In his programme notes three days later, Ferguson had a jibe at Keane, writing that "we will take a lot of stick from critics and even from people we thought were perhaps on our side".

Such words are hardly a declaration of war but, again, Keane couldn't leave well enough alone and responded yesterday to continue a tit-for-tat debate which, as he should know by now against Ferguson, he has no chance of winning.

"There was an angle there of trying to get the fans to look differently at me and I thought 'I can't have that'," he said yesterday as if a manager's notes that few people read anyway could wipe out his 12 and a half years of service with United. Other than a desperate attempt to make himself heard, there must be some reason behind Keane's words but a prospective employer might not bother trying to find one.

His yarn in yesterday's interview about sitting unrecognised in the stands at Wigan might be quaint but only adds to the perception of him as a loner; he has also re-ignited a feud with a manager whose tentacles spread throughout the entire English league and, just a few weeks ago, he reckoned one of the Premier League's most impressive young players needed to buck up his ideas.

If he really does want to return to management before his own glory days pass him by, Keane might want to re-read his own definition of insanity.

Irish Independent

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