Thursday 14 November 2019

Neil Ruddock: Roy Keane is a pussy – but players fear his management style

Ex-Liverpool ace says players are scared by Irish assistant

Neil Ruddock and Norman Whiteside at a reception in the National Museum of Ireland to announce details of Setanta Sports' coverage of the English FA Cup fourth round
Neil Ruddock and Norman Whiteside at a reception in the National Museum of Ireland to announce details of Setanta Sports' coverage of the English FA Cup fourth round
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Neil Ruddock believes that his former sparring partner Roy Keane is too hard on players to become a success as either a manager or a number two.

The outspoken ex-Liverpool defender enjoyed his physical battles with the Corkman during his playing days but has not been impressed by his transition to life in the dugout.

Ruddock feels that the Irish assistant rules by fear and says he's been told by contacts in the game that Keane's management style revolves around telling his players to be more aggressive.

"He intimidates people," said Ruddock, speaking in Dublin yesterday. "You can teach players to be fitter, you can teach players to be technically better, you teach players to live their life better.

"If you're not aggressive, you will not be aggressive. I think Roy Keane when managing, the stories I've heard, he's trying to make players be more aggressive."

Ruddock also joked that the former United and Celtic player was not quite as tough as most people viewed hi.

“So I’m voted the 17th hardest man in football and, on ‘Soccer AM’, I asked who’s first? They tell me it’s Roy Keane so I say he’s a pussy. I really appreciated him when he played for Man United against Liverpool and broke his foot — he got on with it, didn’t moan about it.

The Londoner was an extremely combative player himself, but argues that the most impressive managers he worked under knew how to read personalities.

"The best managers I've had caned me, called me the biggest names under the sun and I'd react well. Other players... if you done that to them, you'd lose half the dressing room.

Destroy

"Terry Venables would destroy me at Spurs. I could be the best player on the pitch and he'd destroy me. But then he'd go to Nayim, 'You're the best'.

"With Roy Keane, you think players are scared of him and you shouldn't be scared of your manager. And now as a number two, he should be the one with the arm around the shoulder."

Ruddock made headlines for quipping that Keane was a 'pussy' after a poll rated him as the Premier League's top hard man whereas 'Razor' came in at a lowly 17th. That comment, he explained, came from disgust at his own position.

"As a footballer, if you smash someone, he'd smash me," he said. "I really appreciated when he played for Man United against Liverpool and broke his foot, he got on with it and didn't moan about it."

The 46-year-old was in reflective mode as he discussed his tussles with United in the 1990s when he was part of a talented Liverpool squad that will forever be remembered as 'The Spice Boys', a team of nearly men.

Ruddock points out that their league finishes would be regarded as a success in today's climate given the importance of making the Champions League. "Fourth is the new first," he joked.

His lingering regret is missing out on the 1996 FA Cup final with Phil Babb selected in his place. Ruddock ended up in Piccadilly Circus that evening with Stan Collymore and between them they managed to put his garish cream suit jacket on the statue of Eros.

Eric Cantona struck the United winner on the day and Ruddock felt he could have impacted that game given that he had fared reasonably well in his personal scraps with the Frenchman.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of his famous kung-fu kick at Selhurst Park, an act that Ruddock respected. "I always wanted to do that," he explains. "I got ten times the grief."

His tactic for unsettling Cantona was to turn down his trademark raised collar, a gesture which prompted a tunnel row involving David James in the aftermath of the United star's comeback match - a fixture which culminated with his late conversion of a penalty for a 2-2 draw. "He said, 'Come on Fatty, tunnel, tunnel' and I wanted to kill him," Ruddock recalled. "I'm walking after him and one of the boys said to me, 'Actually he's quite big'. Then there is a doubt in your mind.

"David James came over and says, 'What's the matter?' I said, 'Cantona wants to fight me'. And David James was like a doorway with a head on. He takes his gloves off and runs after Cantona who runs off."

Skirmish

That skirmish ended on positive terms when Cantona tapped his adversary on the shoulder in the players' lounge and offered him a pint. "I had lots of battles with Roy Keane but he's never bought me a pint and I've never bought him one," laughs Ruddock.

The larger-than-life character was accompanied on his Irish visit by Norman Whiteside, an admirer of Keane who admitted he was surprised by his pairing-up with his old Northern Ireland colleague Martin O'Neill.

He feared that sparks would fly, knowing from personal experience that O'Neill's assurance marked him out as a natural manager. "Martin is not a yes man and Roy is not a yes man but they seem to have clicked," said Whiteside.

The hero of United's 1985 FA Cup win over Everton remains a fixture at Old Trafford for media and corporate duties and would love Louis van Gaal to have a real go at winning the trophy this term.

"Top four is a big thing and I think they'll definitely qualify in a top four place without a doubt but of course you want silverware," he said. "Everyone wants silverware. Anyone who says they don't is lying. Manchester United are no different."

Ruddock and Whiteside were in Dublin to announce Setanta Sports' coverage of the FA Cup Fourth Round. For details visit setanta.com

Irish Independent

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