Wednesday 18 July 2018

Roy Keane: The beauty with international football is you can drop the idiots

Ireland assistant boss insists the truth is best policy to spark underperforming players into action

Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane
Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane

Denis Hurley

One of the benefits of international football is that unwanted players can be dropped, while at club level it's harder to dispense with dead wood, if they're high earners.

More than once at the Bord Gáis Energy 'Winning in Business' seminar at Cork's Clarion Hotel yesterday, Roy Keane expounded on the positive importance of conflict.

It's something he would enjoy reacquainting himself with as a manager, even if the troublesome players aren't always fun to deal with.

"You put your arm around him," he said, to rising laughter, "you give him a little squeeze, and then you show him the door!" as the crowd applauded.

"At every club, you're going to have one or two idiots. They'll be on a two- or three-year contract, you'll want to get rid of them and they might want to go but there'll be nobody wanting to touch them.

"The beauty of the national team is that guys like that, you just drop them if they're not pulling their weight. It's horses for courses with a lot of guys, sitting down and having a chat mightn't always work, sometimes you just give the honest truth and decent people, decent players, don't mind that."

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It's interesting to see how Davy Fitzgerald’s decision to recruit Dónal Óg Cusack to his backroom team has attracted so much high-profile support in Clare

The event, which also featured Clare hurling coach Dónal Óg Cusack and former Ireland women's rugby international Fiona Coughlan, took place as Celtic announced that Ronny Deila would be departing as manager at the end of the season. UTV Ireland's Alison Comyn, the MC, took the opportunity to gauge Keane's views, but he wasn't biting.

"I've two jobs, ITV and Ireland!" he said.

"Nah, no. No comment."

Earlier, RTÉ's Conor Brophy had asked Keane if returning to a club job in the long term was on his agenda.

Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane was speaking at the Bord Gáis Energy ‘Winning in Business’ breakfast seminar at the Clarion Hotel, Cork yesterday. Photo: Daragh McSweeney/Provision
Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane was speaking at the Bord Gáis Energy ‘Winning in Business’ breakfast seminar at the Clarion Hotel, Cork yesterday. Photo: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

"And the shorter term, as well," Keane said.

"I'm not going to be an assistant for the next 20 years; having said that I am enjoying my role.

"You have to learn from your own mistakes. It's no good me analysing Martin [O'Neill] all the time, obviously I've my own personality and hopefully I can get back into that soon.

"Obviously, I'm under contract until the summer with the FAI and I'm not going to lose sight of that.

"There are always jobs out there and I'm not going to go out looking for jobs, if people want you they come looking for you. I'm enjoying it with Martin, but the best place for me to learn is back in the hot seat."

For now, though, the immediate priority is the European Championship, and a desire to show that Ireland aren't just making up the numbers.

"People say that it's great that we got there and it is, but you want to have an impact," he said.

"You don't want to get in that comfort zone and be patting yourself on the back saying, 'It's great that we qualified'.

"Martin's a very good manager in knowing what the strengths are. We're short in some areas but look at the strengths - we've a great spirit and, as a coach, I know that these lads are going to have a go.

"It's a great comfort on the sideline - you might get beaten but you know that they'll have a go."

How have the double-act brought about a change from the low ebb when they took over?

"To be fair, after Saipan a lot of things did change and you have to give the FAI credit for that," Keane said.

"They said that they had wanted to speak out about facilities and so on but didn't feel they could. And now they can see why it was important that I spoke out when I did.

"I've never looked for perfection, only progress, and when me and Martin came in, what I found was that things were a lot better for the players in terms of travel arrangements and hotels.

"That doesn't guarantee you success but it gives you a better chance and a factor in kicking on from that is Martin's excellent man-management. He's fantastic, very experienced, and we have a good group and have had a little luck.

"That has built momentum and got confidence back in the group, which is massive in sport.

"What we had to do to get the fans back onside was winning. You can talk all day about having a good group and spirit, [in business] you can go for a Chinese or go-karting - that won't get the fans back.

"Nights like the German game, you felt that it was turning and you try to build on that."

Irish Independent

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