Roy Keane autobiography: Corkman has a good side but seems intent on hiding it
There are two sides to Roy Keane, but for reasons known only to the man himself, it is the dark one that he appears happiest to project.
This is the man who would think nothing of eviscerating his team-mates or admitting to purposely seeking to injure Alf Inge Haaland in a revenge attack for the cruciate ligament injury – self-inflicted by a challenge on the Norwegian – suffered when fouling the Leeds United player at Elland Road in 1997.
It is the same Keane who has made the shocking confession in his latest autobiography, The Second Half, that he felt the heart attack suffered by Sunderland defender Clive Clarke during a loan spell at Leicester City in 2007 would divert the attention from a 3-0 defeat at Luton.
“I had the evil thought,” Keane said. “’I’m glad he had it tonight,’ because it would deflect from our woeful performance.”
A terrible story, seemingly told with relish in order to maintain and reinforce the perception that Keane is nothing less than a monster, one who has no time for a world inhabited by people less intense, brooding and demanding as himself.
There are plenty of other stories to support that theory and Keane has told most of them in his book.
But this is the man, according to those who worked with him at Manchester United, who would disarm them with moments of charm or politeness and a captain who would ensure that the right thing was done by his team-mates.
There is one story of a charity photograph being arranged to help raise awareness for an initiative to support the blind.
The idea was for the United squad to pose for a team photo wearing sunglasses in support of the visually impaired, but one player, who had secured his own endorsement to promote a particular brand of sunglasses, refused to participate.
Keane, whose association with an Irish guide dogs charity is long-standing, was told about the refusenik in the dressing-room by a concerned member of the club’s commercial staff who knew that the picture would not achieve the desired effect without this first-team star alongside the rest of the players in the photograph.
Moments later, the reluctant player emerged alongside Keane, who had made it clear in no uncertain terms that, sponsorship endorsement or not, he would join the rest of his team-mates in the photograph and do the right thing by the charity.
There is another story of Keane’s compassion, which has not had an airing, relating to the former Liverpool and Everton defender Gary Ablett, whose spell as a coach at Ipswich Town under the Irishman was cut short after he had been taken ill on the training ground before being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Despite Ablett having returned to his native Merseyside to battle the illness, Keane nonetheless made the four hour journey from Suffolk on an almost weekly basis to spend time with Ablett as he fought for his life – a fight he ultimately lost on Jan 1, 2012.
Keane is not the type of character who would promote the softer, caring side of his nature. Perhaps he believes it is simply not good for business.
In a rare show of admiration for Sir Alex Ferguson in his book, Keane speaks of his admiration of the Scot’s ‘coldness’ and ability to put the job before anything else.
If Keane has taken a leaf out of Ferguson’s book by adopting the same coldness, however, it is doing him few favours.
And in many respects, the image of a snarling, ruthless and utterly single-minded Keane is one which is likely to put off many club owners and chairmen who might have considered employing him as manager.
Keane’s dictatorial approach to management at Sunderland and Ipswich ultimately cost him his job on both occasions with his players being pushed too hard, too often by their boss.
Despite his initial success at Sunderland, where he guided the club to the Premier League and then top flight stability, Keane’s reputation as a manager has been tarnished by the rumours of his players finding him impossible to play for.
It is why, after an entertaining interlude as ITV’s attack dog during their football coverage, Keane returned to the game as an assistant manager to Martin O’Neill with the Republic of Ireland and, from this summer, as Paul Lambert’s right-hand man at Aston Villa.
Clubs were wary of taking on Keane as their manager, but as assistant, the demands are different and it has worked so far.
Keane is rehabilitating himself alongside O’Neill and Lambert, making himself employable again should an appealing management job come along.
But the caustic nature of his book risks setting Keane back to where he left off, with too many rows, bust-ups and condemnations painting him as Mr Angry again.
The good side of Keane has once again been obscured under an avalanche of spite and the only loser is likely to be the man himself.