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Roy Keane: 'People stabbed me right in my chest, it wasn't in my back. Because I was too nice to them.'

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Roy Keane during his time as Ireland assistant manager. Picture: Reuters/Matthew Childs

Roy Keane during his time as Ireland assistant manager. Picture: Reuters/Matthew Childs

Roy Keane during his time as Ireland assistant manager. Picture: Reuters/Matthew Childs

Roy Keane has said that some of the difficulties he encountered in his career as a player and manager arose because he was "too nice to people."

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Independent, the first part of which is published today, the former Manchester United and Ireland captain admits: “Sometimes I was too hard. Sometimes I was too soft. If I was critical, looking back on my own career and how I dealt with people, even in management – and people mightn’t believe this – but I reckon that sometimes I was too nice to people.

“People stabbed me right in my chest, it wasn’t in my back. Because I was too nice to them.”

In the wide-ranging interview, Keane talks about his uncompromising nature on and off the pitch and says he makes no apologies for it: “That was who I was. Even pre-season, any game I ever took it easy in, I guarantee you I was the worst player on the park. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it. It just wasn’t in my make-up ... I had to be full pelt.”

Keane says an Irish friend once advised him to “lighten up a small bit”, but that he was unable to do so during his playing career: “If I lightened up too much in football, I would never have got to England. And if I did, I wouldn’t have lasted two minutes.”

The Corkman also opens up on the Saipan controversy, his time working with Martin O’Neill, his faith and finding peace during the lockdown.

“I didn’t come away from Saipan thinking, ‘I can’t believe that’s happened,’, he says of the 2002 World Cup saga, when he left the Irish squad after a row with manager Mick McCarthy.

“All the people – it was the same at [Manchester] United – who are now very good on the TV and are doing a lot of talking and are very good at the media, said very little at the time. They’re all found their voices, you know, 15, 20 years later. In the heat of meetings, these kind of leaders, shall we say – or alleged leaders – never said a word.”

He has considerable praise for O’Neill, who he worked with as Ireland assistant manager until November 2018, but is less kind to the man who now occupies that position: “If I can make one point about new Irish staff. I’ve heard a lot of bullshitters over the last 10 years and Keith Andrews is up there with the best of them.”

For the full interview, click here

Don't miss Part Two of Barry Egan's exclusive interview with Roy Keane, in next week's Sunday Independent and by subscribing to Independent.ie

Online Editors