Tuesday 25 June 2019

The most compelling pundit in football or a TV joke? Assessing Roy Keane's explosive World Cup contribution

The contributions of a red face Roy Keane became one of the big talking points at the World Cup
The contributions of a red face Roy Keane became one of the big talking points at the World Cup
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Depending on your perspective, Roy Keane was either biggest joke of the World Cup or a model for television punditry in a digital media age.

As has tended to be the way when this firebrand character is the subject of debate, there is very little middle ground when it comes to assessing a punditry style that is as direct as it is explosive, as pointed as it is unforgiving.

Throughout his career as a player, manager and pundit, Keane has never held back in anything he has done and not for the first time, he stole the show at this summer's World Cup with his assessment of players, manager and England's rising euphoria as they progressed to an unexpected appearance in the semi-finals in Russia.

A glance at the number of social media views for clips of Keane's contributions in his role as an ITV panelist confirms his each and every appearance created news stories aplenty.

His suggestion that he should have ripped off the head of Iran coach Carlos Queiroz after the pair clashed during their time together at Manchester United was a precursor for his dressing down of Ian Wright and Gary Neville, as they started to get a little too excited about England's unexpected progress in the tournament for his liking.

That was followed by Keane revisiting the 'Football's Coming Home' debate after England's semi-final defeat against Croatia and his furious reaction to France being awarded a penalty on a VAR video review in last Sunday's World Cup final.

With Wright and Neville trying not to laugh as their fellow pundit appeared to be on the brink of losing his temper with each passing minute, ITV Sport chiefs had pieced together a winning formula that was creating viral video hits on social media day after day and yet his critics will argue his contributions lacked one crucial quality all pundits are expected to serve up: genuine analysis of the game.

Keane's less than successful managerial career and the question marks over what he is contributing tactically in his role as Republic of Ireland assistant boss has seen some of his critics question his technical understanding of the game, with veteran RTE pundit Eamon Dunphy among those suggesting Keane's TV appearances highlight his lack of understanding of the game.

"He has become a caricature of himself, he has become a joke," declared Dunphy in an appearance on RTE 2FM's Game On. "I watched the ITV coverage because he was on it and in terms of insight, he has offered nothing.

"I don't think he knows much about the game. Not all the great players were good judges of the game, they didn’t know what was going on and a lot of the great managers, Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson, were not great players.

Roy Keane and Eamon Dunphy (inset)
Roy Keane and Eamon Dunphy (inset)

"You look at Did Hamann, Liam Brady, John Giles and a lot of the pundits that was worked here, then you look at Gary Neville on Sky and the great knowledge he brings and after watching those guys, you are wiser about the game. With Keane, you get nothing.

"I don't know how Roy Keane can actually go on television and open his mouth because someone has only got to say to him that you are assistant manager or a coach to the team that plays the worst football in the game."

It could be argued that Keane is following the Dunphy blueprint by serving up passionate views many pundits wouldn't dare to express and yet Eamon's rants down the years have generally be backed up by a little more substance than Keane tends to offer.

At times, it feels like Keane feels a need to play up to his role as the angry pantomime villain and offer his audience what they want as his face reddens and the fire that burns inside him rises to the surface.

Tennis legend John McEnroe admits he often started battles with umpires as it became part of the show he was expected to bring on court and there may be an element of that in Keane TV work.

It is hard to believe that anyone can lose their temper that quickly about a game that he is merely watching as an observer and without a vested interested.

Maybe those slightly scary wry smiles Keane occasionally offers up suggest he is giving his audience what they want?

Whatever the reality, it all adds to the mystique that has built-up around Keane in recent years and with Independent.ie understanding that BT Sport have made attempts to recruit Keane for their coverage as they look to fill the void left by Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, we might be getting a lot more of a pundit who is a one-man headline generator.

Love him or hate him, we will all be watching when Keane next pops up on our TV screens.

Online Editors

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