Saturday 17 March 2018

Under-fire Keane's rage burns

Ipswich manager Roy Keane
Ipswich manager Roy Keane
James Lawton

James Lawton

Sometimes you have to wonder where Roy Keane stores up his anger. Maybe he gets it out of the fridge or perhaps from a big box next to the dog biscuits.

From wherever it comes, though, it is beginning to look like one of the biggest factors in his continued failure to begin to match, off the field, any of the certainties he produced so often on it.

If he can't lighten up, then how can those young players he has brought into the great trials of their careers in an effort to kick-start his latest stumble of a managerial foray -- one that reached a new level of crisis with a third straight defeat for his Ipswich Town at Hull and four losses in five games -- be expected to thrive?

This is Keane reflecting on the increasing tendency of the Ipswich fans to complain about the becalmed status of their team: "They can boo me all they want. I never went into football to be popular; in fact it drives me on and I bloody enjoy it."

So far, no great problem -- there's nothing wrong with a bit of jaw-thrusting self-belief. If a football man who once single-handedly destroyed Juventus -- who were not a bad team at the time -- in a Champions League semi-final in Turin doesn't have a healthy sense of his own ability and resilience, there's not a lot that can be said on his behalf.


The trouble centres on what seems ever more likely to be the most corrosive element in Keane's approach to his football -- and maybe his life.

He went on to say: "I remember when I played for Ireland I got booed against Iceland because one reporter, who was an idiot and was pals with the manager, did a piece saying the fans should boo me. And guess what? They all booed. Like sheep -- first one or two and the rest followed."

Imagine, if you had a career like Keane's, producing so clinically but also so angrily the memory of when the cheering died, however momentarily. Everyone is damned, of course -- the idiot journalist, the idiot, sheep-like fans, and by a logical extension, the idiot manager of Ireland.

So what, really, has anything meant to Keane in terms of his relationship with the world beyond his own hard and bitter perspective?

Did he value the cheers of 'idiot' fans when he led Manchester United and Ireland so dynamically on the field, when, virtually on one leg, he guided his nation to the 2002 World Cup to the exclusion of an infinitely more gifted Holland?

Was there any value in the unstinted praise of Bobby Charlton who, in the directors box at the Stadio delle Alpi, stood and cheered his performance for most of the drama in Turin?

Keane was of course no more forgiving of Mick McCarthy in that Saipan meltdown. According to Keane, his former Irish team-mate was a crap player and a crap coach.

All that anger, all that contempt and maybe the first emotion is only intensified by the fact that while McCarthy fights on in his effort to preserve Wolverhampton's place in the top flight, with more than a modicum of philosophical resignation and humour, Keane continues to languish within the walls he has built for himself.

In East Anglia he is as short of impact -- and, it has to be said, class -- as when he stormed away from Sunderland without a kind word for anyone he left behind, including a generous American owner and benefactor, and Niall Quinn, who had set up his opportunity despite being labelled 'Mother Teresa'.

The bottom line is written in large and sombre lettering. Everyone else is wrong.

If you eat prawn sandwiches and go to football for light relief, a bit of a diversion, you are wrong.

If you get worked up about an apparent lack of progress in the team upon whom you lavish at least some of your dreams and not inconsiderable amounts of your hard-earned money, you are wrong.

If you think that Wayne Rooney was wrong to hold Manchester United to ransom, after playing diabolically and behaving diabolically, you are also wrong.

However, players, even those picking up the best part of £250,000 a week, are not wrong to toss the concept of loyalty into the dustbin because they are treated like pieces of meat -- always have been, always will be. On the other hand, United are the greatest club in the world and demand absolute respect.

This was Keane after a second straight loss and the first sound of boos: "Last week we had four players from last season's youth team and another four loan players still learning their trade. The fans have a right to express their opinion. I've no problem with that.

"We can't kid ourselves -- if we're not performing we're going to get criticised. But what the fans did last week was wrong in my opinion. They didn't support the team. How can you support the team by booing? It's wrong and way over the top."


You might say that going over the top is Keane's specialist subject, one maybe exemplified by his extraordinary justification of the rancid, dangerous vendetta he waged against someone else he deemed to be wrong -- Alf-Inge Haaland.

Keane stored up his resentment against Haaland for over three years, then delivered an atrocious tackle which he confessed was intended to "hurt". No remorse, no reflection -- Haaland had been wrong, Keane right. Same old belligerent story.

So it goes, on and on, but when does Keane stop and think that maybe the world is not actively involved in a conspiracy against him? Does he ever reflect on the gifts that the game has brought him, the life of ease and security which now can only be a fantasy for many of his compatriots, not to mention the frustrated Ipswich fans?

The question - especially ahead of this weekend's crucial derby against Norwich - seems reasonable and is provoked not least by the unavoidable impression that the anger is building only on itself. When everyone is wrong, it helps to have a little evidence that you might just be right. Unfortunately, at Ipswich it remains as elusive as ever.

Irish Independent

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