Sport Soccer

Thursday 18 January 2018

Vincent Hogan: Keane gamble will prove Ireland's lottery win or extravagant fantasy

Sunderland AFC v Leicester ball presentation in the Durham Suite with Chairman Niall Quinn and Manager Roy Keane with Vincent Hogan .
Dear David,
Please find attached pictures as requested
Kindest regards
Louise Wanless
Media and PR Manager
Sunderland Association Football Club Ltd, Sunderland Stadium of Light, Sunderland. SR5 1SU.
Registered in England: 49116
Tel 0191 551 5063 Fax: 0191 551 5070
Mob 07950 203817
Website: www.safc.com
Sunderland AFC v Leicester ball presentation in the Durham Suite with Chairman Niall Quinn and Manager Roy Keane with Vincent Hogan . Dear David, Please find attached pictures as requested Kindest regards Louise Wanless Media and PR Manager Sunderland Association Football Club Ltd, Sunderland Stadium of Light, Sunderland. SR5 1SU. Registered in England: 49116 Tel 0191 551 5063 Fax: 0191 551 5070 Mob 07950 203817 Website: www.safc.com
Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

When you live mostly in the past, as we tend to do with Roy Keane, the future seems a closed book. Someone pretty quickly becomes a cliché when all we know of them is dated and faintly cartoonish in content. Roy, to us, is still a byword for anger. We've only ever been granted the most fleeting of glimpses behind that solemn mask, hence our understanding of him is resolutely one-dimensional.

When Alan Kelly told Roy to "f*****g calm down" in Saipan, the "are you going to make me?" retort was faithful to maybe the only version of him we recognise. And a suspicion lurks that Keane is entirely comfortable with our capped understanding of exactly what resides within.

So, beyond the glut of worn 11-year-old anecdotes, he remains largely mysterious to us.

This column is routinely accused of representing some kind of 'anti-Keane' platform. We were certainly 'anti' whatever it was his behaviour represented in '02 and that position seems to have, since, stamped us with a branding iron.

So be it.

He got over it, as did we. When, just weeks into his life as Sunderland manager in '06, Roy pulled this column's name from a hat as winner of a football signed by his staff, our handshake at the Stadium of Light didn't exactly trigger lightning bolts.

With the Drumaville boys hooting at the gas of it and Niall Quinn grinningly handing him the prize, Keane completed the formalities without emitting an audible growl.

For the record, then, I welcome his appointment as assistant to Martin O'Neill in the new Ireland management team. Why? Well, that's the difficult part. Keane brings a kind of unreadable energy to the position that could go either way.

Is Roy wise about football? Who can say? His punditry doesn't venture beyond first base in terms of insight and he seems so programmed – publicly at least – to stay faithful to caricature, it is impossible to know what he can offer O'Neill as No 2.

The ITV pitch-side interview with them in San Sebastian on Tuesday night never quite got beyond first-date awkwardness because even the tiniest flicker of a smile seems to trigger all manner of sirens in Roy's head. He instantly loses trust in himself when mirth arrives.

O'Neill suffers no such self-consciousness and, maybe, it is this very lack of affectation that might just make the two compatible. The "bad cop" and "bad bad cop" the Derry man jokingly referred to this week could share enough difference to somehow prove inspired.

Much as I like Mick McCarthy, his return to the Irish helm would have been ill-advised. By the end of his previous tenure, Mick's relationship with a large section of the media here had turned irretrievably sour.

It is human to store hurts and McCarthy, had he replaced Giovanni Trapattoni, would have found himself required, routinely, to answer to much the same judiciary. Imagine the dynamic if early results were poor?

Keane's absence from today's unveiling in Dublin tells us that it won't be his intention to entertain such media curiosity. This may not help newspaper sales but, long-term, it is probably a good thing. For O'Neill needs the opportunity to assert his charisma on the job now.

He is a palpably interesting man, wise, legally-trained and not known as someone routinely cowed by reputation.

When, in June 2000, he took John Robertson and Steve Walford with him from Leicester to Glasgow, his arrival prompted Kenny Dalglish to step down as Celtic's director of football. "Wherever Martin goes, there is only one person in charge," Neil Lennon subsequently wrote in his autobiography, 'Man and Bhoy'.

And that, surely, will be the fundamental message delivered in the Gibson Hotel today.

That for all our fascination with Roy Keane and those old, deep-scarring wars, the new Irish manager is not, and won't be, part of any rehashed national cabaret.

On Tuesday, John Delaney told Pat Kenny on Newstalk how "impressed" he had been in recent meetings with Keane. The chuckling manner of Kenny's questioning alluded, endlessly, to Roy's temper.

"The past is irrelevant," countered Delaney, batting away talk of old troubles. Listening, it was hard to imagine Keane being anything but functionally responsive to the FAI's chief executive, given he is back in a relationship with the Association only because of O'Neill's brainstorm.

Yet, Delaney deserves credit for grasping a pretty hot wire here. There were cheaper, quieter routes to travel, but he has eschewed the safe house to gamble on raw energy now.

The outcome, undeniably, could go either way and maybe that is the silent beauty of it. The knowledge that this is either Irish football's lottery win or the imposition of an extravagant fantasy.

Discovering will be the mother of all fairground rides.

Irish Independent

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