Sport World Cup

Sunday 16 December 2018

'I make lots of tea. What else do I do? Not much' - Roy Keane

Roy Keane in pensive mood during yesterday's press conference Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Roy Keane in pensive mood during yesterday's press conference Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

The man from the Copenhagen Courier is loitering, optimistically bouncing on nervous toes.

We saw him earlier with two of the (many) Roy Keane books on the market and hoped, for his and our safety, that he wouldn't deign to ask for the subject's John Hancock; such impromptu outburst of ingratiation are pooh-poohed by the soccer Stasi in these parts.

Instead, it seems, he is armed not with a fountain pen but a polite query.

"I flew in from Denmark in preparation for this game and I was just wondering, you were a team-mate of Peter Schmeichel's, have you been in touch with him ahead of this game?"

"No." A stony face awaits elaboration, while our colleague's brain swirls in potential panicked justification to his boss for the elaborate expense required in eliciting a two-letter answer from his sojourn.

Angle

Our hero, stoically, attempts another angle.

"What would you say to him about what to expect from Ireland?"

"I'd say f*** all to him!" The room shakes in laughter. Our man rocks back comfortably on the balls of his feet. It's showtime.

We all know there's a back story. With Keane, there's always a back story even if it normally relates to a distant time when he was playing the game and not managing, or assisting to a manger, as he has been doing for nigh on a decade.

But, hey, pull up a chair, and let's go back to August 1998 when the Spice Girls were singing about a future full of Roy Keane press conferences. 'Viva Forever'.

"What do you want me to say to him? Is he playing? He's not playing. I'd say nothing to Peter. What could I say to him? I don't keep in touch with Peter.

"The last time I saw Peter, I'd say about two years ago and we'd breakfast together in the hotel in London and it was nice. I had some good times with Peter, some very good times. I'd a nice breakfast with him.

"He surprised me at the hotel and I'd a bowl of porridge. I'd a good chat. I've huge respect for all my ex-team-mates through the good and bad times..."

And now, the punchline.

Because for every punch - and most of us know that within one of those Keane books is the tale of the scrap between the great Dane and his combustible Manchester United midfielder - there must be a punchline.

"He started it," says Keane, suppressing the obstinate instinct of another colleague who wishes to ask a question about someone who will actually play in Copenhagen this weekend.

"He said it himself, he held his hand up, he said he started it. I think he had two pints and got a bit brave..."

All of which would make you wonder whether one of the author's of the many Roy Keane books was perhaps correct when he said last month that now his sole role with Ireland was as merely a "cabaret act".

Which, conveniently enough, he is also asked.

"I've been called worse. That doesn't worry me. We're here to try and win matches for Ireland. The beauty is that everyone is entitled to their opinion and stuff like that certainly wouldn't keep me awake at night."

But, we persist, what does he actually do all week?

"Very little! Honestly, we don't do too much. A bit of light training, very little, very little. I'm not sure what I'm doing here to be honest with you!

"I make lots of tea. I do make lots of tea for the staff and stuff. What else do I do? Not too much."

Teasmade

Not bad for someone purportedly hauling in north of €700,000 a year; little wonder, then, he might not be too averse to accepting another two years as a human teasmade? "That's a good question, we'll see."

Playing gave him a drive that management could never replace; helping an Ireland team reach a World Cup would, at least, offer substance to a position that allows even him to self-deprecate.

"I think it's a strange time for people to be worried about contract situations when we've got huge games coming up. All that will fall into place when the games are over and I think the manager has made that clear.

"We're focused on the games and it was the same with the last couple of games we had. Let's look at all that next week. But the priority and focus for everybody, and it should be, is the games coming up and rightly so.

"I'm enjoying my role with Ireland, absolutely. My desire, my focus is to try get through the next week and help the team qualify, of course.

"I suppose the word I'm going to use is that's my desire at this moment in time. Nothing else. I'm not distracted by anything else out there.

"I'm not networking, I don't work that way. My focus is on trying to help the team in the next week or so and if that's making tea for everyone then hopefully that helps."

He had earlier spoken, briefly, about his disinterest in re-joining the managerial merry-go-round of has-beens and never-wills, the endless retinue of Allardyces and Moyeses and Pardews who maintain gainful employment upon the failures of others, or each other.

"There is a lot of media spin about certain managers out there, a lot of good PR for some managers. It's tough being a manager out there at the moment, that's why I'm better off staying here.

'People who know the game have huge respect for David Moyes. But there are a lot of other managers out there with good media spin. Some managers get away with murder."

So this is almost a safe haven, chewing the fat and laughing with people to whom he once sneered at. In between endless bouts of tea-making. Safe. Keane? Safe? Really?

"Well, safer. Safe? Secure? Comfortable? Those are not great traits to have either in a job. You always need an edge. You watch, you listen to stuff.

"There is a lot of spin out there but it does not worry me to be outside that carry on.

"I can't answer the question any different to the fact that I enjoy my job here. I enjoy working with Martin, the FAI, I certainly enjoy working with the players and I am not distracted or sidetracked by anything. That's nice.

"But you also have to look at the bigger picture. If you are secure and safe well I am not great with that, either.

"There has to be an edge. The next week we have that, with the pressure of the games. That is what we are here for.

"If I wanted a safe and secure job, I would probably work in the media a bit more.

"ITV might lose their contract and I worry that there will be no deal next year. I have my own problems."

Yet this is what defines him now, his self-reliance on this new life, even if some people like to call it remaining a parody, a cabaret act.

His manager and the players seem satisfied. Perhaps everyone else should be, too.

Stick on the kettle, Roy, and relax. It suits you. For now, at least.

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