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Saturday 3 December 2016

Roy Keane: 'We can get six points. That's the aim'

Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane talks to The Herald's Paul Hyland (far right) during yesterday's press briefing at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown
Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane talks to The Herald's Paul Hyland (far right) during yesterday's press briefing at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown

Roy Keane had a message for us and it was about Sunderland. They've shed Dick Advocaat and he reckons they'll keep dropping managers like trees in autumn.

He had some other things to talk about. Like Germany and bravery and taking six points from the next two games.

But he had to physically repress an impish grin which played around the edges of his mouth like an unruly Labrador puppy when he was speaking about locally weighty matters.

His urge to laugh was at odds with the news he was delivering. Wes Hoolahan is nursing a bruised toe, Marc Wilson waiting for an injection to take hold and unlikely to feature against Germany and all in all, it's a bit of a train wreck before such an enormous fixture.

Then someone mentioned Sunderland.

"That's Sunderland, isn't it? Brilliant club, brilliant club. I don't know, I can't comment on why different managers have left or have been sacked but people in the background probably need to take a look at themselves," he said.

"If they had let me alone I'd probably still be there now and I wouldn't be having to chat to you."

Regrets? Clearly he has a few. Presumably, Keane was talking about Ellis Short and those who he fell out with before he was sacked and it still cuts deep.

There was obvious regret in his voice when he twice told reporters, first the electronic and then the print media, that he could still be the Sunderland manager but for the shortcomings of others.

Praise

He even stuck in a provisional ball against the future with high words of praise for the Makem faithful. "They're some of the best fans in the world," he said.

You never know, he might be looking for work on Monday. There's two vacancies in the Premier League and more to come so perhaps Keane's antennae are up. There's something in the air at the moment and momentous events continue to intrude on the normal rhythms of an international week. It is amazing in this international break how doggedly the Premier League continues its pursuit of column inches and headlines. It just won't let go.

Brendan Rodgers overshadowed the first half of the week, Advocaat and Sunderland chipped in along the way and who knows, it could be Jose Mourinho by Friday or Jurgen Klopp. At least Klopp is German.

Let's be honest, a glance at the options remaining to Martin O'Neill as he contemplates a game against an improving German team only creates foreboding and pushes you subconsciously towards what are huge stories breaking across the pond.

Between suspensions, injuries, walking and trotting wounded, O'Neill and Keane have been dealt a very poor hand indeed for the biggest turnstile spinner in this group.

A squad which already seemed inadequate to cope with the demands of this fixture list in venues owned or borrowed by countries other than minnows is right down to the bare bones.

It was encouraging to see Séamus Coleman doing laps yesterday and according to Keane, everyone is very happy with his progress but it will be a big surprise if he can buck the trend before Sunday.

Keane as much as ruled out Marc Wilson from the Aviva fixture and any more knocks and bruises and he may have to play himself.

Inspiration

But we do have him in the dressing room, even if he will wear boots out of habit and not for functionality. This would be a good time for him to graft some of his own backbone and mentality onto a squad which is painfully light for the visit of the world champions to the Aviva.

"They are better than when we last played them but I think we are a better team than we were then too. So let's see," he said.

There's an hour long debate to be had about the second part of Keane's assertion and then another hour after that but the Corkman was hired, in part, for his inspirational qualities so we should let him be an inspiration if he can.

"Let's go for six," he said when asked about the group permutations and the amount of points needed. "Why not? It's possible isn't it?"

Many miracles are possible and few happen but Keane wants to see bravery on the pitch from Ireland's best players. He wants them to have a go at Germany.

"People talk about bravery in their game. Bravery is not necessarily about a tackle. It's about being brave in terms of possession going forward, not be afraid to make a mistake, taking risks," he said.

"They will have a lot of possession. You've got to be well set up with the right mindset. Lads have to be brave and have a go if you get opportunities, You look at their last game. Scotland have scored a few against them. There's a chance of getting a result so why not?"

Ordinarily, this is the kind of talk you want to hear from a key member of staff before a big game but there is the sense that risk taking of any kind tomorrow could be heavily punished.

Of course governing all of this is the possibility that a beating by Germany would not signal the end of the road for France 2016.

It's the get out of jail card which allows us to view Jogi Low and his players as an immovable object, pray for a Polish result in Hampden Park and move on to Warsaw.

So maybe Keane is right. Maybe the players can do what they have failed to do in any coherent way in this campaign and be brave. Take risks. Nothing to lose.

Try saying that with a straight face.

Keane did.

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