herald

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Confessional Keane tears up the script

Assistant manager shows his soft side as he prepares for Ireland role

Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane. Picture: David Maher/SPORTSFILE
Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane. Picture: David Maher/SPORTSFILE

IT was impossible not to finish the sentence when Roy Keane's voice softened and the words used by Joseph Merrick spilled out: "I'm not an animal..."

For those who were in nappies when Roy Keane first erupted into our consciousness and might not know who Mr Merrick is, go to YouTube and search for the Elephant Man.

You'll find a man with a face so deformed by disease that he was persecuted in the street as a monster. Cornered in a tube station by a mob and with a voice dripping with pathos, he cries: "I'm not an animal, I am a human being."

It was a moment among many moments during Keane's first press conference as Ireland assistant boss.

And if anyone was expecting an explosion of angst and bitterness, this didn't quite fit the script.

Here was the Mayfield Bruiser, plucking at our heartstrings and in a way which couldn't but elicit a sympathetic response.

Later, Keane revisited the subject and spoke about the young players in the Ireland squad and how they might be pleasantly surprised by the fact that he wasn't a "monster".

Clearly, he is more aware than ever before of how he is perceived and, while in the past his default response to that was studied scorn, perhaps now he sees the need for some image rehabilitation.

And why not? He has been demonised for long enough and it cannot be easy to live with the thought that the world sees you as a cartoon bully.

He made an effort yesterday. This was Keane in full diplomatic mode, firm but friendly, businesslike but not brusque. He doled out the soundbites on demand.

 

Smouldering

There were hints that somewhere down the line Keane will use the pulpit he has been given by Martin O'Neill to maybe settle some scores.

When he was asked about Alex Ferguson, his eyes smouldered briefly before he declared the subject a no go area – for the moment.

In fact he stressed on several occasions that this was not an issue "for today" and for those who like their steak raw, he may well be planning a bit of blood-letting somewhere down the line.

Certainly his reference to 'lies' and the obligation he feels to defend himself in the face of dishonesty points to a man who has not finished with the matter.

There is no question that the timing of Ferguson's book and the headlines which followed its publication did Keane no favours.

He will never admit it and was at pains to point out that he had offers during the fallow two years he has lived through, but this was a chance he could not turn down.

Many thought that he would give one big interview at the start of this two-year adventure and then retreat into the bosom of the squad.

But it was clear from what he said yesterday that he will speak again and help out O'Neill with media work.

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense that he would. The last thing Keane needs is to fall off the face of the earth if his long term goal is to return to management.

This is good news for journalists but maybe not for anyone still feeling a tad jittery about the fact that he is now Ireland's No 2.

His theme for the day was about his work with the Ireland squad and how it will help him fill in some gaps in his knowledge about the management of players.

It was surprising to hear him embrace the role as father confessor for the young lads in the squad but that seems to be the space he wants to occupy for O'Neill.

When the chat moved ever so gently towards the notion that Keane had now checked into the Last Chance Saloon and that his circumstances have been dictated by the perception that he cannot cope with players, some of the old irritation finally bubbled to the surface.

He stressed the fact that he felt he had a decent relationship with players and had moved quickly to mend fences with any within the squad who might have had a problem with him.

In the same way the circle was completed by a meeting with John Delaney in London, he went to Aiden McGeady and cleared the air, something he had already done with Jon Walters.

 

Questioning

But this wasn't an eggshell operation, even if much of the questioning he sat through was as mild as he ever faced.

There was no sign of the acid tongue he can use to such devastating effect and no need for it either.

This was more about showbiz and bright lights.

Even the local constabulary turned up in force to hear what he had to say.

Such is his magnetism. As three guards hovered outside the back door of the hotel, we asked them was there going to be a fight.

One laughed and shrugged. "We want to see him as much as you lads."

Promoted articles

Entertainment News