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Roy Keane

Roy Keane

SPORTSFILE

Roy Keane

MARIO Balotelli has a T-shirt which covers this situation nicely. Why always me? Perhaps Roy Keane should order a dozen.

Maybe Martin O'Neill could get one printed to dovetail. How about "Why always him?"

Yesterday, Ireland's senior international manager was forced, once again, to defend his assistant. He was clearly annoyed and to some degree, his irritation was directed at journalists asking reasonable questions.

BORED

Fair enough. He must be bored to death answering questions about Keane but he is missing the point spectacularly if in his own mind he blames the messenger.

His primary function yesterday was to promote Ireland's friendly international against the USA but that got lost amid the noise created by Keane.

That's the point. Keane had a go at Jack Grealish's father. Keane had a go at Everton and Keane had a go at journalists asking about a scuffle in the team hotel just hours before a huge football match.

Nobody is making any of this up.

Before the Germany game, he went on a media blitz to promote his book. Ireland's Euro 2016 qualifier against the world champions was pushed into the background. He fed the machine with juicy quotes and book sales rose.

Instead of a football centred build-up to a huge game, we got more lurid headlines about Keane. He did that. He chose to write another book. He chose to vent his spleen and continue his pointless feud with Alex Ferguson. He must have agreed to the date of the launch.

The fact that it clashed with the Germany game was a marketing bonus for his publisher. The fact that it didn't clash with anything to do with Aston Villa was notable.

Go further back to the Celtic/Aston Villa saga. Throughout the trip to America in June, journalists had to ask O'Neill about Keane's plans. Before that it was Celtic.

Keane asked those present on Sunday was it his fault that "distractions" followed him around like an unwelcome friend and there it was. The key to all of this.

He is a living breathing distraction. Whether he likes or not, he attracts publicity like a magnet and in many instances since he became a manager, he went out of his way to be heard.

There was a time when Keane did one or two interviews a year in Ireland and the odd big one in England but the moment he swapped a suit for training kit, he never shut up.

TRANSFORMED

Sunderland's media posse found their lives transformed and the same happened down in sleepy Suffolk when he took control at Ipswich. Before, they asked about injuries. When Keane was there, the sky was the limit.

He had an opinion on everything and was more than happy to hammer all around him. That was his choice just as it was his decision to take on television punditry, a breeding ground for the kind of spoofers he railed against throughout his playing career.

Bizarrely, he met with the people who run 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here'. Maybe Joe Brolly would have a stab at explaining that one.

What all this amounts to is choice. Keane didn't have to do any of it.

Nobody can deny Keane's assertion that if Celtic or Aston Villa get on the phone and offer him work, there is nothing he can do about it.

But the random distractions that have arisen in those circumstances since he took the job are more than balanced by the level of disruption he brought to the Ireland squad himself and because of decisions he made.

He is not some hapless passenger in all of this, blown by an ill-wind in all directions. Nobody has ever been more a master of his own fate.

And this will not let up. O'Neill circled the wagons around Keane but for how long more can he do this and maintain his own credibility?

His own pronouncement that he would have risked James McCarthy on Friday if he was a club manager picking a club team was straight from the Keane quote book. Perhaps he is standing too close to his assistant.

Let's be real here for a moment. Anyone watching the Jack Grealish saga unfold was probably thinking what Keane said.

Likewise with McCarthy. There is something radically wrong with the relationship between the Ireland senior management team and Everton Football Club and Keane said what everyone felt needed to be said.

The problem is, Keane is rapidly become a parody of himself. There are times to speak and address serious matters and there are times to keep your counsel. There are times to know your place.

For 12 months, Keane set about the task of rehabilitating his reputation. He wants another management job and Ireland and Aston Villa helped him become employable again.

GOODWILL

Martin O'Neill noticed the goodwill extended towards himself and Keane when they took on the job of managing Ireland and as time went by, it was universally accepted that this was win win for all concerned.

But there have been too many headlines, too many distractions. Every match we end up back in the same rut. Where will all this end?

At what point will O'Neill decide that life would be much easier if he had to talk about football instead of Roy Keane?


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