Jason McAteer has made moves to draw a line under one of the most famous feuds in Irish football, admitting he now has sympathy with Roy Keane over Saipan.
In his autobiography, McAteer was fiercely critical of Keane’s exit ahead of the 2002 World Cup, even suggesting he started the row with McCarthy as an excuse to miss the tournament.
“It was almost like he wanted Mick to make a big deal of it in front of the lads and give him an excuse to get out of Dodge.”
In his first autobiography, Keane characterised McAteer as stupid, and the pair also clashed on the pitch, Keane red-carded for elbowing the then Sunderland man, and McAteer gesturing that Keane should include the incident in his next book.
But now McAteer’s stance on the Saipan row with Ireland manager Mick McCarthy has softened.
Speaking in an interview with betsafe.com, he says:
“That incident, we all see it through different eyes, I see it through my eyes and my take on it is completely different from say Gary Breen’s or Shay Given’s or Gary Kelly’s. We all see it through our own eyes. Roy will see it through his, and he will stand by his decision.
“As I’ve got older and a bit wiser, more forgiving probably, there’s a slight sympathy towards Roy in that circumstance when I look back.
Because arguably he was the best midfielder in the world at that time.
“He was at the top of his game if any country wanted a midfielder in the centre, they all would have picked Roy Keane. So for him to go home, it was very disappointing.
“My sympathy comes because he missed that World Cup at a time when he was the best player in that position, and it was his stage, and he missed that. But that’s something that he has to deal with.”
McAteer also hails the Ireland assistant manager’s inspirational presence around an Irish dressing room.
“All the players would have grown up with probably Roy as their hero. So that presence in the dressing room, him being in the dressing room will add something – they’ll all listen, they’ll all look up to him, they’ll all admire what he’s done as a player. If he needs to get a response out of them, he will know how to do it and they will respond.”
Though he says Keane and Ireland manager Martin O’Neill are “chalk and cheese”.
“Martin is much more of a man manager; he’ll have an arm around their shoulder. I wouldn’t say he’s probably a Rafa Benitez where he’s
tactically astute; he’ll set them up in a way that he feels will get a result. And because of his man-management style, he’ll get a response from the players on the pitch. Where Roy will be a bit more vocal, it will be that good cop bad cop in the dressing room. Which Roy obviously is the bad cop.
"I’m a big believer in man management. I think it’s the thing that sometimes – you look at managers – some of them lack and wonder why
they don’t win anything. You look at the greatest managers around Shankley, Paisley, Ferguson. I go back to 1996 when England possibly should have won the Euros, Terry Venables. Jack Charlton is closer to home, they’ve all had their own success in their own way, and I think
that’s man management."
Read the betsafe.com interview with Jason McAteer, including how he would have preferred to have Italy over Denmark.