He wasn’t slow to tell them what was what when Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United were in their pomp and boasted a midfield four of Beckham, Scholes, Keane and Giggs.
Perhaps the years have mellowed the former skipper. Now Keane’s mature reflections on those colleagues are more generous, acknowledging them as the global greats they were.
Three of that quality quartet will be at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on September 25th to honour the late Liam Miller in a special tribute game — and who knows what might happen with Beckham?
Keane met Scholes last week in Manchester and started ribbing him about a bit of ‘chunkiness’ around the fringes. But when it mattered, Scholes weight was measured in golden touches.
“When you look at the players nowadays and compare to them to those lads,” he said in Cork yesterday.
"Look at the standard of player now and (try) comparing them to a Paul Scholes, Denis Irwin and many of the other United lads the people will want to come and see at Páirc Uí Chaoimh - quality players and quality people.
“I’ll give you an example: Andy Cole has not been too well the last few years but he said he’d come over to Cork for sure. He mightn’t play but he’d be on the bench and that’s the type of reaction we’ve had from the lads.”
The date’s set, the venue’s sorted — and the Man United and Celtic/Republic of Ireland squads have been assembled for the historic Miller tribute match.
Keane, who turns 47 today, will bring an eye-watering array of ex-Old Trafford talent to Cork on September 25, including Giggs, Scholes, David May, Mikael Silvestre, Ronny Johnsen, Rio Ferdinand, Andy Cole, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt and the man Keane admitted yesterday he’d pay to watch — his fellow Cork man Denis Irwin.
It’s a United squad heavy on experience — and one which might be giving a few years to the fresh-looking Celtic and Republic of Ireland combination which will feature stars like Robbie Keane, Damien Duff, Richard Dunne, Neil Lennon, Paul Lambert, Kevin Doyle and Keith Andrews.
A new release of match tickets for the increased capacity will be launched next Monday on tickets.ie (at 10am) with Keane and organising committee chairman Michael O’Flynn — a friend of the Miller family — determined and focused on making the historic occasion a 45,000 sell-out at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Yesterday in Ballincollig, Roy said the immediate acceptance of the invitation from ex-players to come to Cork was a reflection of the standing and popularity of Liam Miller while he was at Old Trafford.
"These lads aren’t 21 any more but if I was a fan out there, which I was growing up, I’d want to see people like Giggs, Irwin, Rio, Scholesy.
“(Martin O’Neill) has put together a pretty strong squad. And when the players turn up, the pride kicks in. I’m sure they’ll want to put in a decent performance.
“(But) I’m not their dad. If some of them come in on the Monday night I’m sure there will be the option to have two or three pints.”
Keane revealed he hasn’t yet told the United players the Miller game has been moved to Páirc Uí Chaoimh, suggesting the players will be delighted by the stadium and facilities — but perhaps alarmed by the size of the pitch.
“The players probably don’t realise how big the pitch is down in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, so some of the players are in for a shock. We might have to make it 15-a-side,” he joked.
“Obviously we’re apprehensive. There’s been a few hurdles to get over. Hopefully people come and buy the tickets.
You want to it to be sold out, to be a great atmosphere, for the players to enjoy it, the crowd to enjoy it.”
O’Flynn revealed that he had been in touch with Alex Ferguson last week, who expressed his delight that the game was now in a 45,000 capacity ground.
When tickets for the original Turner’s Cross fixture went on sale, they were snapped up in just over 100 seconds.
Keane, a 10-year season ticket holder at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, is hoping for the same enthusiasm when ticket sales relaunch on Monday.
“I was a GAA fan growing up. We all played GAA. It’s nice to go down to the Páirc. I’ve been down there a couple of times, but it’s a while since I competed there. That was in the City Sports when I was probably 12 or 13. I thought I was quite fast in my school, St John’s, but when I was up against other schools I found out I was pretty average.
“There’ll be interest amongst the United players about the stadium and the GAA. I’ll definitely be giving them a heads up on the history of it. The players will enjoy it. You’ve got a group of players there who are used playing in nice stadiums. But if there’s a big crowd it’s more important than anything else.”
Man United squad: Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Ronny Johnsen, Paul Scholes, Denis Irwin, David May, Louis Saha, Rio Ferdinand, Quinton Fortune, Andy Cole, Michael Clegg, Mikael Silvestre, Kevin Pilkington, Dion Dublin, Gary Neville, Alan Smith.
Celtic/Rep of Ireland squad: David Forde, Stephen Carr, Kevin Kilbane, Richard Dunne, Kenny Cunningham, Keith Andrews, Kevin Doyle, Stephen McPhail, Andy Reid, Robbie Keane, Damien Duff, Lee Carsley, Colin Healy, Shaun Maloney, Paul Lambert, John Hartson, Neil Lennon, Stylian Petrov, Shane Supple.