Standing room only as Roy faces up to latest challenge

Your starter for 10— can you name the assistant manager of Brazil? Or Spain? Or Argentina?

Thought not.

But, yesterday, in the Grand Hotel in Malahide, the man who is the assistant manager of Ireland conducted a standing-room only press conference carried live by no less than three television stations.

For one day only, at least, Ireland’s No 2 was Ireland’s No 1, Roy Keane front and centre stage with a rapt audience hanging on his every word.

Last week, manager Martin O’Neill had described Keane as the “bad, bad cop” to his “bad cop” but, yesterday, his assistant begged to differ.

“I think Martin got it wrong,” he said. “I’m going to be good cop. You don’t know Martin as well as you think you do — he makes me look like Mother Teresa. It should be interesting.”

He also paid tribute to O’Neill’s boldness in his choice of running mate.

“It goes to show how strong Martin is as, unfortunately, people might see me as a threat or some sort of troublemaker. But hopefully Martin has seen something in me that I have something to offer.”

Mixing his customary plain-speaking with dollops of humour, it was Keane who was first to invoke Saipan as he reflected on his opening week in the Irish camp.

“We’ve had a lovely few days, the hotel’s been lovely, the food has been excellent, the training ground is lovely. No potholes, we’ve had footballs, it’s been great, bibs, everything. Major progress.”

The only issue Keane dodged yesterday was the criticism he received in Alex Ferguson’s autobiography. That was a subject, he suggested, he would return to another time.

Instead, he much preferred to look to the future, saying he would learn a lot from O’Neill and was also hoping to “pleasantly surprise” players who might be expecting some sort of ogre to turn up.

However, he still made it abundantly clear that, even as second in command, he won’t be settling for second-best.

“I’m not here to try to change anybody’s opinion about myself or decisions I’ve made in the past. I spent years trying to please everybody and, trust me, it’s a waste of time and energy. You’ve just got to do what you think is right and get on with it.

“I like to set high standards. A lot of people seem to have an issue with that. A lot of the criticism I’ve faced over the last 15 or 20 years is that I’m very demanding and that I don’t settle for second-best. Well, I’m certainly not going to apologise for that, that’s just part of my make-up.”

Keane quote

* On the facilities: “We have had a lovely few days, the hotel has been lovely, the food has been excellent, the training ground is lovely, no potholes. We have had footballs, it’s been great, bibs, everything. Major progress.”

* On being early for training everyday: “My role is a little different now in terms of involvement in training and making sure things are set up [for] practice. That’s just normal practice. Don’t be patting me on the back for that. If you can’t get to training on time [smiles wryly] there is something drastic. You expect that from anybody, to be on time for work. Jesus, we are not looking for miracles.”

* On John Delaney: “Past is the past.”

* On not being boss: “I was a boss for two minutes. I am the assistant to Martin, so whatever I can do to help Martin and the rest of the staff, then that’s fine. I am not on no big ego trip where I feel I have to be the boss or the manager. That’s certainly not my make-up.”

* On taking the job: “I would have been crazy to turn it down.”

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