LIAM MACKEY: Plenty of twists left in Keane’s tale

And so there was one more leak. On the day that was in it, there just had to be.

Just along the corridor from the Aviva Stadium suite where Roy Keane was holding court at his official book launch on Thursday afternoon, water could be seen trickling steadily from a light fixture and pooling on the carpeted floor.

The problem duly reported to a staff member, there was never any danger of the roof caving in, an apocalyptic scenario which you’d imagine can’t have been very far from the minds of the publishers of ‘The Second Half’ when, earlier in the week, they learned that not only had the meeja prematurely gotten hold of the book, but they seemed hell-bent on publishing the whole damn thing before a single copy could officially go on sale.

Until the numbers are finally crunched, it’s hard to know what impact, if any, ‘Tescogate’ might have on sales, although one imagines there has been no little relief in the book trade at, not just the generally favourable reviews, but the message repeatedly coming out from impartial sources that’s there’s even more to the book than the tsunami of spoilers suggested.

There is also, as it happens, a good deal less to it than some of the week’s more excitable tweets might have led the gullible to believe. So just for the record — those Keane “quotes” on glory-hunting Man United fans and anatomically-challenged Man United players? All fake, I’m afraid.

But the recycling of spoofs is not the only trap to be wary of when tip-toeing through the Twittersphere. There’s also the inarguable fact that absence of context can mean a world of difference.

A significant case in point was one of the earliest leaks which purported to quote Keane saying that John O’Shea was “playing like a fuckin’ clown” when he first came up against Ronaldo. But when you read the full quote, it becomes clear that Keane is having a bit of fun at O’Shea’s expense simply by way of emphasising Ronaldo’s eye-opening brilliance on the day.

Context is vitally important here, because if Keane really had been dissing O’Shea in such a cavalier manner, the repercussions in the Irish camp on the eve of two European qualifiers could have been seriously destabilising. Hence, it was no surprise that, on the day the story broke, Martin O’Neill’s relief was palpable at Gannon Park when journalists assured him that they interpreted the reference to one of his senior players as a jocular one.

In truth, Keane appears to have gone out of his way not to ruffle the feathers of his current employers in the book. Again, early in the week there had been a couple of half-hearted attempts to turn his observation — hardly a new one, incidentally — that Brian Kerr should have been given another campaign as Ireland manager, into some kind of headline-grabbing attack on the FAI. In fact, there are only two fleeting mentions of the association in the whole book, one of which — in a reference to the attractions of the assistant manager’s role — has Keane saying, “I wouldn’t have to go to FAI meetings.” And then, as if anticipating the headlines, quickly adding, “...and I mean that in a nice way.”

This softly, softly approach, while uncharacteristic, is entirely understandable, given that Keane must be acutely aware that if he said anything even remotely controversial or contentious about John Delaney, the FAI or anyone else in or around the Irish set-up, the ensuing storm would have blown up in the face of Martin O’Neill, the very man who brought him in from the football cold.

Keane’s high regard for the Derry man comes through in a book which, for all the column inches devoted to the Fergie feud and other encounters, is not short on the joy to be derived from the football life. And, overall, this Roddy Doyle co-authored warts-and-all portrait of the man, if not definitive, is certainly more layered and nuanced and rounded than any we’ve been exposed to before. As the man himself said this week, contrary to caricature, he doesn’t spend all his waking hours fuming and blasting. (Of course, we missed a trick there. We should have run that quote under the headline: ‘I’M NOT ALWAYS BLASTING’ BLASTS KEANE).

Given where he is now, there are two particularly interesting quotes in the book on Keane’s contrasting fortunes in club management.

On Sunderland: “People often say that the Championship is one of the toughest leagues in the world. I won it as a manager — I have to say that. No one else ever does.” And on Ipswich: “I don’t think I’m a bad manager but at Ipswich I managed badly.”

The Sunderland line makes clear Keane feels he has not received due recognition for his success as a manager; the Ipswich follow-on suggests he also has an understanding of some of the reasons why.

At the Aviva on Thursday, Keane said he’d definitely be a better manager for the experience of working closely with O’Neill. And, yesterday, talking to Sean O’Rourke, he even hinted that such a scenario could develop sooner rather than later.

“If I got a call next week or next year about a job, I would have a look at it, just like I did the Celtic offer,” he said.

Next week? One can only hope, for a multitude of reasons — and not least, newspaper sales — the O’Neill/Keane ticket proves a bit more durable than that, ideally lasting until Ireland fetch up on the green fields of France in 2016.

So today, Gibraltar. Tomorrow — who knows? If there’s one thing we learn, above all else, from The Second Half, it’s that Roy Keane is a restless spirit. As Con used to say: now read on...


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