Roy Keane has launched a scathing attack on today’s hen-pecked Premier League stars, insisting they are not a patch on the kinds of characters with whom he spent the majority of his playing career.
Sunderland manager Keane says he has no time for players who allow their career paths to be plotted by their so-called WAGs, and who are more likely to be directed by the quality of the local boutiques than by the football club.
Keane takes his buoyant Sunderland side to Birmingham tomorrow night where he will renew acquaintances with his former Manchester United team-mate Steve Bruce.
Keane and Bruce were integral members of an all-conquering mid-1990s United line-up bursting with big names, and Keane admits he would dearly love to instil the same dressing room mentality at the Stadium of Light.
But the 36-year-old Irishman is quickly having to come to terms with the fact that a growing number of current players simply do not possess the same single-minded approach to their profession.
Keane said: “It’s important you bring the right players to the club. You can’t always be a Steve Bruce but you can be a character who comes in and gives 100% for the club.
“But I have to say I think the game is getting less and less characters. They are more motivated by lots of different things like money and London and living in shopping areas.
“Really you’re a footballer and when you’re retired you can live anywhere you want. But players are very much focused on where they are going to live and a lot of that is down to their partners who seem to be running their lives anyway.
“It concerns me really. It should all be about the football and be a footballing decision.”
Evidently Keane has already had some success keeping the WAGs from the door in the north-east after his side got their campaign off to a flying start with an opening day victory over Tottenham.
The likes of Paul McShane and Dickson Etuhu stepped up to make their Premier League debuts in style but Keane claims not to have been surprised by his side’s lack of nerves on the biggest stage.
“Characters have nothing to be nervous of,” Keane added. “There’s nothing to be nervous of in the Premier League, nothing to be fearful of.
“A lot of it’s built up as the Premier League is this, the Premier League is that. A lot of teams have 24 or 25 top players but it’s still 11 versus 11. Their players have two arms and two legs like us.”
It is a self-belief that can turn good players into great ones.
“You look at Brucie,” Keane said. “He was a top character. If you look at him as a centre-half he wasn’t exactly 6ft 4ins, and he wasn’t lightning, let me tell you.
“But he had the character and desire to do well and that made him a top player, and hopefully a top manager, so you need that kind of character in your dressing room.”
Keane will look for two more such characters before the transfer window closes, with former Newcastle striker Andy Cole emerging as a surprise candidate following the apparent failure to land Mido.
The 35-year-old Cole is a free agent after being released by Portsmouth and Keane said: “That is something I am looking at, I have to say, at the moment. There will probably be news on one or two players who will be coming in.”
Keane said he would be “very surprised” if he did not make changes for the clash at St Andrews, with match winner Michael Chopra possibly in line for his first start.
Keane added: “It’s hard to get too excited after one game but it was a good start for Chops. He was disappointed not to start but he reacted how I hope all my players will do.
“Nobody wants to be left out and of course they will be disappointed. But the good lads – the good characters – will react in the right way. They will just get on with the job and they’ll look at you and say, ’I’ll show you’.”