A great power was given to Roy Keane. A power that can be dispensed in a look. By just making the face, writes
You’ve heard the story by now but nobody has captured the weight of that power as amusingly as Peter Crouch in his new book, recalling the time he encountered Roy at a Manchester traffic light when Crouch was a Liverpool player.
Driving his flash new Aston Martin, ebulliently yet self-consciously, shades on, music blaring, Crouchy gives Keane the nod and the wink.
“All of it saying, you and me, eh, Roy? Same game, same level. In it together. Rivals yet friends who just haven’t met before. Alright, Roy?
“He looks back at me, disgust on his face. He shakes his head and stares ahead.” Crouchy, as he tells it, sells the car that week at a 25 grand hit.
All because of Roy Keane — Roy, as my absent conscience, a modern-day footballer’s spiritual guide.
“That single glance from Roy Keane was a turning point for me; I came crashing back to earth. Thank you, Roy.”
Roy has often used that power wisely and well. Ireland’s young Cork midfielder Conor Hourihane spoke this week of the countless words of advice Keane has given him. Cobh Ramblers player Shane O’Connor told, at the weekend, of the guidance Keane provided at one of his lowest moments, without a club. Roy invited him to his house, subjected him to a live Six Nations match, but at least played a game of snooker afterwards. All the while working out the lad’s next steps.
The look works just as well over the phone, judging by the response of Manchester United’s great and good
to their one-time spiritual advisor when he invited/summoned them to the Liam Miller match.
Keane is acutely aware of the power he holds. The power of the look and the need to keep it under control.
“It helps me,” he said in his book. “As soon as I walk into a room, I know people are apprehensive; I know they are. They are expecting some sort of skinhead thug.
I see my anger as a useful tool. Me expressing my anger — not every two minutes — I’m releasing something. I can control it better now than in the past.
Roy Keane’s power was never going to be an issue when things were going reasonably well for him and Martin O’Neill and the Republic of Ireland.
But when frustration kicked in, when players inferior to him couldn’t play anything like he once did, when the management team have looked powerless to impose a shape on Ireland’s play...
A lot of my sending offs wouldn’t have been because of anger; they were caused by frustration. There’s a big difference. I don’t ever remember getting sent off when we were 3-0 up.
Ireland have not been 3-0 up and Keane couldn’t be anything but frustrated watching Ireland play. Martin O’Neill has provided one account of how he has handled that frustration.
“Sometimes he does give out rollickings and there have been times when he’s come to me and said, ‘I went overboard there, I’ll have a word with the lad’ — and he does,” said O’Neill.
Various more colourful accounts of Roy’s rollickings have emerged in recent days and who knows which ones are accurate. What people want to know is whether he has been able to put his employer’s interests first.
When he fought with Jon Walters at Ipswich, he wasn’t. “I said that Jon would never play for the club again. That was a big no-no. His value was down already.”
The departure of Harry Arter and the beef with Walters, not to mind how low Ireland’s morale looked against Wales, is enough to convince Liam Brady that Keane’s power is no longer a positive force, nor his anger a useful tool.
“He’s damaging a squad that’s weak in many ways anyway and we can’t afford to lose any players,” Brady said yesterday onpodcast.
In a way, the Peter Crouch story also sums up Brady’s suspicions about Roy. And John Giles’s too. Both would probably have waved at Crouchy before driving on.
“It looks like football brings him no joy at all. I can watch a football match and if I see a great team or a great player, it makes me happy, it looks like it makes Keane angry,” Brady said yesterday.
The thing that has struck me about Roy Keane and it has for years is that I don’t think he likes football and I don’t think he likes players.
“When you hear him speak about football in his punditry role. It comes across that he doesn’t like modern day footballers.
“I think this thing is boiling inside of him and if he gets an idea in his head where Harry Arter pulls out of training because he doesn’t fancy it that morning, he can fly off (the handle) as he did. You can’t do that anymore.
You couldn’t do it in any day as an assistant manager. He’s not assisting the manager.
Once that anger — allied to his great power — turned to disgust with his Manchester United teammates following the treble. At the Rolexes and the mansions. Once it was Alex Ferguson’s absent conscience on the field.
“What he is made him a great player,” said John Giles yesterday.
“There was respect and fear from the other players for him, but I don’t think there was that affection.
“I never came across that in any other player. The Leeds players are still close to this day. Roy doesn’t seem to have that in any way.
“There’s not that connection. I don’t know him very well but temperamentally equipped to be an assistant manager, definitely not.”
“I didn’t miss the people – the companionship – that much, or the banter,” Keane said, of leaving Manchester United.
But still, when football finished, he spoke of a “midlife crisis that has been going on for years”.
No matter what I do for the rest of my life, nothing will replace it. That’s the big shock. Knowing that, for the rest of your life, everything was going to be disappointment – jobwise. Nothing could come near to it. The challenge for me now was: don’t self-explode. It was a case of ‘What can I enjoy?’
He seemed to be enjoying his work with Martin O’Neill. Treating players to the look, the power of a glance.
That power of his could hold a press conference transfixed, was box office at a time when Ireland were bereft of star quality.
But an Irish team bereft of star quality needs morale and spirit more than ever.
And Keane knows better than anybody how things ends when the balance of your power shifts.
“When I’m backed into a corner, when I get into situations, professional or personal, I know, deep down, that when I lose my rag, and I might be in the right – it doesn’t matter – I know I’m going to be the loser. I will lose out.
“Saipan and the World Cup – ultimately I lost. Or when I left United, when I could have stayed a bit longer if it had been handled differently. I was the one who lost; I know that.”
Brady senses another imminent defeat. “Martin O’Neill, or the powers that be, John Delaney, has to say enough of this. This has got to stop.”