Roy Keane has warned that Ireland’s inability to keep possession for long periods means Giovanni Trapattoni’s men could struggle to make an impact in the European Championships next month.
‘‘Ireland will hopefully do well,’’ Keane said. ‘‘I think the first match is vital for them, the match against Croatia. They seem to be a decent, honest bunch who want to do well. Obviously they’re up against it, I wouldn’t bet against them but it’s going to be very hard because in these tournaments you do need some sort of possession and Ireland don’t keep the ball long enough but from set-pieces. With spirit, they might do okay.’’
Euro 2012 is Ireland’s first major finals since the 2002 World Cup, a competition that, infamously, did not include Keane after a blazing row with then manager Mick McCarthy.
Ten years on Keane retains strong views on the events of Saipan.
He recalled: ‘‘I enjoyed the matches but playing for Ireland around that time was hard work off the field and I spoke with Mick on a number of occasions when he got the job, particularly about the treatment of players. I was captain of the team; the players have to be looked after.
‘‘You’re talking about top-level sports people here. It wasn’t me being some flash git saying we need to get this and that.
“Travel arrangements for the players were a disgrace, the medical treatment for the players was a disgrace and of course it obviously came to a head when we got to Saipan. But it had been building up for a while.
‘‘I’ll try and defend Mick a little bit in the sense that when you go to these big tournaments, there’s massive organisation and I think it fell on Mick too much. You see the Irish rugby team when they go away — the tour manager and other people will help the manager. You share the load.
“The big issue I had with Mick, particularly in the end at Saipan he said I missed a game in one of the play-off matches that I should have played and I wasn’t injured. Even now, 10 years later, I can’t understand why he’d come out with that.’’
Keane also felt the mentality of some of the players was wrong ahead of the World Cup.
‘‘I got a little bit fed up with the players while we were over there and the real poor mentality we had going over there. You had to be there to believe it, an international team preparing for a massive tournament, the facilities, there was no training gear, no medical gear, no footballs.
“We can laugh, but at the time... I said to Mick, ‘For Christ’s sake where’s the footballs?’
‘‘Imagine England going away, Capello and all these fellas saying, ‘We’ve got no balls, lads.’
“I knew sometimes we wouldn’t get it perfect, I know that, I never wanted perfection, all I ever said to the team and to Mick, even when he got the job, ‘Let’s try to make progress here.’ ‘‘Small country, small population, we’re up against it anyway, why make it harder for ourselves? Unless you were in Saipan you wouldn’t believe the conditions and a lot of the other players — everyone was expecting what we got.
“There was other lads there, lads shouting their mouths off, saying, ‘Ah well, that’s the way we are’ and all this. Nah, not for me.
‘‘You’re on about the FAI looking after their players; I had to sort all my own flights back.
“Next morning (after the row with McCarthy), no one, not even one of the staff came to the room. I’m not playing a sob story here but I guarantee if I was one of the other players I go, ‘I know you’re not coming with us but good luck.’
“I think their mentality was we’re just over here to enjoy ourselves.’’
Roy Keane on...
Almost joining Cork City
“I did sign for Cork City. I signed amateur forms with them and then Cobh came up to speak with me a couple of days later and they said they can put me on a FÁS course and I signed for them as well. Being a young player, I actually didn’t know it was illegal. To cut a long story short I went to Cobh, the FAI fined me a £100 for signing for two teams. Maybe that’s where the trouble started...”
“From my experience under Brian Clough, he was brilliant. This idea of him not turning up for training was nonsense. The drinking gets exaggerated. The most important thing about Brian Clough is when he spoke, you listened and he knew the game inside out. You couldn’t achieve what he achieved unless you were an intelligent man who knew football inside out. We’ve got to be careful... People talk about him shabbily.”
Nearly joining Blackburn
“We agreed a contract and no one else had been in contact with me. I know people were on about United but that Friday evening I agreed a contract with Blackburn, shook hands with Kenny Dalglish but it was a Friday evening so the offices were shut down in terms of drawing up a contract so I said I’d go back to Cork for the weekend to celebrate. Went out the Friday night, went out the Saturday night and the Sunday morning I got a phone call to my house in Mayfield, Alex Ferguson rang me. I said I’d shook hands with Kenny Dalglish and he said, ‘Well, don’t worry too much about him’. He said, ‘Come to Manchester tomorrow’ and I flew to Manchester on the Monday and met Alex Ferguson and Brian Kidd. When Blackburn found out, Kenny Dalglish was fuming. Looking back, I shook hands with him. You think when you shake hands with somebody it’s a done deal but in defence of myself, I was a young player. Blackburn and Kenny Dalglish certainly weren’t happy. Kenny rang me a few times and I said, ‘I’ve changed my mind’ and he was fuming proper. He was effing and screaming, ‘You shook my hand, that’s a legal deal up in Scotland’ and I said, ‘Well we’re not in bloody Scotland, are we?’ He said: ‘I’ll find you, I know you’re going on holidays, I’ll find you’ and he didn’t. Eventually United went to £3.75m and they done a deal and I signed with United and when I signed for United I have to say I loved it from day one.”
“Denis was brilliant. What a full-back Denis was. Denis could play right-back and left-back. A brilliant professional, Denis should probably get more credit than he does.”
Missing the 1999 Champions League final
“I think since I’ve retired I’ve probably looked back, I’m a bit more relaxed about it now. I felt I didn’t deserve a medal but there was 13 games that year. I played in 12 of them and obviously missed the final so a part of me probably feels I earned it a little bit.”
“Haaland had a pretty big mouth. Obviously I got in trouble with my book but I never actually said — this is the problem you get when you get someone to write your book — I never said I was going out to do him. I’ve gone on to the pitch many a time wanting to hurt a player but not injure a player and if I wanted to really injure Haaland — when you play football, there’s ways of doing it — and jokes aside, I knew he wasn’t going to be badly injured.”
Almost joining Juventus
‘‘I did. I had agreed a contract with Juventus and I had agreed a contract with Bayern Munich but I look back now and I ask myself could I or should I have gone abroad but I can’t tell you how happy I was at United. It’s irrelevant really. I was happy there. It might have been good for my family, the change of lifestyle but I was happy at United and sometimes the grass isn’t always greener.”
On Jason McAteer
“Jason’s an idiot. Jason’s a clown. I’d have no time for him.”
Retiring as a player
“It’s still hard. You still have your moments now where you think maybe you could still do it. Massive shock, it’s hard to explain it.”
“Jack was a successful manager for Ireland but Jack wouldn’t necessarily be my cup of tea but he doesn’t have to be. Jack is Jack.”
“I loved it at Sunderland. A brilliant club, the fans were brilliant to me. In the two and a half years I was there, I think I had a difficult four weeks and that was my last four weeks and more so in the summer when the club was sold to an American owner. Things changed but I loved it at Sunderland.”
“Ipswich is a disappointment. Ipswich didn’t work out. We had a difficult first season, not necessarily losing matches but just too many draws. The chemistry was never right with me at Ipswich, I don’t know what it was but obviously I should have done better but I probably learned more from my Ipswich experience than I did with Sunderland.”
Media work and the future
“I don’t think there’s a long-term future for me in TV punditry. I honestly think if I don’t get back into management this summer I’ll probably step back from everything and step back from public stuff and look to find something else in my life. Unless I get back into football management I will probably look to do something else.”
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