ROY KEANE roared back into front-line management with Ipswich Town yesterday and wasted no time in launching a typically stinging attack on those who doubted he would ever return.
Keane, who ended his five-month exile from football by signing a wo-year contract with the Championship club, reserved his most spiteful barbs for his former Republic of Ireland colleague Tony Cascarino, a particularly out-spoken sceptic, although more surprising was his vicious appraisal of his former Manchester United team-mates Mark Hughes and Steve Bruce who, he claimed, had “achieved nothing” in management.
“People say that the Manchester United side I played in has produced great managers but who are they?” Keane asked.
“Mark Hughes and Steve Bruce haven’t won a trophy between them. They’re potentially good managers but everyone has potential. They’ve achieved nothing. Steve has been a manager for how many years now? Sparky did well at Blackburn but he’s now facing a big challenge at Manchester City.
“People can say what they like about that side I played in, but until someone from that squad goes on to really achieve something, they shouldn’t be called good managers.”
If Keane’s broadside at Hughes and Bruce was something of a shock — the latter had regularly given Keane tickets to watch Wigan during his sabbatical — his attack on Cascarino was less startling.
The pair were on far from friendly terms when they were international colleagues and their antipathy has not faded since. Cascarino had speculated in his column for an English national newspaper that he would “be amazed” if Keane was granted another job in football after his acrimonious departure from Sunderland in December, claiming that “you must have trust from the top in the manager”.
Keane’s retort was short and to the point. “I wouldn’t give him the time of day,” he said. “I’m quite happy to comment on people I respect but I don’t respect him.
“If I told you everything I knew about him you would be shocked. The day I worry about a guy like Tony Cascarino is a very sad day in my life.”
Keane also renewed his attack on his former paymasters at Sunderland and, in particular, the club’s majority shareholder Ellis Short. The Cork man decided to quit the Stadium of Light after growing irritated at what he perceived as boardroom interference, specifically Ellis’ demand that he be kept updated with his manager’s daily movements.
“You have to respect the people who run the football club,” he said. “But when people are telling you what you should be doing with the team, where you should be living, what days you should be in, it’s over.
“One of the main conditions I had when I arrived was that there would be no interference with team affairs. But people tried to move the goalposts. There were promises from various people at the club but they never materialised.
“I had signed a three-year contract and we were on target. But I told the guys at Sunderland 5,000 times that I would do it my way, especially in team affairs, so you can draw your own conclusions as to why I left.”
If that represented a vicious sideswipe to those on Wearside, it could also have been interpreted as a coded warning to his new bosses at Portman Road. Keane confirmed he sought assurances from Marcus Evans, the club’s owner, that he would be able to carry out the job “without interference”.
Either way, it is likely to be a tumultuous summer in Suffolk. Twelve players are out of contract, almost all of whom are expected to be released, while Evans is expected to give his manager a £20m war-chest to fund new signings.
Keane, who confirmed he will move his family to the Ipswich area from their current Cheshire home as soon as possible, will take charge of his first game at Cardiff tomorrow after overseeing his first training session yesterday.
He will be expected to deliver, at the very least, a top-six finish in his first season and promotion in his second but, while that is a challenge which would make most men baulk, especially at a club which has spent most of its recent history mired in mid-table, for Keane it is simply par for the course.
“It’s a huge challenge but what do people want me to do — set an easy one?” he said. “You need to want to achieve something with your life and I want to achieve things with Ipswich. I was offered other jobs and a lot of people probably thought I would go back into the Premier League.
“But I have always maintained that if it’s the right challenge, it doesn’t matter where it is, I’ll be ready for it. This job is about now and what I want to achieve.”
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