Meyler hails ‘born winner’ Keane for career boost

David Meyler: Spared the traditional loan sabbatical into lower league football to be instead thrust into the top-flight. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

If this week’s documentary cemented the long-held view that winning consumed Roy Keane during his career, then the modern-day equivalent is certainly David Meyler.

The duo share more than just their Cork origins; each strived to be all-action midfielders from their early teens without attracting interest from the big cross-channel clubs.

When they did eventually land inEngland later than most of their peers, they were spared the traditional loansabbatical into lower league football to be instead thrust into the top-flight.

Progress was punctuated for both byserious knees injuries — only for their physical and mental strength to conquer pull them through.

Keane liked enough of what he saw and heard of Meyler in 2008 to splash out €350,000 on a teenager not yet even a regular at Cork City. Like Steve Coppell in the case of Shane Long, the Sunderland manager saw potential and was prepared to pay for it.

Five years on from their initial partnership, Keane and Meyler are on course to be reunited in pursuit of a common cause – improving the Irish international team. Keane, now Ireland assistant to another former mentor of Meyler’s — Martin O’Neill — said last month he saw something of himself in James McCarthy. For the next friendly in March against Serbia, another midfielder cut from the same cloth could be in the reckoning to man the engine room.

Meyler has returned to the Premier League this term with Hull City a more rounded player than the one groomed by Keane and unleashed by his Sunderland successor Steve Bruce.

The 23-year-old had defied O’Neill’s wishes just under a year ago by leaving Sunderland for Hull.

His decision to seek a fresh challenge has been vindicated as he clinched promotion back to the top-flight in May and has started the last three games.

Last Sunday week, Meyler even crowned his return to the side by scoring a Premier League goal against his boyhood idols Liverpool – something he didn’t manage during three years at the Stadium of Light.

Evidence, too, the Leesider has lost none of the endurance that Keane and Bruce admired him for came after Monday’s 1-1 draw at Swansea City – his third game in eight days.

“It’s been nearly four years since I last had a run of games in the Premier League and I’m glad to be back,” exhaled Meyler.

“It’s still much the same pace, about 100 miles per hour. I’m older, more mature now and content that I’ve come back strong after the two major injuries.

“I ran 13.2 kilometres over the 90 minutes — which was the most of any player in the team. It might be a cliché but I go out there willing to die for the cause. I wouldn’t say I’m hungrier to succeed after the injuries; that’s always been there.

“But, even now, whether it’s playing FIFA on the computer with my buddies or even when we go bowling, it’s about winning. It’s what I do.”

Although there was no place for Meyler in O’Neill and Keane’s first Ireland squad for last month’s double-header against Latvia and Poland, they left the selection to previous caretaker boss Noel King.

The prospect of reacquainting himself with two former bosses does excite Meyler, yet he feels the route to inclusion remains in his own hands.

He said: “You get yourself picked for Ireland by playing well at club level and hopefully that’s what I continue doing in tomorrow’s game against Stoke City. That’s down to me.

“I set high standards for myself and this is another game live on television. I want to keep a level of consistency that’ll help us remain on the right track.

“Not many people would have predicted Martin and Roy working together in this job but I feel they’re very similar. They’re both fantastic people who have enjoyed brilliant careers. That can only be a plus for the players and the country.

“Who better for the likes of myself and James McCarthy to learn off than Roy Keane?

“Roy signed me and then brought me into the first-team on the bench.

“It was a Premier League at Chelsea (in November 2008) and we got beaten 5-0. I didn’t get to play but the little things like singing my initiation song the night before in the hotel was a great experience.

“He was brilliant to work under and – like Martin – is a born winner.”

A number of English-born players have been mooted as potential Ireland recruits under the new era.

Meyler is lukewarm on the chances of his Hull team-mate Curtis Davies being one of them.

“I think, in all honesty, deep down Curtis has his eye on an England call-up,” admitted the Irishman.


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