Roy Keane’s appointment as Aston Villa’s assistant manager triggered a negative response last night, with Brian Little and Kenny Cunningham amongst those preaching caution.
Chiefly accounting for the scepticism of Little, Villa’s manager between 1994-1998, is the precarious state of the club’s future.
Current owner Randy Lerner, who sanctioned Keane’s recruitment by manager Paul Lambert, will quit the Midlands club once a new owner makes a viable offer.
An upturn in on-field fortunes after two successive seasons struggling near the wrong end of the Premier League is difficult to foresee given the lack of investment in the squad so far this summer.
“In the current climate, Roy will still find it a hard job,” warned Little. “He’s not going to walk in there and suddenly change the whole thing; no chance.
“It might attract things, it might change the mood around the club and it might bring in something different.
“Roy is what he is, he’s a controversial person because he stands up for what he believes in.
“It will be interesting because he creates interest in whatever he says and whatever he does.”
Cunningham, who was Ireland captain when Keane returned to the fold as a player under Brian Kerr in 2004, presented two main reasons for Irish fans to be fearful of this combo arrangement.
He said: “If I look at it through Irish eyes, I’d be disappointed because I would have liked to see Roy commit himself purely to the Irish job. But I understand the attraction of getting himself back in at club level.
“The main worry I have is if Aston Villa don’t start the season particularly well and Paul Lambert may find himself out of a job. Then I’d imagine there’ll be a clamour for Roy to step in as permanent manager. If that were the case, it would make his position with Ireland untenable.”
The last member of the Ireland management team to combine club and international functions, Liam Brady, said the spotlight will continue to fall on Keane at Villa despite him being the junior element of the partnership with Lambert.
“Roy Keane is only number two who gets this type of coverage anywhere in the world,” said Brady.
His fellow RTÉ pundit Eamon Dunphy was critical of Keane’s decision, insistent the move is detrimental to his work as O’Neill’s right-hand man.
“Roy needs to be watching the Irish players for their clubs and him taking a job at Villa will affect that,” claimed Keane’s former biographer.
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