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Roy Keane - The Walker
And we're not talking about walking his dog Triggs here. There is a constant theme throughout Roy Keane's career in soccer. When the going gets tough, the tough gets going ... out the door. When Roy Keane decides that the prevailing circumstances aren't to his liking he creates an escape hatch for himself, prepares his excuses as much for himself as for public consumption, and then he departs the scene.
His departures tend to be sudden and at times brutal, and are almost always accompanied by a significant degree of angst and controversy.
When Roy Keane signed for Nottingham Forest it was a dream come true for the young Cork man. He had longed to play top flight football in England but had only suffered disappointment until Brian Clough and Nottingham Forest offered Keane a professional contract. "...I felt like I'd won the pools."[Page 22].
In the past Keane has professed his gratitude to the club and it's fans and that they will "...always have a special place in my heart."[Page 34]. Keane said that he loved Nottingham and that the club was extremely generous and sympathetic to his many requests to be allowed to go home to Cork between matches. Keane felt so indebted to Forest that when threatened with the prospect of ending his international career before it even began he had no qualms in choosing to play in a relatively meaningless Zenith Data Systems Cup tie rather than join up with the Republic of Ireland international squad [Page 40].
Keane's commitment to Nottingham Forest was severely tested when the club was relegated from the Premiership in the 1992/93 season. Rather than stay with the club that had given him his big break in his soccer career to help the club win promotion back to the Premiership Keane activated a release clause (in the event of Forest being relegated) in his contract. In Roy Keane's autobiography hejustifies this by commenting that Forest had received £3.75 million for a player that only cost £47,000.
Republic of Ireland Squad in Saipan
Regardless of the what version of the Saipan affair one subscribes to, there was no way that Keane was going to stay for the duration of Ireland's participation in the 2002 World Cup. Clearly there were problems with the FAI's and Mick McCarthy's preparations but none were so bad that caused any other player to decide to go home. It is clear that Keane was unhappy even before he left Dublin.
After he made his original decision to leave Saipan he had his mind changed by a combination of the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, and his solicitor, Michael Kennedy (and perhaps others). With the benefit of hindsight he wasn't happy with this so rather than be seen to change his mind yet again he conducted two newspaper interviews with Tom Humphries and Paul Kimmage that were guaranteed to cause conflict and confrontation between Keane and Mick McCarthy. As he admitted later, in the Tommie Gorman interview for RTE, in those circumstances there could only be one winner - the manager. Roy Keane had engineered his own exit from Saipan and his participation in the 2002 World Cup finals.
Exit from Manchester United
Roy Keane loved playing for Manchester United, of that there is no doubt. Keane's relationship with Alex Ferguson is the stuff of legend. In their respective autobiographies it is clear that there was a genuine mutual respect. Keane repeatedly acknowledges that Ferguson knew how to handle his personality. "Alex Ferguson was the perfect manager for me."[Page 215].
In his autobiographical video, Roy Keane: As I See It, released in 2002, Keane laments the fact that he and United hadn't won the Champions League more often. Even though he had received a winners medal in 1999, because he didn't play in the final he felt that it was not his medal. Although he was conscious that "Time is running out" for him in 2002 Keane estimated that he had four more seasons left and that United had a realistic chance of winning the major European title twice in that time.
In 2005 European success continued to elude Manchester United and Keane. His frustration levels were very high as injuries continued to blight the latter days of his soccer career. Keane sensed that the end was nigh and in an act that was surely designed to provoke a response from Sir Alex Ferguson, Keane, gave an interview to MUTV that publicly (or would have it it had been broadcast) castigated a number of his playing colleagues.
Keane had broken one of Ferguson's cardinal rules i.e. specific personal criticisms stay within the club. Keane was the beneficiary of this rule over his years at Manchester United. Ferguson repeatedly refused to publicly criticise Keane even when circumstances warranted a public rebuke for his captain. Keane protests that he couldn't have predicted the outcome of giving the Tom Humphries interview in Saipan but he could have been in doubt how Ferguson would react to public criticism of his Manchester United team mates.
Keane wanted out, but as with the Saipan incident, he wanted someone to open the exit door for him.
Sunderland Manager Walks
In his first year as a football manager Roy Keane performed a minor miracle by taking the Stadium of Light team from the relegation zone to first place in the Championship. Once in the Premiership he spent very significant amounts of money in the transfer market to strengthen his squad. Sunderland just about managed to stay in the Premiership in his first full season as a manager.
Strains were beginning to show and there were public disagreements with players. Unlike Ferguson, football manager Roy Keane had no compunction about publicly criticising his own players. With a change of ownership at Sunderland Keane's methods and poor results were under the microscope of the new American owner Ellis Short. Keane seems to have rankled at the thought that the man who paid his wages, and provided millions of pounds for transfers, might ask him about poor results or query him why he didn't show up for work some days. No, this was too much for the indignant Keane and he was off.
The conclusion is inescapable - the only ways that Roy Keane knows how to handle situations that he finds challenging is either fight or flight. Either way the adrenaline is pumping. If he can't beat the situation into a shape that suits him then he exits stage left. Keane does not seem to have the skills to deal with adversity especially when it is in the form of another human being. Civilised debate or negotiation do not seem to be in his locker. It's either full-on or full-off.
The really surprising thing is, and this is all the more surprising given that Keane claims not to care what people think of him, that he seems to be better at addressing situations through the media than dealing with people individually. Invariably walking away seems to be Roy Keane's preferred option. Sitting down on a one-to-one non-confrontational basis with the object of his ire or irritation to sort things out in a rational manner is not on his agenda. To use another cliché, it's either Keane's way or it's the highway - for him.
NOTE: Unless stated
otherwise all quotations are from:
Triggs - The Autobiography of Roy Keane's Dog
Ireland at 2002 World Cup Finals - Irish 2002 World Cup Squad - Irish Group Matches
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