Can Keane ever be anyone’s sidekick?

Roy Keane (CM)

Roy Keane was vigorously defending himself on Wednesday’s press conference, trying to evaporate the perception of him as a mad dog, unwilling to ever yield to a leash. “I’m not some sort of animal,” said the former Manchester United captain. “There’s nothing to tame.” Are you sure about that, Keano?

His track record certainly suggest that there is a beastly side of his being that needs attention. His exit from the Ireland World Cup squad in 2002, and the career-ending tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland – an assault that was planned and calculated – are both examples of egocentric, ruthless and frankly horrific behavior that confirms Roy’s dark side. There is no doubt he has a demon in him. He might disregard Sir Alex Ferguson’s recent book, but the row he caused which would eventually prove his downfall at Man United essentially springs from his gung-ho mentality and desire to have things his way. Fergie disposed of Keane after he publicly criticized his teammates and then orchestrated what Fergie regarded as a mutinous ambush. We all know no one, except for Alex Ferguson, was bigger than the club during his reign. Keano had to go, compliments of his demanding, controlling nature and his ego. Paradoxically the same attributes that made him great.

So with a record like Roy Keane’s, can you see him ever be anyone’s sidekick?

I’m sure Martin O’Neill has considered his decision carefully. He’s as aware of Keane’s faults as he is confident of his pros, I’m certain. But there are still a few question marks on whether the solution of Roy as an assistant will ultimately benefit the Irish. O’Neill’s knowledge of the game is well documented, and he showed in his time at Aston Villa that he can make an average team perform well.

Likewise, Keane has a relatively successful record as a manager. He rallied Sunderland to promotion in his first season as manager in 2007, though he failed to establish his team in the top flight, and resigned the following year. A lot of signs again pointed to Keane’s relentless persona as both the architect of the promotion, and the element that eventually caused the Wearsiders to turn against him. Rumor had it the squad celebrated his resignation. It’s simply an example of how a strict regime can wear and tear on footballers. Everything can be overdone, and in Roy Keane’s case, I believe it is a matter of moderation.

Because let one thing be clear – I have massive faith in Roy Keane as a manager. He has been schooled by Brain Clough and Sir Alex Ferguson – two of the most successful managers in British history. And evidence has it that pupils of Fergie make good, reliable managers. Keane will have that same policy that ensures no one grows bigger than the team. Also, being a bit of a mad dog is no obstacle for being a manager. In fact it seems like it can be an advantage. Some of the most celebrated managers are known for their unpredictable temperament. ‘El Loco’ Marcelo Bielsa bares his nickname for obvious reasons, and Hungarian Bela Guttman won everything everywhere in a 20-year period from the 50’s to the early 70’s, but no club could ever be bothered to keep him any longer than two seasons. And don’t tell me José Mourinho doesn’t come across as a bit of a nutter.

So Keane have all the tools to become a good manager. His knowledge of football was on a respectable level in his playing days. But will he be able to stand down and let Martin O’Neill call the shots? I struggle to imagine Keane in an assistant manager position, simply because he is not a character that ever gives way. I have heard that Martin O’Neill is the kind of manager that is rarely seen on the training pitch, but shows up to manage the team on match day. So during training, Roy Keane will bark and batter the team during sessions, and then O’Neill will take control and do things his way during games. Luckily for the Irish squad, they don’t have to experience this on a day-to-day basis.

I could be wrong, but putting Roy Keane in a position below anyone seems like a gamble to me. Perhaps the new regime is exactly what the Irish internationals need, and perhaps Keano settles in his position. However, if he is to do this, he must relinquish his ego.

“There’s nothing to tame”? Oh yes, Roy, there is.

Is O’Neill and Keane the right fit for Ireland?

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