Let’s give Roy Keane a clean slate in new Irish soccer role


Let’s give Roy Keane a clean slate in new Irish soccer role
Roy Keane

Apologies to all those of you waiting for an anti-Roy Keane rant, even those reading this column on the Internet from an Irish address.

The easiest thing in the world right now would be to stand up on this very elegant soapbox that is the Irish Voice and deride the FAI’s decision to allow Martin O’Neill to appoint Mick McCarthy’s nemesis as his right-hand man.

As a self-confessed McCarthyite -- and I make no apologies for it -- I could easily slam John Delaney for backing the man kicked out of Saipan by his international manager McCarthy all those years ago. But I’m
not going to.

I have no interest in slagging off Roy Keane, Martin O’Neill or John Delaney on this page. I have no desire whatsoever to say that Mick McCarthy should have got the job – I would have given it to him by the way – or that Martin O’Neill is not welcome to our job.

Life is too short to be bitter about the past. I have attended too many funerals of late to worry about anything that happened in the past between Roy Keane and anyone else who cares about Irish football, myself included.

A lot of water has flowed under many bridges since Saipan, and that’s where it deserves to say. No one came out of that whole period with any saving grace, and it was a blight on the footballing history of our proud country.

But all that is history now.  All that matters is our national football team and the aspirations of a nation let down so badly by those who play for us and those who managed the same players over the last two years.

When Ireland kick-off the European Championship campaign next September, it won’t matter what happened in Saipan.  Keane will be in the dug-out but he won’t be on the field as Ireland look to qualify for the 2016 finals in France.

His temperamental influence as a player is long gone.  His erratic behavior as a manager with Sunderland and Ipswich is irrelevant right now.

All that matters, all that should matter, is how he can contribute to the future state of Irish football, how he can make the World Cup underachievers into European Championship qualifiers.

It matters not that he derided his new boss John Delaney and the FAI for years. It matters not that he described Robbie Keane and Richard Dunne as cowards after Saipan. It matters not that he treats members of the Irish media with absolute disdain.

It is how Roy Keane reacts to his new role as an understudy to Martin O’Neill that will decide the faith of the FAI’s big gamble.

It is how Keane deals with players inside the dressingroom whom he has previously fallen out with at club level, like Jon Walters and Anthony Stokes, that will make or break this new relationship.

It is how Keane accepts that many of those who now play for his country will never be as good a player as he was that will determine his real worth to the new management set-up.

We are right to worry about Keane’s ability to deal with players. We are right to speculate about the implications of his fractured relationship with the FAI in relation to his new job.

But nobody who loves Irish football – and I do – is entitled to judge Roy Keane’s Ireland future on his Ireland past. He deserves a clean slate when he walks into the dressing room as assistant manager for the first time on Monday.

What he does with that slate will color how we judge him from here on in.  But we cannot tar him with a brush from the past before he even gets to work in the present.

We need have no worries about Martin O’Neill. Like Mick McCarthy, he is a man who knows his way around a dressing room and knows how to command it.

Like Mick, he is a proud Irishman who wears his heart on his sleeve and won’t demand anything of an Irish player that he wouldn’t demand of himself.

For all my loyalty to the McCarthy ticket in this election, I am excited about O’Neill’s appointment. And I hope it works.  I really do.

About two months ago I was on a golf trip to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon with some old friends from home when I got talking to a Benfica fan in a bar.