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Roy Keane & His Treasured Brian Clough Compliment (1992)

  • Dev Bajwa 
Roy Keane and Brian Clough Nottingham Forest - Ultra UTD Graphic

I thought that a person like Roy Keane would be impervious to compliments, but maybe he is human after all?!

We all like to be told we’re good at things don’t we?

Be it in the classroom or the bedroom (probably not by the same person), there’s nothing like having our egos inflated by somebody saying how good we are at something. Oh, enough with your ‘I’m humble’ nonsense – because even someone telling you you’re ‘humble’ will make you feel fuzzy. So, just go with this!

The exact same things applies to footballers at every level, and in fact, they might rely on the good words of their superiors more than most of us. As we know, football is a beautiful game but it’s also a very emotional one – where one’s form ebbs and flows with the various peaks and troughs that befalls the average mortal.

And sometimes it takes a manager of good standing to make you feel good about yourself, before you are able to pass on that good feeling through positive performances.

This is something that Roy Keane knows all about. Yes … THE Roy … Keane!!

Watching the man speak on Sky Sports or any other commentary panel – usually about the failings of his beloved Manchester United – then you’d be forgiven for thinking that the man was completely impervious to criticise and/or positive remarks; as if they sprout from the man himself and drive him on to achieve the success that he ultimately achieved with Nottingham Forest and Manchester United, but that’s only as a seasoned vet of the game, as even Roy Keane had to learn the ropes somewhere.

And it was at the aforementioned Forest where Roy Keane developed a sense of understanding as to what it took to succeed at the very top of the English game which, back then (between 1990-1993), was going through a very radical change.

Since the dawn of the Premier League era, the definition of a midfielder has changed drastically – and Keane would become the epitome of what’s now called a ‘box-to-box midfielder’. No, he did not invent the term, but this role became synonymous with the lippy Irishman after something his beloved manager had once told him.

For the football lovers amongst you (of which I hope there are many considering where you’re reading this), it might not surprise you that the manager I’m referring is not Sir Alex Ferguson.

Given the pair’s professional affinity with one-another – which led to Roy Keane lifting 17 major trophies with the Red Devils over a twelve year period, it comes as no surprise that they may have butted heads once or twice, mainly because they were so similar. So, instead, the honour of giving Keane’s most receptive compliment of his career comes from the softer Brian Clough.

Renowned for his outspoken personality and qualities in man-management, Brian Clough’s career is littered with some gems of stories from his previous employees.

Some are happy to jibe at the Northerner for how he used to pick on them everyday, and others are happy to recall a single word or gesture flung their way because of the gravitas put forth behind his actions.

And in Roy Keane’s case, it was as simple as saying something like this:

” I remember, [Brian] Clough came to me during my earlier years at Nottingham Forest. He calls me in before one of my first games and he says: ‘you can pass it, you can shoot and you can run – so just do those three things’. As silly as it sounds, a lot of players can’t do all three, so that’s when I knew I had that going for me!”

Roy Keane on Brian Clough in 1990

And it was as simple as that! Roy Keane then made a career off the back of doing those three things better than any of his competitors – thus signalling him out to be one of the greatest all-round midfielders of all time.

I mean, we tend to look back now at Keane and remember his outstanding leadership qualities or fiery personality as the stand-out attributes of his footballing career. But when it really boils down to it, very few were as good at: passing it, shooting it, and running after it as Roy Keane was across the board!

A subtle, yet highly important assessment from Cloughie, this!

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