On one of his famous ‘dog walks’ through the park, Sky Sports treated us with a very intriguing and revealing insight into Roy Keane’s world over the past couple of weeks.
Roy Keane believes he has unfinished business in the management game, stating on Gary Neville’s Overlap that “I think there’s something in there where I could be a good manager”. He talks through his two divergent times at both Sunderland and Ipswich, with it now being over ten years since his last management job.
Keane has since been employed in assistant management roles alongside former Celtic boss Martin O’Neil at both the Republic of Ireland and Nottingham Forest at the backend of the 2018/19 season. Although Keane justifies why that would not want to be an assistant at club level in the future and aims to be return to club level only as a manager moving forwards.
Roy Keane began his management career swiftly after retirement at the tender age of 35, when he was employed Sunderland, just relegated from the Premier League. Despite coming into a side who had lost their opening four games of the 2006/07 season, Roy Keane led Sunderland back to the Premier League at the first attempt.
Winning the league with 88 points, Roy was awarded with the Championship Manager of the Year award.
The next season Keane successfully guided Sunderland to a 15th place finish, guaranteeing survival with 2 game still to play. Nevertheless it was the following season when the Manchester United legend would eventually step down from his position as manager.
This coming just a few weeks after beating Tyne-Wear rivals Newcastle United for the first time in 28 years for the club. Keane resigned following a 4-1 defeat at home to Bolton Wanderers, casting doubt on his future following the match, “I ask myself every day if I’m the right man for Sunderland. I asked myself this morning and I said I was. Sunday morning, if the answer’s no, we’ll have to look at it.”
Recently speaking on the overlap, it is clear that he now recognises how he may have expected too much progression following Sunderland’s 15th place finish in 2007/08. Expressing how “for some stupid reason I thought we would then automatically go up another 5 or 6 places, which is madness”.
In hindsight, Roy Keane explains how he was a bit impatient and puts it down to his lack of experience at the time.
The Irishman did not waste much time getting back in the dugout, when in April 2009 he was hired by new Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans, tasked with repeating his success with Sunderland at Portman Road. A 2 year deal was agreed, and after ending the 2008/09 season with back to back wins, and being allowed to make the changes necessary over the summer, the expectation was promotion.
However it did not pan out as expected with his side needing to wait 14 games for their first win of the 2009/10 campaign, where they eventually finished 15th, drawing 20 of their 46 league matches. Scoring just 50 goals, which appeared to be the major problem, thus the pressure on the next season increased as a result.
In spite of winning 3 of their first 4 games, Keane would only last till 7th January 2011 with Ipswich Town wallowing in 19th place in the Championship. After Keane’s final game, he acknowledged the threat he was under, “I’m doing my best and if my best isn’t good enough, then I’ll take the consequences”, he said.
With it now being over 10 years since Keane has manged, it does raise the question as to whether the perception of Roy Keane has been the main reason for this. He has been a fearsome character within football, with a huge stature in the game which commands the respect of any dressing room.
Although it is evident that his tough love approach didn’t go down well at Ipswich.
Roy has admitted that he was “a bit hard” on former Premier League defender Damien Delaney whilst at Portman Road. Delaney has expressed how “It wasn’t fine at the time, as it grinds you down. I have laughed when people said this before – but if Roy Keane has said he was too hard on you, can you imagine what I had to go through?”
There are examples of how Roy’s ruthless approach would pay dividends, Danny Higginbotham revealed how he loved to play for the former Manchester United Captain, and how his bizarre team talk inspired them to earn a 1-1 draw at Villa Park. On the back of a very poor run at half time Keane said “Listen, lads, basically, you’re shit. Try to enjoy the game. You’re probably going to get beaten. But just enjoy being shit.” This reverse psychology motivated the players to prove him wrong, a genius piece of management it has to be said.
Dan McDonnell from the Irish Independent explained on Off The Ball, that whilst at Sunderland, Keane would only come in a few times a week and would be a more illusive figure at the club. Whereas at Ipswich Keane moved down to the area permanently and was in everyday, and due to the nature of his personality this may not have created that positive atmosphere he had at Sunderland.
Instead a negative atmosphere would carry over till matchday if results were not going as planned.
It is clear that Roy Keane does have something to offer in management if he can get that balance right between being ruthless and setting standards but also building players up, as not all players react now to that combative approach. Gary Neville brought up comparisons with Frank Lampard and Scott Parker on how they have got offered big jobs despite little tangible success in management currently, and how the perceptions of these managers are slightly different to Keane.
But it cannot be underestimated how even simply creating a platform on Instagram and showing his humility more on Sky Sports with Micah Richards, is now changing the perception of Keane in the public eye. He is not always that ruthless character we see on football pitch and displaying his more relaxed side of his character could help his career prospects more than first thought.
The perception was the key point echoed throughout the discussion on the overlap, as through looking at Keane’s management CV it does not fall behind, Lampard, Parker or even Solskjaer before joining United, yet Keane has not been involved in management in over 10 years. His frustration as to why some managers get many chances in the game whilst for some they don’t come around too often, Neville put down to Keane “not playing the game”.
Where managers will talk about their own philosophies and ideas within the media and build that ID of what they would implement at clubs. Although, through is dry humour and quick wit Keane is a captivating watch on Sky Sports as a pundit, Gary is right in that he does not “play the game” other managers do whilst on TV, which might play a part.
It would be fascinating to see how Roy Keane would fare back in management 10 years on, and whether he would be a success following his two contrasting spells. Keane did disclose that he did speak with an unnamed Championship club 3 months ago, which although didn’t come to anything, does indicate that Keane may be back in the hot seat sooner than we think.