Ian Wright told a story last week that plays to what we think we know about Roy Keane.
The two men occasionally work together on television and the former Arsenal forward revealed Keane once stood him up for lunch because Wright was two minutes late.
So far, so Keane. But what was more thought-provoking was what Wright said subsequently.
Manchester United legend and former captain Roy Keane still has plenty to offer football
Fellow pundit Ian Wright insists he doesn’t know anyone who loves football more than Keane
‘I’ve never seen anybody who loves and speaks about football as much as he does,’ Wright told the Match of the Day podcast.
‘He’ll tell you about a player in League Two, a left back somewhere. He loves it. Off camera he is very serious.’
This, in some way, is the sadness of Keane, a man obsessed with football’s details but who has found the mysteries of coaching so hard to unravel that all we have left is the version we see on TV. Put-downs, eyes that don’t blink and a hardening of the view that this is someone with whom you would not wish to become stuck in a lift.
His TV studio shtick works for ratings, but does it work for him and what he would wish to be? It’s hard to say it does.
Keane wants to manage again and sees TV work as an unsatisfactory substitute. He has said so.
Keane wants to manage again and sees television work as an unsatisfactory substitute
But would any chairman hire TV Keane — a man seemingly unwavering in his views and on the face of it lacking in empathy towards footballers?
Possibly not and I do wonder if Keane is now in danger of travelling so far down the road towards TV caricature that it may become impossible to ever get back. One of the Premier League’s truly great players, aged only 48, has more to offer the game than we currently see.
That is the view of former Manchester United team-mate Darren Fletcher. ‘Roy moulded me,’ Fletcher says. ‘If he spoke to me 10 times, nine were compliments. He made me feel on top of the world. What about the story where I’ve been out ill for two months and Roy says loudly as I walk back on to the training pitch, “We have missed this lad”. That’s not a great story, is it? It’s not sexy. But that’s the real Roy.’
Another team-mate from another era is former Nottingham Forest defender Gary Charles. When Charles was in prison, Keane wrote and visited when few others did. Keane didn’t want publicity but the story eventually slipped out.
The Premier League great has so far found the mysteries of coaching hard to unravel
‘He is a good guy, loyal,’ Charles said recently.
Keane’s depth is as clear as his complexities. For every story like the two above are two that speak equally convincingly of his lack of patience and judgment. As Martin O’Neill’s assistant with the Republic of Ireland, he fell out with players over their injury records. Keane used to play when unfit. Some players cannot.
And maybe this is the fundamental problem. Great players don’t contemplate weaknesses and imperfections; don’t understand that they are part of football.
Great managers must do so and maybe this is where the great hole in Keane’s coaching make-up lies. If so, he wouldn’t be the first to fall down in this way.
Still, it is hard to escape the image I have of Keane at a baggage carousel in Manchester airport the day after O’Neill’s team had qualified for Euro 2016.
Great players often find it hard to contemplate weaknesses and imperfections
Several of the squad’s England-based players had been on that flight home, too, and Keane, free from the pressures of the campaign, embraced them like brothers.
You would not have found a broader smile in Manchester that day.
Keane is a football man always most at home, as he wrote in his second book, ‘out on the grass, feeling the wet and the cold’.
It feels wrong that his public life now plays out from the warmth of a pundit’s chair. If that does not change, then we have all lost out.
The world of football will have lost out if Keane’s life plays out in the warmth of a pundit’s chair
Should Carlo and Sven be in grand club?
The publication in Saturday’s paper of a list of managers who have been in charge of 1,000 games pointed unwittingly to a rift within the League Managers Association as to what the criteria for qualification should be.
On the LMA website, 31 managers are listed as members of the prestigious ‘1,000 Club’ — but some qualify largely due to time spent working abroad or as international coaches. For example, Carlo Ancelotti who has spent less than two and a half years of a 25-year career working in England, was welcomed into the club in late 2017. Claudio Ranieri and Sven Goran Eriksson are also members.
At the time of its inception, the club was explicitly for those who had managed 1,000 times in ‘English league and cup games’.
To the irritation of many time-served managers, it has subsequently been broadened but still does not include games in the English non-League.
Carlo Ancelotti has spent less than two and a half years of a 25-year career working in England
‘The whole thing has become unwieldy and unfair,’ said one former manager on Saturday morning.
‘It’s supposed to be a club for managers who have served the English game with distinction. It no longer is.
‘How long before we give a vase to Pep Guardiola?’ To answer the question, Guardiola is 321 games short. Meanwhile, we unwittingly missed a few esteemed names off our list at the weekend.
To Messrs Ashurst, Hodgson, Coppell, Allardyce, McMenemy, Bassett and Gradi, we apologise.
Former England boss Sven Goran Eriksson (R) is a member of the LMA’s prestigious ‘1000 Club’
Vardy made the right call
Details of Jamie Vardy’s meeting with Arsene Wenger in the summer of 2016 were spilled to The Athletic website last week.
Vardy was indeed about to sign for Arsenal, but changed his mind and stayed at Leicester.
Almost four years on, who can really say he was wrong?