Full name: Roy Maurice Keane
Born: 10 August 1972 in Mayfield, Cork City (Republic of Ireland)
Playing career: Youth football 1979-1989: Rockmount AFC; 1989-1990: Cobh Ramblers; 1990-1993: Nottingham Forest; 1993-2005: Manchester United; 2005-2006: Celtic.
Honours as a player: English Premier League: 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003; FA Cup: 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004; FA Community Shield: 1993, 1996, 1997, 2003; UEFA Champions League: 1999; Intercontinental Cup: 1999; Scottish Premier League, Scottish League Cup: 2006, 2000 Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year. 66 caps and 9 goals for the Republic of Ireland. Inducted into English Football Hall of Fame in 2004. Only Irishman in Pele’s FIFA 100 greatest living footballers.
Coaching career: since August 2006: Sunderland. Honours 2006-2007: Football League Championship; 2006-2007: Championship Manager of the Season.
Miscellaneous: The father-of-five is married to Theresa. His hobbies include mountain biking and walking his pet labrador, Triggs. His favourite drink is green tea. Supports Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. The theatre comedies I, Keano and The Roykeaneiad Parts 1 and 2 are based on Keane’s dispute with Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy at the 2002 FIFA World Cup™.
Defeat keeps him going
In his playing days, Roy Keane was an inspirational presence on the field for Manchester United and Ireland and now the Sunderland manager is proving to be an inspirational figure on the touch line as well -but only because he has changed his ways.
Roy Keane was a force of nature as he helped United dominate English football and led Sir Alex Ferguson’s side to the pinnacle of European football, and the Republic of Ireland to two FIFA World Cup™ finals but the former midfield powerhouse has made a conscious effort to calm down.
A glittering playing career at Old Trafford was marred by a succession of disciplinary problems that earned him 13 red cards in his 12 trophy-laden years at the club and also gained him a reputation for being the scourge of the authorities. Pictures of veins popping out of his head as he hounded referee Andy D’Urso at Old Trafford were a lasting reminder of his bad old days.
However, having mellowed in management, nowadays, the 36-year-old is barely recognisable from the intimidating all-conquering, all-singing, all-dancing days as the captain of club and country but despite the transformation, he is still driven by a determination to succeed.
“I had to make that conscious effort to be restrained on the touch line because otherwise it would lead to an early grave,” Keane said. “As a player I was in the middle of the park and I tried to leave my mark but I had to change for the good of my health when I became a manager. Believe me, it’s very hard to stay quiet on the touch line but I decided I would not be ranting and raving on the sidelines because I’d lose focus. If I’m going to lose my rag, I want to do it in the privacy of our dressing-room. There’s logic to it. It saps you of your energy and then maybe you can’t get a clear thought on the game. I try to keep calm. Maybe it just comes with maturity.”
Underpinning his success is a no-nonsense disciplinary streak that once saw him leave three players – Marton Fulop, Tobias Hysen and Anthony Stokes – behind in Sunderland when they were late for a bus headed to Barnsley where his under-strength side won 2-0.
Keane also takes a dim view of dissent from his players and demands respect for officials, and he is happy to accept he is a poacher turned gamekeeper.
“There’s a line that should not be crossed but the problem for me when I comment is people who say ‘How can you?’” Keane said. “I was a player then and I’m a manager now but it doesn’t mean to say I can’t learn from my mistakes. I spoke to my staff in my first week in the job about respecting referees. I don’t want anyone abusing officials at the club and I recently pulled two youth team players to one side because of their attitude in a game.”
Keane is already being tipped by Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan to return to OldTrafford to manage the club he served with such distinction following an impressive start to his new career at the Stadium of Light.
Just months after hanging up his boots on doctor’s advice due to hip problems, Keane was surprisingly appointed as Sunderland manager when the ailing club was rooted to the foot of the Championship.
With the backing of the club’s new Irish owners, the Drumaville consortium led by chairman Niall Quinn, the rookie was an instant hit and, with former United colleague Dwight Yorke at his side, Sunderland went from relegation contenders to champions to secure promotion back to the top tier of English football.
Despite winning the Championship, Keane turned down the offer of a celebratory open-top bus parade around Wearside. “The club’s done that a few times and ended up with egg on their face by going back down,” Keane said. “It’s important we don’t get carried away.”
Despite Sunderland’s upward mobility and Keane’s huge status in English football, he found it difficult to attract highly-rated players to a “yo-yo club” and his frustration prompted him to publicly vent his spleen against hen-pecked footballers.
“These so-called big stars are people we are supposed to be looking up to. Well, they’re weak and soft,” Keane said. “If they don’t want to come here because their wife wants to go shopping in London, it’s a sad state of affairs. Priorities have changed for footballers and they’re being dictated to by wives and girlfriends.”
Nevertheless, following the shrewd signing of Trinidad & Tobago striker Kenwyne Jones from Southampton, Keane put Sunderland on course for Premier League survival.
CLOUGH, THE “GENIUS”
He has left no stone unturned as he strives to consolidate Sunderland among the elite to the extent that he had the final say on the design of a new kit. “You don’t see good teams wearing bad kits and I want us to have a beautiful kit,” said Keane who ordered a facelift of ground and training facilities following his appointment.
Although he made his name as Sir Alex Ferguson’s captain at United, Keane’s football career began in earnest under the late Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest and he remains inspired by his former mentor.
“Brian Clough was an absolute genius and Forest won the League and two European Cups with him and that gives me great hope for the future,” Keane said.
Outside help has been enlisted, with Keane bringing in sports psychologists to talk to his players in the shape of former Olympic high-jumper Steve Smith, and Bill Beswick, who has worked with United and England.
“Sometimes it’s just a case of being open-minded, getting out of the box and thinking a bit differently to the others,” said Keane who will head to New Zealand this summer to study rugby’s All Blacks as part of his UEFA Pro Licence Course.
Keane became accustomed to success as a player but insists he has always been more motivated by defeat rather than triumph, which stands him in good stead for the challenges at struggling Sunderland. “The hatred of defeat goes back to when I was a kid,” Keane said. “I moved on from success as a player very quickly but defeats were always the ones that kept you going. I haven’t got a clue what year I won anything but I do know when I got relegated. I do know when I lost cup finals. I do know when I lost leagues.”
Keane is due to begin talks about a new contract with Sunderland this summer and is optimistic about the long-term future.
“If this club was in the top half of the league and pushing on, the place would take off and that is the challenge there,” he said. “We did the easy part in winning promotion. It’s about stabilising this year and then kicking on, bringing in quality players because we know we are not far away. Anything is possible here. If we’re getting 44,000 on a regular basis now, the potential is fantastic and I believe I’m the man to fulfil it.”