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Euro 2016: Roy Keane wants Republic stars to invoke the spirit of 1990

Roy eager to pressure hosts France and march into the quarter-finals

By Iian Herbert

Published 25/06/2016

Over here: Republic assistant boss Roy Keane is looking back to the days of Jack Charlton for inspiration
Over here: Republic assistant boss Roy Keane is looking back to the days of Jack Charlton for inspiration

Roy Keane summoned the philosophy of Jack Charlton as he contemplated the prospect of playing the European Championship hosts in a stadium where there will be more than 50,000 French fans and a mere 4,500 Irish tomorrow.

"As Jack said years ago: 'Put 'em under pressure'. I'm sure there's a song about that. Put them under pressure," Keane reflected, calling down the adage which has served the Republic of Ireland so well for so long that the 1990 World Cup anthem of that very title is regarded as a classic of its kind.

Some still sneer about playing football in the old Charlton way. But what worked in 1990, when the Republic of Ireland reached the quarter-finals, did so again in the momentous defeat of Italy in Lille on Monday.

It also goes without saying that there is precisely no sneering going on when you are crammed into a small back room at the Irish training camp with Keane, so close that you can see the maker's name on the green Irish socks, with orange stripe, which are pulled up to his knees in a way that tells you he means business.

The fascinating narrative about tomorrow's Round of 16 game which the Irish have so improbably won for themselves is, of course, the fact that it brings back into focus the nation which did no less than cheat Giovanni Trappatoni's players out of a place at the 2010 World Cup, by Thierry Henry's handball.

Keane's uncompromising approach to anyone taking the Henry tack tells you that he considers it a distraction rather than a motivation. When he's dead-batted the idea that it might have an impact - "No. None whatsoever" - it's put to him that the French seem obsessed by it.

"I'm not French. You're aware of that, aren't you? How can it have an effect on this game - lots of different players, different managers, different competition."

And though an utter lack of compromise is what makes Keane the individual he is, he wasn't prepared to suggest that the Irish might try a little handball themselves.

He said: "We want our players to do their best and be honest like always. It's not in my mindset to talk about what players have done but we've seen it before that players have found different ways to win games, going back to Maradona, people talk about Henry…"

No, it was the way to play that absorbed him, as he prepared for the late afternoon flight to Lyon yesterday. Keane has been slightly surprised and pleased to discover that referees are deeming some stronger tackles legal.

That fits, because what the Republic are looking to accomplish in Stade de Lyon is a performance in the quintessential Keane mode: no quarter given.

"I think there has been a bit more flow to the games and teams have been a bit more physical," he said.

"I think the referees have been quite good in letting the games go on and letting people make tackles. Tackling is a massive part of the game. I've said before: it's a man's game. You're supposed to tackle. It's part of the game I love. And I think our players enjoyed that the other night."

They certainly looked like they did, snapping into five tackles before the game was even 10 minutes old.

There can be no doubt that this is how Martin O'Neill's players intend to negate the undeniable creative advantage Didier Deschamps' men hold.

"Aggression is part of the game," Keane said, enjoying the prospect in a way which means that 2009 ought to be the least of France's concerns.

"Put them under pressure. You do that by getting a foothold, tackling, by getting the ball into the box, by getting midfield runners, by your decision making, by being physical, having good energy levels."

The grossly unequal distribution of tickets is what makes tomorrow so different from last Monday in French Flanders.

The vast Irish gathering was galvanised by every crunching tackle back there but now the side Seamus Coleman leads once again must maintain their own momentum and make their own noise.

"I think there is genuine disappointment - not just for a silly quote but there is genuine disappointment that there's not more Irish fans getting to the game to get behind the team," said Keane.

The man's presence works here in myriad of ways. For Coleman to read Keane's assessment of him in today's media will lift him all over again.

"We're lucky to have him. I know he's at a good club like Everton, but Seamus could play for any of the real big teams, he could do that with his eyes shut," the assistant manager observed.

And he looks an uncommonly happy individual too in this latest instalment of a relationship with tournament football which has seen the good (USA 1994) and the less than good (Saipan 2002).

His personal relationship with O'Neill has seemed to be a feature of the Irish chemistry, though needless to say he wasn't having any of that. "People either think you're too grumpy or too happy, you can't win," he said.

"I can't seem to find that line in between. I'm always hugging people, just usually there's no people around."

It was penalties that saw the Republic on their way in 1990, the 'put 'em under pressure' year. So would he take that as an outcome again?

"If you said to me we are going to win on penalties? Yeah, let me think about that one," he said. "I'll get back to you on that one…"

  • Rep of Ireland v France, Euro 2016 Round of 16: Lyon, Sunday, 2pm

Belfast Telegraph

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