Roy Keane: Manchester United is in my DNA, Steven Gerrard was good and I wanted to play in an Old Firm game so snubbed Real Madrid for Celtic
On Thursday night, former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland captain Roy Keane was the star guest at a charity function at the Armagh City hotel.
He agreed to come to Northern Ireland to help old United team-mate Pat McGibbon and raise funds and awareness for the Lurgan man's Train To Be Smart (TTBS) Juniors charity.
It is a Craigavon-based football coaching project that provides education to young people on the importance of sport for improving physical, mental and emotional health.
Keane was interviewed on stage by Irish League pundit Liam Beckett. The topics included his playing career for Nottingham Forest, United, Celtic and the Republic, controversial moments, working as assistant to Republic boss Martin O'Neill, Northern Ireland's chances in Euro 2016 and returning to club management.
Here Steven Beacom provides a selection of his answers:
ON GROWING UP IN CORK:
I was very fortunate to be born and brought up in Cork, a sports mad city. I had three brothers who loved sport. That helped me though I had disappointments along the way, especially at schoolboy level with Ireland.
I was told I was a bit too small but in any sports career you get ups and downs. Being brought up in Cork played a massive part in my career. I was growing up with good people and look back and think that I was very, very lucky.
In my career I went to the right teams, I worked with the right coaches and a year playing in the League of Ireland with Cork was massively important in terms of gaining experience.
Physically I did struggle at a young age but when I got to 17/18 and moved to England I managed to adapt to the game and got bigger and stronger.
All the lads I hung around with were mad about sport, be it hurling, football, soccer or boxing. Two of my brothers ended up playing in the League of Ireland so there was good competition in the family. My dad and granddad had sporting backgrounds, so I had good DNA.
I did enjoy it but maybe even as a young kid I took sport too seriously. Even from eight years of age I was very driven which helped me a lot later in my career, but really when you are eight, nine, 10 years of age you should be trying to enjoy the game, but even at that age I was all about winning and that can take its toll.
ON MOVING TO NOTTINGHAM FOREST:
All I wanted when I was young was a trial. I didn't have too much time for school which I'm embarrassed to say because I have kids now and I would say to them to try and get a good education.
I wouldn't say I was a cocky kid but knew if I got a trial in England I wouldn't be coming back. Nobody was touching me at 15 so to get to Forest for a trial was what I was after.
Once I got that trial at Forest it sat right with me with Brian Clough the manager there.
When they signed me what helped was that he put me in the first team pretty quickly. Brian Clough was very grounded and we would talk about great sportspeople quite a bit. Brian Clough, on top of his managerial ability, was a good man. That was important.
ON WHEN BRIAN CLOUGH THREW A PUNCH AT KEANE:
If that happened now a manger would probably be sacked but this is going back years. I never felt bad about it, I never thought what he done to me was wrong.
I gave a back pass against Crystal Palace in the Cup and they scored from it and that meant we had to have a replay. Brian Clough didn't like travelling and I came in after the game and he asked me about the back pass.
Really, it was the goalkeeper Mark Crossley's fault, but being a team player I took the rap for him. Brian punched me in the chest and I always remember it was a Wednesday night and after every Wednesday game I would go out in Nottingham but I was so shocked that night I stayed in after the game.
I wasn't angry towards him. I just dealt with it.
ON MOVING TO MANCHESTER UNITED:
The three years at Forest were brilliant. We had highs and lows and got relegated in my final season. There was a clause in my contract if we got relegated and a club paid £3.5million I could go.
I spoke to Blackburn. United hadn't come in for me at that stage. I was 21 or 22 at the time. I met Kenny Dalglish, agreed a contract with them and a pay rise. I thought Blackburn were going places with Dalglish. They had got Alan Shearer in and I agreed a deal on a Friday night. On the Friday they said would I come back on the Monday when the offices were open again and I said yes.
It was the end of the season so I went back to Cork for a few days and on Sunday morning I woke up and got a phone call from Alex Ferguson asking to go and meet him. I met Brian Kidd and Alex Ferguson, played a game of snooker with them and had the usual small talk, they told me how great I was and I believed them.
I decided I wanted to go to United. In the meantime Kenny Dalglish phoned up and I said I had agreed to go to United and he was fuming. I said to him I was going to Cyprus on holiday with a few mates and when I came back I was going to sign for United and he said I'm going to find you. Every bar in Ayia Napa I was looking over my shoulder expecting to see Kenny Dalglish!
ON PLAYING FOR UNITED:
I was ready for it. I played against United a few times for Forest and against Robbo (Bryan Robson) and Incey (Paul Ince). I had lost an FA Cup final to Tottenham and a League Cup final to United and I wanted a bit more. I was ready for trophies.
Going to United opened my eyes. I was working with Des Walker and Stuart Pearce at Forest, really good players, but within a week or two at United I felt I needed to up my game. United lads were just a bit sharper, a bit quicker, a different level. I wasn't stepping back. I was like bring it on, this was what I was in the game for. It was everything I thought it would be.
I went to United after they had just won the league, there was momentum, they had really good players and more importantly they had really good characters, Incey, Robbo, Brucey (Steve Bruce), Pally (Gary Pallister). Brilliant lads.
ON WINNING TITLES, CUPS AND MEDALS GALORE AT UNITED:
I was at United for 12 and a half years and in that time at that club you are going to win trophies. The stats of my titles and medals don't rock my boat or impress me.
I'm not really interested in my medals. I'm more about good memories. If do look back it is at the people and players I worked with. Good lads. We didn't discuss money and who was getting what. The lads I worked with had hunger and desire to win trophies.
ON HIS FIRST RED CARD AT UNITED FOR A 'STAMP' ON GARETH SOUTHGATE:
I have made the point before to Gareth that you have to stay on your feet and Gareth was off his feet that night. Regarding red cards I always played on the edge. People always remind me of the players I tackled forgetting that I got tackled as well. A lot of sending offs were actually revenge.
ON BECOMING UNITED CAPTAIN:
No big deal. Trust me, no big deal. It's not like I applied for it. Obviously when (Sir Alex) Ferguson gave it to me he thought I might be a good leader, but when he told me I wasn't jumping about the garden.
When I got the armband I just made sure that I didn't take my eye off the ball. When some players get the armband, they think they have to do something extraordinary, but I just wanted to keep doing what I was doing.
ON BEING UNITED'S MOST SUCCESSFUL CAPTAIN:
That was easy. When I looked round in the tunnel and saw players like Butty (Nicky Butt), Becks (David Beckham), Giggsy (Ryan Giggs), Scholesy (Paul Scholes) and Peter Schmeichel, I would think there is a chance we are going to win here.
It wasn't that hard, trust me. They were all good decent grounded lads. We would come in and train every day 11 v 11, not complicated, and have a good game at the end of it and a game would be a game. None of this you can't tackle each other. At different times I'd be up against Robbo, Scholesy or Veron and I would think this will be harder than the game on Saturday!
ON FACING UP TO ARSENAL'S PATRICK VIEIRA IN THE HIGHBURY TUNNEL?
There was a massive rivalry between Arsenal and ourselves. Patrick played in the middle of the park and so did I. They were a decent team, with some characters in their side. They were talking in the tunnel about getting Gary (Neville) and it irritated me, not because it was Gary just because they thought they could bully us before the game. Patrick was getting on my nerves and I told him I would see him outside and I did and we won 4-2.
ON LEAVING UNITED AND MOVING TO CELTIC:
Leaving United it's no sob story. It's just part of life. You come to the end of working with somebody. I definitely think United treated me badly at the end because I didn't do anything wrong.
When I left United that day my love for the game changed a bit. I was badly hurting. People think I go around bad mouthing Man United but I had the best 12 and a half years of my life at the club. I know I will never get anywhere near to that but when I went home that day I probably should have retired.
I had a good innings, I was 34 but then you are waiting by the phone. Celtic came in, I spoke to Everton, Real Madrid offered me a year and a half and at 34 would I go to Spain for a year and a half? I had doubts in my own head. Self doubts do creep in with the injuries and would I want to go abroad with my family?
The Celtic move was a bit of a treat for me. Gordon Strachan didn't really need me because he had Neil Lennon and Stiliyan Petrov but when I went to Celtic what I wanted to do was play against Rangers. I fancied that one game.
I was travelling from Manchester to Edinburgh on a plane, hiring a car and driving to Glasgow to train. My own preparation at Celtic wasn't great. I have got to be critical of myself.
Trust me getting a flight in the morning and then travelling by car to Glasgow at seven in the morning wasn't good and then I tore my hamstring twice up there. I still had a year left of my contract at Celtic but that summer I was on holiday and I thought I had had enough. Gordon didn't try hard to persuade me otherwise and that was it, game over. Even though it didn't work out I'm grateful that I had the chance to play for Celtic.
ON LEAVING THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND TEAM IN SAIPAN AHEAD OF THE 2002 WORLD CUP:
I look back and I was very ambitious. Even when I was eight or nine I would ask the boys to be on time for training.
In the World Cup I suppose Saipan was a combination of 10 or 15 frustrating years. I was the captain, I wasn't on an ego trip, I just wanted things to be right.
I had a big disagreement with the manager (Mick McCarthy) when we got over there. There was no training gear and all that really frustrated me. That all settled down after a few days, we had a meeting, had a big disagreement and then I came back.
People say about regrets and not playing in that World Cup, but I never lost a wink of sleep over it.
If I had accepted all that nonsense and retired without falling out with anybody I would have felt a bit of a fraud.
It is up to the senior players to put their foot down, and I mean in a nice way, and I look back at Mick at that time and a lot of it wasn't Mick's fault. It's not up to the manager to make sure the gear is there.
There were a lot of frustrations, then you have an argument in front of a bunch of people and there's no going back. I told Mick where to go.
Am I proud of all that stuff? No, I'm not proud of it but sometimes you've got to fight your corner. Ironically now I'm back with Ireland and there's a bit of craic with it. We fly on a nice flight and the players will say 'Cheers Roy, thanks for that' and we also have kit.
ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH SIR ALEX FERGUSON:
People think I'm just going to criticise him but I had 12 and a half years with Alex Ferguson and it was fantastic. We had brilliant times together. Manchester United suited my DNA. It was everything that I wished for. I loved the pressure, the big games, the supporters. It only went wrong at the end.
ON HIS TOUGHEST OPPONENT:
Zinedine Zidane. He was a top player.
ON LIVERPOOL LEGEND STEVEN GERRARD:
He was a good player. He was a really good player. I don't throw around these lines that everyone was a great player or a legend. That's all nonsense. He was a really good player and I think he would have done well at United. He won Liverpool a lot of big games. Good player Gerrard. You can't take that away from him.
ON NORTHERN IRELAND AND THE REPUBLIC BEING AT EURO 2016:
It is great for both countries though we will both do well to win a corner with the groups we are in (LAUGHS).
There's excitement for Ireland and we have a bit of spirit about us. As much as we are short in certain areas we do give it a go. We could lose the three matches but with Martin (O'Neill) there and a bit of luck, you never know.
Northern Ireland have a tough group too. They will go there with spirit and momentum and it looks like the players are right behind the manager (Michael O'Neill) and playing for the manager which helps, but it will be difficult for them.
ON WORKING WITH MARTIN O'NEILL:
I feel very lucky to be working with Martin. I love what I am doing now and enjoy working with Martin and the players. I do not take it for granted that I'm working with good people like Martin.
After Martin became Ireland manager he phoned me up and and asked me about joining him. I had worked with Martin as a pundit for ITV and enjoyed his company.
There are strange connections with me and Martin. We worked with Brian Clough when we were players at Nottingham Forest, we have connections with Celtic and Sunderland and we both like American football.
We get on really well together and you can't put a price on that. It is massive to me. There are a lot of people in sport, some good guys and some bad guys, and Martin is a good guy.
ON LOUIS VAN GAAL AND MANCHESTER UNITED AT THE MOMENT:
I know the manager is getting a lot of criticism at the moment but sometimes the players have to take control of the situation. I always think if you can pass it forward quickly then do it. Possession is well and good but it's all about putting the ball in the back of the net. I see a lot of midfielders at Manchester United obsessed with possession and retaining the ball, but if you can do things quickly, do it.
They are having a difficult spell. I don't know Louis van Gaal, I've never worked with him. They are struggling at the moment but any club in their history will have difficult spells.
Man United have had worse times than this time - they were relegated before. They have had great times but you can't keep looking back.
I just can't understand the supporter, a proper supporter, and I do understand frustration when your team isn't doing well, but to boo a manager or the team... why? Are you a supporter only for good days? Support the team. Get behind the team.
ON PLAYING WITH CRISTIANO RONALDO:
Brilliant. brilliant. Talented guy. Good looking lad. Ronaldo was also a decent lad. It's no surprise to see what he is doing now. Scores lots of goals, does it every season, doesn't get injured and scores in big games. I'm a big fan of Ronaldo.
ON RETURNING TO MANAGEMENT HAVING ALREADY BEEN BOSS OF SUNDERLAND AND IPSWICH:
I'm open minded. I like stability in my life but I also like to think there may be something round the corner. Would I look at the right opportunity if it came up? Yes, maybe so. If something came up after the Euros I would look at it and if I stay with Ireland fantastic.
ON SAYING YES TO PAT McGIBBON'S INVITATION TO APPEAR AT THE CHARITY FUNCTION:
Pat was a good team-mate of mine. If you can't do a favour for someone then there's something wrong.
ON ANY REGRETS
No regrets. Things happen like bad injuries, red cards, the World Cup, leaving United the way I did, but that's part of the game. No, no regrets.
Belfast Telegraph Digital