Belfast Telegraph

Roy Keane stages second pre-World Cup exit

By Daniel McDonnell

Another day, another development.

This time, however, there will be a few less dollars for Roy Keane in the short term as he confirmed that he would not be travelling to Brazil for ITV duties; another pre-World Cup walk-out, although rather less dramatic than at Saipan 12 years ago.

A spokesperson for the broadcaster laid out the 42-year-old's reasons in a statement, which read: "Roy has been a tremendous part of our pundit team in recent years, but we fully understand his decision to concentrate wholly on his coaching."

The wording was significant in the context of the link with Aston Villa that came to light following his decision to spurn Celtic, but actually dates back more than a month when Paul Lambert started his hunt for a full-time assistant after an internal investigation spelled the end for Ian Culverhouse and the head of football operations Gary Karsa.

There is substance to the link with Keane, although the understanding is that the man-in-demand will wait until the Republic of Ireland's US tour is completed before returning to discussions with Lambert.

He departs for New York this afternoon with the squad.

Once the team fly back from the Big Apple next week Keane's training ground schedule for the rest of the year will consist of a week in the months of September, October and November as the Republic's Euro 2016 campaign finally gets under way.

There are other aspects to his FAI brief, of course, but if he is stepping back from a lucrative gig with ITV to concentrate on football commitments, then it is clear that he is genuinely considering the opportunity at Villa.

Over the past week, Republic boss Martin O'Neill stressed that his deputy had a number of other offers. Considering his strong association with Lambert, who skippered Celtic's Uefa Cup finalists in 2003, it would be a surprise if O'Neill wasn't aware of the alternative opening.

Would Villa appeal to him? It's dangerous to try and second guess Keane, but, on paper, it's a reasonable opportunity. Admittedly, there is a degree of uncertainty brought about by Randy Lerner's intentions to sell the club.

A change of ownership can sometimes bring bad news for the manager and one of the realities of being an assistant is that when the gaffer goes, you go too.

The Villa opening wouldn't pose a major problem for O'Neill. It would reduce his availability for scouting duty, although he would come up against current and prospective squad members on a regular basis. Aside from that, he would be free for every international window with the revised international calendar removing stand-alone fixture breaks and putting all matches into the three windows before Christmas.

It's not that unusual in the English game for a Premier League employee to combine it with international commitments. Steve McClaren was Sven-Goran Eriksson's assistant while he was manager at Middlesbrough. Then, when McClaren had an ill-fated stint as England boss, Steve Round worked for him as well as Boro.

Not the most successful example, perhaps, but evidence that it is workable and it aided the growth of a coach that subsequently moved on to assist David Moyes at Everton and United.

Roy Hodgson's No. 2 Gary Neville has managed to dovetail it with his job at Sky – and has done it without having his application questioned.

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