Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Keane: I'm so tired of being asked about other jobs

National assignment: Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane with goalkeeper David Forde in training yesterday

Roy Keane says that speculation linking him with other jobs is unfounded and stressed that he is happy in his role as assistant manager to Martin O'Neill.

The Corkman is fatigued by questions about jobs elsewhere, with Neil Lennon's departure from Celtic prompting further chatter about his status.

Keane, who will briefly leave the Republic of Ireland camp ahead of tomorrow's friendly with Turkey to take in tonight's Champions League final for ITV, thinks it's ironic that he is being asked about jobs now considering he was out of work for over two and a half years before linking up with the FAI.

"It's amazing that, strangely enough, when I was out of a job there was speculation about nothing," said Keane.

The former Manchester United captain refused to get dragged into debate on the future of his fellow countyman Stephen Ireland, stressing that his exile is a matter between the player and O'Neill after it emerged earlier this week that the Stoke player had failed to return a call from the Derryman.

The Ireland assistant said in 2009 that Giovanni Trapattoni should go and sleep outside Ireland's house to get him back in the fold.

"I'm not the manager," said Keane yesterday, when reminded of those comments. "And I've not thought much about it."

It's clear that the Corkman will have a hands-on role within this regime even if the addition of Steve Walford and Steve Guppy to the staff this week have added to Martin O'Neill's support team.

That's why the assistant boss feels discomfort about heading to Lisbon today for ITV commitments at the Champions League final, an appearance that was in his contract before he accepted the Irish position. "It won't happen again," he stressed, "It's not ideal, but I will be in and out in the one day."

Pressed for a prediction on the Madrid derby, he chose the fence. "I will probably think more about that game later," he asserted.

Preparing for tomorrow's friendly with Turkey has been the priority this week and Keane is encouraged by the strong turnout at a time of the end of season where he knows from experience that it can be difficult for players.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill is learning the hard way with his summer squad dropping like flies and family holidays even being offered as excuses. There's a different vibe around Malahide.

"We're delighted with the turnout," asserted Keane, "We know some of the players would be under pressure at club level. We've been delighted for the previous three games as well and long may that continue."

Still, he was also quick to stress that a considerable number of the 24-man gathering in contention for Turkish selection – only one, David Meyler, is a major injury doubt – are arriving after campaigns where they played less football than intended.

"It's a good opportunity for the players as well," he said. "Let's not be kidding ourselves. We shouldn't be getting on our hands and knees when they turn up in the sense that a lot of the lads would be desperate to get games. Some of them haven't played much football.

"It's an important few games for the majority of the players. We know what John O'Shea can do and Jon Walters. For lads that are maybe on the fringes, it's an opportunity for them over the next few weeks to put their hands up and say to the manager, 'Listen, don't be afraid to throw me in when the qualifiers come.'

"I don't think many of our lads have played European football or travelled that much. So this is important, it's a chance to play for their country and stake a claim for the qualifying matches. It is an important few weeks. For some lads the mentality might be that it's the end of the season, but most of the lads that we've selected have turned up, so, hopefully, that's a good sign."

There certainly is a contrast in mood between members of the squad that could see action tomorrow. Coleman arrives on the crest of a wave following an excellent season that propelled him into the elite bracket. On the flip side, the unfairly maligned Paul Green is without a club after parting company with Leeds after spending the dying throes of his contract on loan at Ipswich Town.

That's the nature of running an international team at this level and Keane is aware of the contrast having spent the last few months going to matches at both the high end of the Premier League and the lower regions of the Championship. And, of course, there are days when journeys are wasted.

"What you find going to games, is that it's a mixed bag," he said. "Sometimes you've made plans to go and see a player, he's not playing or you get him on a good day or an off day. When you go to watch them, it's not all or nothing.

"We were aware of that when we took the job that when you come together, there's going to be lads coming in with different attitudes. Lads doing well at club level, lads who haven't been playing much. Lads in a different mindset.

"We just have to make sure it's upbeat at training. Short and sharp. We're not looking to flog them, of course not. We're not here to improve their fitness levels. It's just short and sharp. A good spirit. Bit of banter. Short and sharp, the training.

"Hopefully, they're all in good spirits. Some of them have had good seasons, they've had tough seasons, ups and downs like any other footballer. We have people like Meyler and Quinn after the Cup final, people like John O'Shea coming in having got out of the survival race. They're all mixed emotions. It's about making sure that the mentality is right and players haven't switched off."

Turkey are the only Irish opponents in this three-week spell which aren't preparing for Brazil – Italy, Costa Rica and Portugal all have a bigger prize in mind.

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