Belfast Telegraph

Ian O'Doherty: Keane a warrior to the end

So, farewell then, Roy Keane - it was fun while it lasted. Sort of.

Keane's departure from Sunderland hardly came as a surprise as the Corkman has spent the last few weeks exuding alternating airs of resignation, frustration and a highly uncharacteristic level of self doubt.

For those of used to seeing Keane as the personification of determination and self belief, these new aspects to his characters were a sure a sign that all was not well with the man.

But then, he has previous form when it comes to not being quite as certain about things as he likes to outwardly appear.

This can be seen during his spat with a Sunderland board increasingly frustrated by his reluctance to sign a new contract. They wanted his signature, he demurred and consistently stuck to the tune that they were all gentlemen and their word was their bond.

Those assertions would have brought a wry smile from Kenny Dalglish - after all, the two had already shaken hands on Keane's transfer from Nottingham Forest to Blackburn when Alex Ferguson made one of his trademark late swoops and stole the Corkman from under Dalglish's nose and brought him to Old Trafford.

It was another example of Roy Keane looking out for what is best for Roy Keane, and in many that was both his strength and his ultimate weakness.

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And it is that complex duality which has made Keane the most studied and analysed man in Ireland.

The very mention of Keane's name, even six years after the whole Saipan mess, can still bring brothers to blows.

Hero or villain, patriot or traitor, the debate about whether he left us in the lurch or was treated disgracefully by the tyranny of small men and their cult of mediocrity became so vociferous and, with the benefit of hindsight, completely mad, was because we saw in Keane a reflection of ourselves. Or of what we hated about others.

No player has ever exuded quite such a degree of determination and almost suicidal belief in the cause. He was, in every sense of the word, a warrior.

Sadly, that included an almost psychotic degree of pettiness -- as evidenced by his despicable lunge at Alf Inge Haaland, simply because he felt that the Norwegian had impugned his honour by previously suggesting that Keane was feigning an injury.

Such a tactic would be anathema to Keane, who belongs to the old school which believes that allowing your opponent to see that he has hurt you gives him a psychological advantage over you -- so it would be interesting to hear his private thoughts on the antics of his former Manchester United team-mate, Ronaldo.

But behind the admirable determination lay more worrying signs. His disgust at the joy of some of the United players after they won the long lusted after Champions League trophy was both admirable for its intent on concentrating on winning another trophy, but also displayed an obsession verging on anhedonia, the inability to truly feel happiness.

Anhedonia is startlingly common in numerous highly successful people in all walks of life and, in small measure, can help a figure focus and refuse to rest on his laurels. But when taken to extremes it can lead to obsession and depression.

So where to now for Keane? He is admired rather than loved within the game itself, and while nobody with any sense would doubt his ability as a player, his man management skills will certainly be called into question, as will his willingness to stick it out when things get tough.

Yesterday, Niall Quinn diplomatically reiterated Keane's assertion that he would only work in the best interest of the club and not the interest of Roy Keane. But unlike Saipan, this time there can be no doubt that he walked out of his own volition.

Whether he wants to return to management is something nobody, perhaps including even the man himself, knows yet.

But what is certain is that he will never again manage a club where he was as indulged and coddled as he was at Sunderland.

And, sadly, there's also the sneaking suspicion that he walked because his pride simply couldn't handle the very real prospect of humiliation at the hands of his former mentor when Sunderland return to Old Trafford tomorrow.

But whatever Roy Keane does in the future, you can be sure it is what is best for Roy Keane.

Belfast Telegraph


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