Belfast Telegraph

I have my role with Republic of Ireland down to a tea, explains Roy Keane


By David Kelly

The man from the Copenhagen Courier is loitering, optimistically bouncing on nervous toes.

We saw him earlier with two of the (many) Roy Keane books on the market and hoped, for his and our safety, that he wouldn't deign to ask for the subject's John Hancock.

Instead, it seems, he is armed not with a fountain pen but a polite query.

"I was just wondering, you were a team-mate of Peter Schmeichel's, have you been in touch with him ahead of this game?"

"No." A stony face awaits elaboration, while our colleague's brain swirls in potential panicked justification to his boss for the elaborate expense required in eliciting a two-letter answer from his sojourn.

Our hero, stoically, attempts another angle.

"What would you say to him about what to expect from Ireland?"

"I'd say f*** all to him!"

The room shakes in laughter. Our man rocks back comfortably on the balls of his feet. It's showtime.

"What do you want me to say to him? Is he playing? He's not playing. I'd say nothing to Peter. What could I say to him? I don't keep in touch with Peter.

"The last time I saw Peter I'd say was about two years ago and we'd breakfast together in the hotel in London and it was nice.

"He surprised me at the hotel and I'd a bowl of porridge. I'd a good chat. I've huge respect for all my ex-team-mates through the good and bad times..."

And now, the punchline.

Because for every punch - and most of us know that within one of those Keane books is the tale of the scrap between the great Dane and his combustible Manchester United midfielder - there must be a punchline.

"He started it," says Keane.

"He said it himself, he held his hand up, he said he started it. I think he had two pints and got a bit brave."

All of which would make you wonder whether one of the authors of the many Roy Keane books was perhaps correct when he said last month that now his sole role with the Republic of Ireland was as merely a "cabaret act."

Which, conveniently enough, he is also asked.

"I've been called worse. That doesn't worry me. We're here to try and win matches."

But, we persist, what does he actually do all week?

"Very little! Honestly, we don't do too much. A bit of light training. I'm not sure what I'm doing here to be honest with you!

"I make lots of tea. I do make lots of tea for the staff and stuff."

Not bad for someone purportedly hauling in north of €700,000 (£616,000) a year.

Playing gave him a drive that management could never replace; helping a Republic team reach a World Cup would, at least, offer substance to a position that allows even him to self-deprecate.

"I think it's a strange time for people to be worried about contract situations when we've got huge games coming up. We're focused on the games, and it was the same with the last couple of games we had. Let's look at all that next week."

"I'm enjoying my role with Ireland, absolutely. My desire, my focus is to try get through the next week and help the team qualify.

"I suppose the word I'm going to use is that's my desire at this moment in time. Nothing else. I'm not distracted by anything else out there."

He had earlier spoken, briefly, about his disinterest in re-joining the managerial merry-go-round of has-beens and never-wills.

"There is a lot of media spin about certain managers out there, a lot of good PR for some managers. It's tough being a manager out there at the moment, that's why I'm better off staying here.

"People who know the game have huge respect for David Moyes. But there are a lot of other managers out there with good media spin. Some get away with murder."

So this is almost a safe haven, chewing the fat and laughing with people to whom he once sneered at. In between endless bouts of tea-making. Safe.

Keane? Safe? Really?

"Well, safer. Safe? Secure? Comfortable? Those are not great traits to have either in a job. You always need an edge.

"I can't answer the question any different to the fact that I enjoy my job here. I enjoy working with Martin, the FAI. I certainly enjoy working with the players and I'm not distracted or sidetracked by anything. That's nice.

"If you are secure and safe, well I'm not great with that either. There has to be an edge. The next week we have that.

"If I wanted a safe and secure job, I would probably work in the media a bit more. ITV might lose their contract this year and I have that worry that there will be no deal for next year. I have my own problems."

Yet this is what defines him now, his self-reliance on this new life His manager and the players seem satisfied. Perhaps everyone else should be, too.

Stick on the kettle, Roy, and relax. It suits you. For now.


Rep of Ireland

World Cup Play-Off First Leg

Telia Parken, Saturday, 7.45pm

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