Belfast Telegraph

Republic of Ireland assistant Roy Keane: It's still a great game despite the bluffers

By Daniel McDonnell

It is fair to say that Roy Keane would never have stood out as a likely candidate to defend the integrity of professional football.

The murky world of recruitment is one area where he struggled as a club boss, and he has seldom disguised his contempt for the bluffers and the hangers on that are now such a major part of the game. Loyalty, or the lack thereof, has been another bugbear.

In the course of discussing his own future yesterday, the Republic of Ireland assistant boss again stressed that he doesn't employ an agent that could tout him for jobs that are doing the rounds. That wouldn't be the Keane way.

However, in the aftermath of a fortnight where the Daily Telegraph's investigation has raised severe questions - even if some allegations didn't quite live up to their billing - it was Keane that spoke out to accentuate the positive when the controversy that brought down Sam Allardyce was raised.

"Because of all the stuff that has gone on in the last week or two, with all these allegations and accusations, you need to remind people what a great game it is," he said.

"There are some brilliant people in football. Why do you think it is so popular? Yes, there is so much money involved. And when there is so much money involved, like any industry, there will be greed.

"That is not going to change. But don't allow it to take away from the brilliant people there are in football, the brilliant clubs, managers, brilliant chief executives. There are some good agents out there too.

"Let's not tarnish every agent as some dodgy, Italian bluffer. There are bluffers out there. I have used that word before. But it is the greatest game on the planet. There are some really great people involved.

"I'm not saying we brush it under the carpet, but let the clubs and the FA deal with it, whatever is going on."

That was the end of that discussion, with Keane briefly veering from Irish subject matter to discuss his old sparring partner Gareth Southgate.

"He's not as nasty as me," he smiled, after a complimentary review.

The ugly side of the beautiful game was a theme of Keane's press conference ahead of the Republic's World Cup encounter with Georgia at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow night.

He moved from off the pitch to on the pitch matters as the issue of his side's approach to the game was raised.

The opening draw with Serbia in Belgrade was more of an eyesore than the 2-2 outcome would suggest.

Keane can understand the criticism but, similar to Richard Dunne, he pointed out that Republic teams have mostly relied on substance rather than style.

"You obviously want to retain the ball better," he stressed.

"I think Irish teams could have been retaining the ball better for the last 30 years, not just three months.

"I don't know about Jack (Charlton) changing it. I don't really know how Ireland played before that. It might be longer, it might be less. The quality of the players maybe, looking after the ball. Having said that, I played with some really good players for Ireland and I don't remember ever keeping the ball that great.

"I could be wrong and someone might remind me but I don't ever remember having 60% or 70% possession away from home and absolutely hammering a team. My experience with Jack and Mick (McCarthy) and Brian Kerr - I don't think we kept the ball very well.

"We're working on the players. It depends what they are doing at club level. You'll get decent possession at Bournemouth and Derby. But we're also there to win football matches. It's a balancing act. That's the key word."

Belfast Telegraph


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