By any stretch of the imagination Roy Keane is an extraordinary sports personality and an unusual human being. For a football player that was not blessed with natural footballing skills he became the most effective player of his generation and became a monumental figure in the midfield of the park for both club and country.
His manager at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson, famously once said of Keane:
“If I were putting Roy Keane out there to represent Manchester United on a one against one, we’d win the Derby, the National, the Boat Race and anything else. It’s an incredible thing he’s got.”
The fact that Keane was able to make so much more out of his football ability than other more extravagantly talented footballers is down to his willpower, his consuming desire to be the best that he could be, his single-mindedness, his sense of purpose – his character.
Many fans who detest Manchester United and Keane in particular would say that Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, etc. have the ability to produce moments of magic but it was Keane’s sheer willingness to win. He was a man who would never accept second best. He hated to lose and if this was to happen would make sure the opposition deserved it. A work horse who will undoubtedly go down as the greatest Manchester United captain of all time.
To say that Roy Keane is an interesting and intriguing character is something of an understatement. Keane himself in his autobiography makes no obvious effort to dodge some of the numerous major unsavoury incidents in his life and most notably his Manchester United and Republic of Ireland career. What is not inspiring to the aura of Keane is that he seems take some sense of pride and rallied around his tough man persona. He thought of these incidents as badges of honour or trophies of battle.
In almost every single case that is remembered he never expresses any real regrets. There is no sense that if Keane found himself in the same circumstances that he would do things any differently No remorse. No guilty conscience. If he got sent off he deserved it. He uses terms like, ‘I should have known better’ but in almost every dark memory most notably a sending off he presents us with, he gives us his own justification for his actions and never expresses any genuine remorse.
The only regret that Keane has ever admitted was the Alan Shearer red card incident is that he should have punched Shearer instead of pushing him because the punishment is the same for both offences. For his disgraceful double stamp on Gareth Southgate when Southgate was lying defenceless on the ground at Keane’s feet in the 1995 FA Cup Semi-final, Keane admitted that the tackle that led to the stamping was a fair tackle. Keane’s justification for stamping on Southgate, was that the defender should not have been lying on the ground as he reminisced “I felt he got in the way.”
Despite these moments of madness damaging yet making the Roy Keane we all know fiercely feared on a football pitch culminating with Keane earning a dozen red cards and numerous yellow cards Keane himself did not consider himself to be a dirty player:
“I’m not saying that I’m an angel but I’ve played professionally for 13 years now. I’ve been involved in two tackles where players have been injured and taken off.”
Surely it is only Roy Keane that sees his style of play through this perspective. Those on the receiving end of his tough tackles not to mention remorselessness such as Haaland and Southgate mentioned above and others such as Neil Pointon and Vitor Baia, that spring to mind, might take a distinctly different view.
Keane’s admission that, “I’m no angel” is a long way from admitting that some of his tackles were mistimed unethical or even downright disgraceful. Far from being ashamed of these repeated ‘crimes’ Keane really enjoyed his well earned hard-man reputation throughout his illustrious career.
The bad side of Roy Keane will most notably be remembered but Manchester United fans admired a man who would never allow his side to be bullied and demanded the best from his club. He is one of the most unusual characters to ever grace the game and not even the troublesome Mario Balotelli can compare to the antics and success of Roy Keane. Although there was always two sides to a genius so to speak..
By Darren Hickey @DHick92