Roy Keane has had a career that most professional footballers would be proud of, he has won Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League winner’s medals, he has had a reputation for having the determination to win, being a tough player and a hard man.
But as players of a bygone era will tell you, the real hard men weren’t players like Keane who set out to foul and deliberately hurt you, the real hard men were men who could put in a ‘tasty’ tackle but who could take it as well. Men like Terry Butcher who didn’t let a thing like a deep gash on the head and a few stitches stop him from returning to the pitch against Sweden in an Italia ’90 qualifying match. The sight of Butcher coming off the pitch with a blood-soaked head bandage and a white England shirt which had been turned to red, is still today one of the most iconic English football images of all time and embodies the famous bulldog spirit.
Hard men like Terry Butcher were on both ends of some hard injury-giving-career-threatening tackles throughout his career, but one thing stood out about Butcher, was his refusal to complain and to just get on with it if it was him being hacked down on the pitch. Butcher could walk off the pitch with his head held high each time he played, because even though he played with a ferocious intensity, he played with honesty and courage.
Not so Roy Keane, the first and most public act of cowardice from the Irishman was back in 2001 in the Manchester derby, Keane lunged in studs showing, with little or no regard for where the ball was and caught Manchester City’s Alf Inge Haaland above the knee, breaking his leg and effectively ending his career.
Though Keane was red-carded and widely lambasted for the challenge, most people gave the Manchester United captain the benefit of the doubt; as so often happens in cases where bad tackles break the bone or bones of an opponent, sympathy is diverted from the player with the injury to the player causing the injury, ‘We’re sure he must be devastated, he wouldn’t have want to injure a fellow professional in such a way’ is the normal rhetoric when such an incident happens, think Matty Taylor and Eduardo da Silva.
However in August 2002 Roy Keane released his autobiography, the British press are always hungry for pre-season football news at that time of year so it was no surprise that Keane’s book was serialised in The Times and The News of The World.
Keane’s stupidity and vindictiveness was laid bare for the world to see when he admitted that he wanted to hurt Alf Inge Haaland badly, he wanted revenge for Haaland calling him a ‘faker’ when Keane ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in an attempt to foul Haaland four years previously in 1997 in a Leeds United v Manchester United match at Elland Road when Haaland was a Leeds player.
Haaland’s only crime was to call into question the validity of Keane’s injury claim, when it was Keane who had attempted to foul Haaland in the first place. The Norwegian would have understandably had little sympathy for an over aggressive challenge, the defender would have been forgiven for a rather him, than me; attitude.
By waiting four years to exact revenge for a bit of name calling highlighted the cowardice of Roy Keane, a real man might have gone looking for him after the game, or perhaps when his injury healed to a point whereby he felt less vulnerable, but by waiting four years Keane insured that Haaland would have forgotten about the incident entirely and thus wouldn’t be ready for Keane’s brutal premeditated assault.
The serialisation of his ill-thought autobiography was just the cherry on the icing on the cake of Roy Keane’s demise; three months earlier he was sent home from the World Cup sending the Republic of Ireland’s campaign into turmoil.
Keane stated that he was unhappy with the training facilities and also took umbrage to the fact that Mick McCarthy has a Yorkshire accent, calling him an English c**t; once more demonstrating his idiocy, failing to notice that Mick McCarthy is probably amongst the most Irish names you can have.
Keane used the excuse that he didn’t like the way Ireland were being treated and said that the problems with training and facilities went back to the Jack Charlton era, to suggest at the time that Keane simply wasn’t up for the challenge of the World Cup would probably have seen you carted off by the men in white coats.
But the fact remains that it was Roy Keane’s big moment, Keane had played in every game at the 1994 World Cup; however by 2002, thanks largely to his achievements with Manchester United, Roy Keane was a global superstar, one of the ‘one to watch’ players of the tournament, but the same cowardice that reared it’s ugly head as he broke the leg of a fellow professional a year earlier, stirred deep down in Keane’s stomach and he bottled out. Even after McCarthy tried to extend the olive branch to him and stop him flying back to the UK, Keane made sure; by humiliating McCarthy in front of the entire squad, that he would get sent home for sure, thus imitating the kid on his school sports day who pulls up with cramp halfway through the race, because he knows he’s not going to win.
The third and most probably final act of cowardice came earlier this morning, when Roy Keane walked out on Sunderland, Keane swept into Wearside two and a half seasons ago on a messianic wave of euphoria to take the club from the depths of the Championship to the summit and promotion as division champions. Then the man from Cork kept them up in their first Premiership season since the humiliation of the McCarthy era, where they finished lowest ever point scorers in the English top division until the hapless Derby County managed to somehow score less last season (oh the irony!).
But then the going got tough, Sunderland have slipped into the relegation zone, none of Keane’s multi-million pound signings are gelling and on the pitch they are displaying a marshmallow centre, conceding in all but one of their fifteen games so far and managing to do what no team has done since God was in nappies and that is to get thrashed by Bolton; cue Keane to get going.
So with one action Roy Keane has put paid to any lingering chance he might have had as the future boss of Manchester United, but my guess is, he never would have the courage to see it through in the first place and so ends the reign of Keane Coward III.