Roy Keane: skip the Manchester United bits for a fine Sunderland read

Roy Keane: a snip at the price
Roy Keane: a snip at the price for Sixer, see below* for an even better one

We’ve seen the headlines and, if we chose to do so, read the reports. Fergie and other Man Utd spats will grip others. We may all retain a healthy feeling of distaste at his lack of remorse for the appalling assault on Alf-Inge Haaland whatever the latter had done to displease him. The bits that we’ll find interesting concern us. Pete Sixsmith has read them. He makes no inference to that other headline, that Keano was pleased Clive Clarke had a heart attack, and with good reason: it might have been better put but he was just relieved that something he could not be blamed for would divert attention from a dreadful result. Here is Pete’s verdict on the chapters he didn’t skip …

We all love a bargain, from the middle class twerps in their blue and red fleeces trying to impress some sleazy antiques expert to those who comb the shelves of late night supermarkets looking for the reduced food that lurks within.

I am no exception and when I saw that WH Smith was discounting Roy Keane’s latest autobiography to half the rrp, a mere tenner, I hotfooted it through to Darlington, courtesy of Arriva Buses, to purchase a copy. I could have had Kevin Pieterson’s for the same price had I wanted to read such drivel – had I bought them as a pair, it would have cost me £22 according to the yellow sticker on the front. Not such a good bargain.

Keane has been usurped by Pieterson as Chief Hero/Villain this week and much of the sporting talk has been about false twitter accounts, Big Cheeses and secret dossiers as Pieterson and the ECB have done all they can to see which of them can appear the more asinine.

The football side of the press began to pick up Keane’s offering on Thursday and inevitably it has focused on his relationship with Ferguson at the expense of everything else. This was of little interest to me and, I suspect, to you. We wanted to know about his time at Sunderland.

So, if you invest your tenner in it, skip pages 1-118 which I suspect are full of how Keane and Ferguson stopped liking one another and read from 118 to page 220 where you can re-live that fascinating 27 months that Roy Maurice Keane, the Boy from the Northside of Cork, had at the Stadium of Light.

I was keen to know what he thought of the club, the region and the fans. All three come out of it remarkably well. He liked the Drumaville people, got on well with Niall Quinn and Peter Walker, was taken by the region and its passion for the game and thought the fans were “brilliant”. He wasn’t greatly enamoured of Sunderland itself, preferring Durham where he could be relatively anonymous, but speaks well of everyone and everything.

The principle sentiment that comes out of this lengthy section is that he felt that he left a job half done and that, had he had more experience in the managerial role, he would have still been at Sunderland – it was his kind of club; down to earth, passionate and desperate for success.

There is plenty of knockabout stuff, particularly with regard to the Championship success of 2006-07, where he charts each game and gives us some insights as to how he operated then.

He talked Dwight Yorke into leaving his Lamborghini and his apartment in Sydney in order to play in the Championship. He tells how he got the five signings in on deadline day and how he told the first team he picked to put crosses in at the Derby County keeper, Lee Camp – OR at least he did until David Connolly –“a funny ol’ lad, a strange lad but a goalscorer” – chirped up with “He’s gone out on loan”. Keane used that line to relax the players and it showed the side of him that I suspect those who had not worked with him were not expecting.

Stern John is almost a forgotten figure now but Keane describes him as “one of my best signings; a man, one of the best men I have ever come across”. When he went to Southampton in the Kenwyne Jones deal, he shook Keane’s hand and said “Thanks for everything.”

Some of his later signings – Halford, Diouf, Chimbonda, Prica – would not have done this. Halford was “not a Sunderland player. Sunderland folk are hardworking, roll your sleeves up types – I appreciate that even more since I left – and Greg wasn’t that type of player”.

Prica had been watched on DVD and not live, while Chimbonda and Diouf were absolute disasters both as players and as men. The players he brought in to get us out of the Championship were infinitely better than those that came in when we were battling to stay up.

My favourite story concerns the tactics board and kit man John Cooke. If I could have one wish it would be to sit in a bar with Cookie one night and listen to the stories that he could tell about the managers and players he has worked with. They come and go, but Cookie is still there, like a Soviet apparatchik who knows where the bodies are buried but is smart enough to keep his head down.

Keane liked him and they set up a little routine where Keane would throw a tantrum at half time (sometimes real, sometimes mock) and kick the tactics board over. Cooke had been told to set up the board so Keane could give it a karate kick and scatter it all over the floor. He did it at Wolves on a wet night where the first half performance had been shocking. It worked. Stephen Elliot equalised late on.

There are some good bits and some where you know he is holding things back. His relationship (if he had one) with Ellis Short is glossed over and I feel that there is much he is not telling us about the reasons for it breaking down.

At the end of the section, he says “It still saddens me. I still think that I should be the manager of Sunderland. I really liked the club and I liked the people.” I think that the feeling was mutual.

* Buy it from WH Smith in Darlington by all means. or go to Salut! Sunderland’s Amazon bookshelf and pay even less …

Roy Keane
Sixer may explain this one

15 thoughts on “Roy Keane: skip the Manchester United bits for a fine Sunderland read”

  1. At the time ,with the arrival of Drumavile , Quinn then the appointment of Keane, SAFC seemed like a club reborn , a fresh concern . They and we seemed right for each other and there certainly was a buzz around the place , similar to when Reids team started to fly . The championship winning season was a blast after a slow start and the survival in the Premier subsiquently was solid and not too worrying.. for us anyway . The following season , a cumulative effect of bad buys and limited experience began to show , what happened happened and suddenly Keane was gone . I’m not so sure we would have went down that year , there was still enough in the team to scrape through ,though we went perilously close under Spragia .It was obvious that Keane needed help , a more mature Keane like the one who is willing to be an assistant would have sought it out . A more experienced owner like the Ellis Short of today may have worked with him , to see it through . Either way , for me it was an opportunity lost and weve only started to recover in the last year or so .

  2. I think his biggest problem when it came to buying players was when he had to buy players on his own judgement and not someone else’s/their track records.

    Bringing in the likes of Bardsley and Evans etc, he knew them and had been close by their sides. Same went for the likes of Connolly, Kavanagh, Miller, Yorke, Varga, and even Cole. There’s a long list.

    When he had to make his own mind up about players he didn’t have first hand experience with, the wheels came off. Prica, Diouf, Chimbonda, etc etc. Andy Reid was perhaps the exception which broke the rule. There were strong similarities between him and Reid in that regard.

    • Good point [ about buying players he didn’t know ] Anton Ferdinand and George McCartney were two such. I believe they cost a lot of money in fees and wages, and both were transparently Championship players at best.

      I remember him [ RK ] forecasting that Ferdinand would play for England!……enough said?

  3. I was less than enthused when I heard that RK had been appointed as our manager. Apart from having no previous experience, I doubted that he had the personal qualities to be successful in what is an increasingly difficult field of management.

    I was therefor surprised and delighted at his initial impact, and his first season was little short of remarkable.

    My early doubts returned as soon as he started spending money. He demonstrated yet again the old maxim that great players are not always the best judges of talent, and I think he simply did not know what to do when things began to go wrong.

    I don’t pay much heed to what people say in their memoirs. So-called high profile sportsmen tend to see things through their own [ frequently blinkered ] camera and they have a book to sell as well as a reputation to protect [ contrast KP’s view with the majority of his team mates ]

    I’m convinced that we would have been relegated had Keane not walked out. I think he thought so too.

    His experience at Ipswich followed a similar pattern [ albeit without the spectacular early success he enjoyed at Sunderland ] He had a decent start, fell out with his best player, made some awful signings, and was heading for relegation when he departed.

    In my opinion, Keane is a maverick. A magnificent player, who like so many before him, is unable to transfer his own talent and knowledge on to others. Unlike Brian Clough, another maverick, he, IMO lacks vision, or he ability to inspire lesser players. Maybe, like Clough, he should have started his managerial career at a small club? I somehow don’t think it would have made much difference to the outcome though.

  4. I was actually working on the track at Dronfield when that happened Malcolm. I was a mile or so down the track but some lads told me Roy was threatening to fight somebody who had been heckling him over the fence. At the time I thought they were bullshitting me because they knew I was a Sunderland supporter, but it really happened eh?

  5. There’s a wave of nostalgia that seems to be permeating people’s thinking about Keane’s reign since the book appeared.

    Certainly one of our most interesting managers. There was always a story about him. He raised the profile of the club and did very well from the outset. Sadly, he seemed to have completely lost the plot by the time he left. I often wonder if there had been someone with a bit more experience inside the club to help him through the more difficult times, whether things could have been a lot different.

    His time at Ipswich further suggested that he wasn’t going to be a good manager, but there’s still an inkling to me that there was a real opportunity for both Keane and SAFC, that went begging somehow, and that it could have worked out a lot better all round.

    • I saw Keane threatening to have a scrap with some Railway workers over the fence at Dronfield when the Reserves were playing Sheffield United. El Hadj Diouf played and Chimbonda if I remember rightly.

      This was only four or five days before the home defeat by Bolton, Keane’s last match in charge. I wondered at the time if he was prone to bouts of depression. I’m not making light of what is a serious condition but I can’t help but wonder if such a complex individual has a few inner demons, to go with the ones he isn’t shy of showing to the world.

  6. We have a lot to thank Keane for. He and Quinn turned the club around very quickly – a club that had been rotten to the core before Quinn’s arrival. But by the time Keane left he had completely lost the plot and we were bankers to go down had he stayed. He needed man-management skills to kick in at that time and he didn’t have any.

  7. I thought Keane would be here a long time and be a big success, so I wish he was still manager too. I’ll have to make do with the book.

    Great to hear him say so many nice things about us, as he’s never really said anything at all apart from comments about Ellis short, which by Keane standards were mild to say the least. Roy has a heart after all, cheers irishman.

  8. Given his love of Dylan, maybe we should restrict the karaoke choice to his songs

    Positively Fourth Street might work but try this (Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right) …

    So I’m walkin’ down that long lonesome road, babe
    Where I’m bound, who can tell?
    Goodbye’s too good a word, babe
    So I’ll just say fare thee well

    I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind
    You could have done better but I don’t mind
    You just kinda wasted my precious time
    But don’t think twice, it’s alright

  9. I certainly felt when Keane joined us that he could be the long-term manager that we sorely needed, who’d build from the foundations up. I was surprised and disappointed when he left. At that time not only was he new to management but Ellis Short was new to running a football club, so I guess it was a difficult relationship. Roy is not the type to have regrets (is “non, je ne regrette rien” his karaoke song of choice?) but I wonder if there is a glimmer of ‘what might have been’.

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