While Andrew Flintoff questions Mike Atherton’s credentials as a television pundit Stephen Goldsmith sees a parallel in the terrestrial coverage of the Euros. With the exit of the Republic and plenty of their former players calling Trapattoni’s job security into question he also wonders if this is an ideal opportunity for our own mean and moody ex manager.
I wish somebody would give Sky Sports their ball back. No stone goes unturned when it comes to their fine coverage of football; every possible avenue around any relevant incident is explored. Indeed, every stone under every stone gets unturned and this is quite acceptable for we football enthusiasts when we have the enjoyment of watching the footage to accompany it all. This prevents it from becoming tedious. But as Sky Sports can’t show highlights of the Euros we’re stuck at the wrong end of this continuum of what is interesting and what is dreary when searching for our Euro 2012 fix. The other end of this continuum is evident when the BBC’s coverage for the first quarter final started fifteen minutes before kick off. We’re stuck in no man’s land a bit here.
Sky Sports try to compensate for not being able to show footage by going into full detailed analysis about our upcoming referee’s record against any English club, in any competition. This is taking interest levels too far. What is that saying about wanting to know the far end of a fart? Something else that is proving problematic is me trying to cope with Sky’s selected ‘experts’ such as Phil Babb and Iain Dowie. Many would say Iain Dowie has a face for the radio. Now that would seem a touch harsh when trying to give a measured argument against his inclusion in the pundit industry, but it is certainly measured to say he doesn’t have a voice for the radio. Or my television. I would request that his incoherent ramblings came with subtitles if I thought for one minute that his tactical input, if you can call it that, was to be of any quality. This would perhaps be bearable if there was coverage or even highlights to couple up with all of this.
Don’t watch it? It’s still football, don’t be daft.
That’s where terrestrial television gets let off the hook. Thank God that some of the nonsense their chosen guests spout out, and any amount of Mick McCarthy painfully resurfacing reminders that he likes teams that ‘put a shift in’, is masked somewhat by the actual event and coverage they have.
And thank God for Roy Keane.
When Keane was still manager at Sunderland he was quoted as saying he would rather go to the dentist than be a pundit again. The Guardian reported him as saying “you’re sitting there with people like Richard Keys and they’re trying to sell something that’s not there”. He went on to claim that “anytime I watch a game on television, I have to turn the commentators off”. He advised us all to do the same. Next time Iain Dowie is on I may follow suit. The Guardian completed the story by claiming that he would only return to punditry if he fell on hard times.
Tired of the telly? Is Keano the man for the Republic?
Fall on hard times he must have; he is sitting there humouring Adrian Chiles after all. How many of us could do that in all honesty?
People often point out his visible disdain for all Chiles has to say in his presence. Apparently they’re quite friendly actually, which means his obvious disdain must be directed at the concept of the whole thing. So why is he doing it?
While most of us would love the chance to jet off around Europe and talk football, Keane doesn’t need it and he seemingly doesn’t particularly enjoy it either. He’s publicly stated his desire to return to management and I feel we are reaping the refreshing rewards of him using this as a medium to get his points of view across in typical Keano fashion. I hope this questionable tactic pays off.
The reason I see it as being a questionable tactic, is that he is in danger of crossing the credibility lines. When he was still playing, had recently retired, or was doing well as the Sunderland manager, people would automatically nod their heads in agreement at one of his outbursts. This was a world class player who had been there, done it, and was on his way to doing it in management.
Reputations of being a good ex-player don’t carry unconditional longevity though, certainly not in the footballing opinion polls. It is a results driven industry. More and more managers who didn’t play to high levels are starting to work hard on their coaching philosophies and built careers. More and more are cropping up as reputable alternatives. The manner in Keane’s exit from Sunderland, and the subsequent Ipswich nightmare brought his upwards progression to halt somewhat.
Keane and other top players can bypass a lot of the hard work that these new breed of coaches have to put themselves through to reach the top. That’s fine if they get it right. The danger of a failed manager using the media to lay into players and managers at will is that it could easily perceived as bitter and irrational ramblings from somebody who has shown he can talk the talk, but not walk the walk. As harsh as this may seem on someone who was a top player, management is a different ball game and the newer the generation of players and viewers alike, the less in awe of these former players they will be, and the less likely they are to take their opinion as matter of fact. It’s certainly enjoyable to watch his rants in my view. Keane needs to get his next job right.
I’m not in alignment with the theory of some fellow Sunderland fans that he was a failure here. Not a chance. No doubt he paid high contracts to players not worthy of them and we’re just starting to see that mess cleared up. But how much did it actually cripple us? We kind of got away with it. We have remained in the top flight. The naivety of the manner in which those ludicrous contracts were dished out is apparent in those who were directly above Keane at the time also, in my eyes. His positives far outweigh his negatives. We wouldn’t be where we are without Keane. It would have taken something special from any incoming manager that 06/07 season just to keep us from slipping to League 1, such was the pace and power behind the downwards momentum that was SAFC.
It wasn’t just on the field either. He sensed the pessimistic nature of the club that crippled us so often in the past and smashed it to pieces. Gone was the parade to celebrate promotion to the Premier League. That’s not what big clubs do; they belong in the Premier League. Up went pictures and reminders of former glories around the academy and training areas. Little subtle things like this subconsciously help make current players feel they are at a famous club. His international status brought attention to our club the like of which we had never seen before. His appointment put us on the map. We haven’t fallen back off it yet. Quinn has done all the hard work here, don’t get me wrong, but his appointment of Keane seems to go unappreciated by a lot of Sunderland fans and I simply don’t get it.
The problems Keane did endure were stemmed from the fact that he had probably unknowingly landed a cushy little number in Sunderland in the first place. He had played for Manchester United and Celtic in the years that football had really boomed into popularity like never before, through the power of Sky and the initial upturn in the economy. Coming from those two huge clubs to Sunderland must have been an easy transaction for him to make. State of the art infrastructure, a huge fan base and a chairman who gave him and his team the best resources to cope with the daily requirements of running a football club, must have seemed like home from home to him.
But how many players and managers have said they didn’t realise how big a club Sunderland is before they arrived here? A lot. Keane probably noticed this once he left and went to Ipswich. I think if he had his time over he’d certainly do things differently and appreciate what he had a little more.
The Ireland job could be right up his street. Ireland fans seem to have been against him publicly ever since the World Cup in 2002, but I sensed an overwhelming feeling of admiration for him when I went to Ireland for our pre-season tour in 2007.
It’s hard to disagree with his criticism of Trappatoni anyway. For all the purpose and direction Trappetoni gave the Ireland team in qualifying for the Euros, he displayed a tactical stubbornness that can be ill-afforded with the playing staff Ireland have at their disposal. He didn’t have a duty to be loyal to the players and system that got them there; he had a duty to the entire nation to field his best team. I could speak for hours about playing 4-4-2 against Spain and leaving regular Premier League star performers like McClean and Gibson as mere spectators. We all know it.
One of Keane’s issues at Sunderland was his desire not to be with the players too much. He would stay away during the week and it went down like the proverbial lead balloon with Mr Short. International football may offer a viable solution to this. Players wouldn’t feel the weight of expectancy and his preying eyes burning over their shoulders on a regular basis, and he would get his own way of residing where he likes and only having to travel at the time of the Irish get-togethers or to watch his players perform at their clubs.
His main strength at Sunderland was having players play for him at a level probably above their perceived capabilities. Certainly looking back at the calibre of players who marched to the Championship title in his first season, and how their careers have panned out since, it would be hard to disagree with that.
That is exactly what Ireland need, surely?