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 … http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0297608886/salusund-21.