Martin O Neill and Roy Keane to Manage Ireland Football Squad

roy keaneDo you remember the second civil war?  Of course you do, unless you’re under the age of 14, and even then, you still probably know all about the events in Saipan that divided the country down the middle, with half of the Irish people rallying behind Mick McCarthy and the rest behind the upstart Roy Keane.

I was on the Keane side because I thought the entire fiasco represented a monumental failure of management.

Ultimately, McCarthy failed to put his most influential player on the pitch.  He handled the entire affair in a clumsy way and he backed Keane into a corner with his ludicrous carpeting of the player in front of everyone from the first team to the ball-boys.

And what exactly was Keane’s crime that led to McCarthy’s very public scolding?  Simple: he believed.  He was in Saipan with a view to winning the World Cup, and while you might think his ambition was ludicrous, at least he took the trip seriously, unlike many of his fellow players who were there for the party, and unlike most of the FAI blazers, who couldn’t care less if Ireland won or lost once they managed to get themselves on the junket.  These were the characters who flew first class while the players had to endure cramped, bargain-basement seating for the duration of the enormous journey.

When the squad arrived in Saipan, their training ground was made of hard-baked clay where a fall meant injury, and where the very act of running damaged knees, hips and backs.  The bumbling FAI couldn’t even manage to deliver footballs to the players for the training sessions, and to make matters even worse, many of the players thought the Saipan sojourn was a holiday and took the opportunity to go on the piss and sample local hospitality of every variety.

Keane blew his top because he was there to win  the World Cup, absurd as that ambition might have seemed to everyone else, and he couldn’t see any intention on the part of the management to strive for that goal.

Keane didn’t share the view of the management, the blazers and many of the players, that getting to the knock-out stages would be Ireland’s World Cup.  He wouldn’t settle for second best and when he let the management know just how shoddy their arrangements were, he was punished.  Of course it was wrong of him to give an interview to the Irish Times, but it was born out of frustration, and McCarthy’s response simply exacerbated what was already a tense situation.

The very public carpeting of Keane was a humiliation he could not tolerate.  He exploded in the most predictable way, as anyone but Mick McCarthy would have known , and at the time I agreed with his point of view, even though I hoped he’d change his mind.

It’s this simple.  The manager failed to deal with a difficult situation, and by that failure, set in train a series of fully foreseeable events that resulted in Ireland losing its most influential player.

Well, he’s back, and I can’t wait to see what the reaction is.  He’s back in partnership with Martin O Neill, and now we have two Cloughie alumni managing Ireland.

Can it be worse than the stultifying Trappatoni regime?  Hardly.  That old guy took the money but didn’t run.  In fact, he barely rose out of his armchair for his entire tenure, not even bothering to watch the players in action.  I suppose he was laughing so hard all the time, when he wasn’t counting his wages, it wasn’t easy to book a flight to London or Manchester or – Heaven forfend – Liverpool.  And for the insanely huge money, Trappatoni produced the most boring, unimaginative football ever.  He wouldn’t try new players.  He wouldn’t diverge from his rigid game plan, to the extent that on the one occasion the players rebelled, in 2009, they ran rings around France and only lost the World Cup qualifier thanks to cheating by Thierry Henry.  Ironically, Roy Keane defended Henry’s hand ball, saying that anyone would have tried it.

Who came before Trappatoni?  The Gaffer, that’s who.  Steve Staunton, one of the players who publicly defended McCarthy’s actions at Saipan was rewarded with the manager’s position, though the ham-fisted FAI, as usual, couldn’t do it properly and appointed Bobby Robson as mentor to the new boy, forcing him to announce publicly, in one of the most cringe-inducing moments ever, that he was The Gaffer.

The Gaffer done bad, poor Bobbby got sick, and that was that.

Before The Gaffer?  Brian Bleedin’ Kerr. A decent man, an earnest enough manager and a good thinker of the youth game, but more suited to the Faroe Islands than Ireland.

So, what of the future?  Over dinner this evening, the subject came up, as these things tend to do, and my beloved son made it clear that he hates Roy Keane.

Fair enough.  Being the reasonable, rational young man that he is, he went on to say that he was delighted with the appointment because at least, if it all ends in disaster, at least they’ll do it with style, and I know what he means.  Are we going to spend the rest of eternity creeping to ignominious defeat or will we go out battling?  Will we cling to the Trappatoni style of cautious, boring, miserable and mechanical system-football, or will we see a re-energised Irish squad, out there taking chances, giving vent to their creativity and actually, for once, enjoying themselves?

We’ll be hearing a lot about the good-cop – bad-cop double act that Martin and Roy engage in, but  let’s not make any mistake.  Martin O Neill is a tough operator when he wants to be, and Roy Keane, for all his many faults, is somebody that young players look up to.  I think the dynamic of this pairing is just about right, and I think they might manage to change the game.

These two boys both came through the Brian Clough academy and, you know, if the ghost of Cloughy lingers over this, there’s bound to be fun.


17 thoughts on “Martin O Neill and Roy Keane to Manage Ireland Football Squad

  1. I agree- Keane was a tragic but ultimately heroic figure- though I think the whole experience might have unhinged him a little & it’s a pity in his promising managerial career that his methods became a little ‘unsound’ like Col. Walter E. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. But he couldn’t ask for a better form of rehab than going under the wing of O’Neill as he faces down his demons. I really hope he proves all the bastards wrong.
    And that’s just the B side of course – Martin O’Neill is an historic choice & he’s going to make 1 hell of an Ireland manager.

  2. Keane failed in management when he ended up with too many players who needed their hands held bases on some sense of entitlement

    Players who play for Ireland want to play for Ireland, I can see some exciting times ahead, whatever the outcome

  3. This will be the end of roy as a pundit for ITV when England play surely………..hopefully.

  4. Nice writing Bock. Would be good to see more passion for sure with this management change but our population is only 4.58 million. Still getting into the top 20 in the world would be an achievement from 60th.

  5. Dunphy reckons it’s goona be a train wreck.

    Dunphy has the distinction of calling for Staunton to be sacked before he was even appointed, an historic first for sports journalism in Ireland.

    O’Brien coughing up half the salary of 2m, same is forking out sponsorship to Olympic champ Katie Taylor.

    Did the leather thingy on John Delaney’s key ring lying on the table alongside me recently really read “The World According to John?”

  6. agree with backtowork, he ended up with way to many players at sunderland. players on big money and no real commitment to the club. i’ve often wondered if he is better suited to managing a smaller selection of players
    . i used to follow the live text of the matches the year he brought sunderland up. he always seemed to have an ability to make a substitution that would have a positive impact. his squad was smaller and he seemed to know what the players would do for him. in the premiership, with a bigger squad he seemed to lose this knack. a lot of the players did not perform consistently and i wonder if he even knew his best 11.

  7. Nice piece Bock, the whole Saipan thing really was a disaster and the guy on the radio in the mornings with his ABU thing going on had an effct. Roy Keane left everything on the pitch and I don’t think you will find anyone that will say different. As a manager he didn’t do too bad, he wasn’t managing Barcelona so he was never wining the Champions League with Ipswich he was honest though and let’s hope he plays the same way now. Christ he can’t do much worse than the last few we have had.

  8. First game next week v Latvia. Lets see what kind of crowd turn up. If Trap was still on board it would probably have been 10-15k at the match, mostly kids on free tickets. Might get 30k + to see the Latvians now.

  9. There seems to be a lot of hatred towards Roy Keane online in the last 48 hours, hoping he will be a disaster, and hoping it will all blow up in his face. They all seem to have an opinion on what is going to happen, and what he will do, when he hasn’t done a bloody thing yet!! So how do they know what he’ll do??!!

    Plus, the begrudgers don’t know Roy Keane. They don’t know him as a person. I punched people on soccer pitches, but I’m not mad, and I’m not a thug. Nobody has mentioned his work with guide dogs for the blind in the last day or so, only that tackle on Alfie Haaland.

    He made a lot of good points when he was a player. I think the problem was he was world class on a world class team, but he didn’t buy into the shmoozing, the fast cars, the “footballer lifestyle”, the nightclubs, and all the other bullsh*t other players entertained. Perhaps he wasn’t liked for that, the fact his face didn’t fit in to the celebrity w*nk.

    The Alfie Haaland episode was a bit dodgy, and maybe, maybe, he could have played in Japan, and kicked off when he got home. But I wasn’t there, so easy for me to say.

    It’s a 2 year deal, so what’s not to like.

    Interesting that Martin O’Neill took the RoI job, as a former NI player. Will this mean more players from the six counties will opt to play for the RoI? It would be interesting to see if he ever takes the NI job. A manager who manages both the RoI and NI could be a first?

  10. I agree with Barry’s main point; i.e. that Roy’s work with the guide dogs will come in useful in his dealings with both Martin O’Neill and John Delaney.

  11. I think it’s a great pairing. I was surprised (and dismayed) to hear, at first, that O’Neill had brought Keane on-board but I now think that it’s something that will work out really well. Fantastic.
    On the Saipan thing, I still think he was wrong to do the interview. He should have waited until it was all over and he was back home. I also think McCarthy was wrong to make it a public dressing down. It should have been done in a small meeting. Neither of them liked the other and both re-acted to personal insults thrown by each other to each other in front of, as you said, Everybody. Keane was sent home by McCarthy, which was also wrong, because of that head-on collision. But, Keane was there to represent his country, not his club, and he should have bitten his tongue and gotten on with the job. His exclusion from the team was a massive loss of talent to us. That particular competition was wide open as no one team was performing to the best of their ability, and we had a great chance to go further than we had ever done before.

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