83 Roy Keane.
Amid the acres of newsprint committed to detailing the exchanges between Roy Keane and, seemingly, the rest of humanity has there been a story reported? How can a player that Alex Ferguson describes as the ‘best professional he has ever worked with’ walk out on his country after foully abusing his international manager?
As the marching bands heralding the start of the four weeks of fun, fun, fun start to stretch their legs, the only leg stretching that Roy Keane is up to is with his dogs in the Cheshire countryside.
Various rumours about a News of the World splash on Roy Keane’s private life have so far proved unfounded. But there have been press leaks of every internal meeting between Keane, McCarthy and the players. On top of this press articles from several players including Keane and Quinn have inflamed and worsened the situation.
Is this lackadaisical attitude to the modern press appropriate? Given that tabloid journalists are getting more intrusive by the day, the full and open access that they are given to the Irish team by the football association of Ireland (FAI) looks increasingly nave. Volatile footballers are always saying inappropriate things in the heat of the moment. With proper management of the incidents in place, these comments are quickly forgotten.
Look at the training ground bust-ups for Sweden with Ljungberg and Mellberg fighting, or the problems the Danes have had. These incidents were in themselves as serious as the Keane and McCarthy spat. But the press was denied access and the situation was managed.
If Alex Ferguson is able to call the other nine world cup players from Manchester United and tell them to make no comment on the affair, and have his wish carried out, is it really too much to ask for the FAI to tell its players to say ‘no comment’ when a microphone is pushed towards them?
With no Holland at this world cup the press has been casting its net far and wide to find someone that could be goaded into walking out and Ireland have been the patsies. Modern high-profile sports administration is not for well-meaning amateurs, and the FAI certainly appear amateurish over this entire affair.
If the press had been denied access to the Irish team, or even if their access had been properly managed, then Roy Keane would be preparing to play in Korea-Japan 2002. That the Irish team have not been protected, from a press pack desperate for any news in the run-up to this world cup, is a damning indictment of the FAI.
Mick McCarthy was right to send Roy Keane home, but with better management of the situation it would not have been so public, tempers would have cooled and we would all have heard the full story when the books get published in a years time. Ireland and Keane are the biggest losers here, but maybe the FAI will be forced to become more professional which will benefit Ireland in time for their next manager.
What price for the main beneficiary of Roy Keane’s antics to be the next manager of Ireland. So step forward Roy Keane who is now the favourite to be the next manager. One of Keane's favourite sayings is ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. Perhaps he’s preparing for management of Ireland, a few years in advance.