Desmond Kane

Candid Keane hardly a pain in the a***

Desmond Kane

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Roy Keane has been in excellent form as a pundit

"Keano, there's only one Keano" as the chant used to ring out back in the day. When Roy Keane was being touted for a move to Celtic from Manchester United in the early part of the last decade, Noel Gallagher, the one-time Oasis star who like Keane has been sounded out in Poland and Ukraine over the past week, conceded he had mixed emotions about what the United captain meant to him.

With leanings towards City and the Glasgow club with Irish roots, Gallagher commented: "I personally can't wait for Roy Keane to sign for Celtic, so I can officially have my picture taken with him and shake his hand because I f***ing love that boy! I'd have him in my team any time, but when he plays for United against City, I wish he'd break both his legs..."

As another Mancunian warbler Morrissey once sang: "Roy's Keen". Keane is a figure who splits opinion as much as he once did an opponent's resolve. World class midfielder with gusto, professionalism, a winning mentality and unflinching courage to some, self-obsessed, ego-driven, obtuse and troublesome to others. Or a "pain in the a***" as his fellow Irishman Eamon Dunphy, the ghost writer on his official autobiography a decade ago, so eloquently put it yesterday.

Keane retired as a player in 2006 due to the wear and tear of injury, but his second and third coming has not been restricted to management. Life begins at 40. As pundit for ITV, he has excelled at these European Championships simply by being himself. Keane is not afraid to get lost in a mist of machismo, even in a comfy chair.

His outburst after Ireland's gloomy 4-0 loss to Spain in Euro 2012 last Thursday produced a scathing but utterly compelling argument that did not sit comfortably with everybody from the Emerald Isle, especially those 20,000 or so sozzled supporters in Eastern Europe. Keane is of a mind that football is about winning matches rather than fans happily getting bladdered while the team is horsed.

"I think the players, and even the supporters, all have to change their mentality," said Keane. "It is nonsense players after games speaking about how great the supporters are. The supporters want to see the team do a lot better and not giving daft goals away. I'm not too happy with all that nonsense.

"Praising the supporters for the sake of it. Let's change that attitude towards Irish supporters. Listen, they want to see the team winning. Let's not kid ourselves. We're a small country, and we're up against it, but let's not just go along for the sing-song now and again."

Keane has been far more digestible than some of the other characters washing up in recent days when one thinks of Jake Humphrey of Auntie Beeb travelling all the way to Ukraine to discuss "German efficiency" and Holland's "Total Football" with Martin Keown. This was despite the Dutch opting for a couple of cloggers in Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong as the beating hearts of their team. Humphrey and Keown would have been better asking each other how much money they could earn for a piece of old rope.

There was also the sound of Craig Burley, an irksome Scotland player who once turned bleach blond at the 1998 World Cup finals because he was bored between matches, describing how the Rennes and France midfielder Yann M'Vila had impressed against Celtic in a Europa League match . "I watched that player boss the game against Celtic, even though that wouldn't be hard," said Burley.

Who knows what Burley was sniffing. M'Vila did not play in the first match in France which ended 1-1 before Celtic completed a resounding 3-1 win in the second leg in Glasgow with M'Vila sent off. While figures such as Burley were derogatory without substance, Keane has made nothing but sense.

Scotland once washed up at Euro '92 and produced two admirable outings in losing to the Netherlands 1-0 and Germany 2-0 before drubbing the former Soviet Union 3-0 in their final game at the tournament. Like the Irish, Scotland fans enjoy drinking it through a straw, but the grog surely tastes better when the team has produced.

There is a way to win, there is a way to lose. Keane was not claiming that Ireland had a right to beat Croatia and Spain, but to lose seven poor goals in two games suggests that he was right to lament his country's output. Ireland qualified for the finals shipping only seven goals in 10 games. Croatia are a smaller nation than Ireland. Compared to the pulsating, fruitful offerings of Euro '88, Italia '90, USA '94 and Japan and South Korea 2002, this one can be filed under disappointing.

Keane is well qualified to offer a mature opinion having played 67 internationals while luxuriating in a banquet of trinkets from his 13 years at United. He was the only Irishman included in the FIFA 100, a list constructed by Pele to honour the world's greatest living professionals.

Keane was never reticent in focusing his growl on opponents, his colleagues or the "Prawn sandwich brigade" in the Old Trafford hospitality bunkers.

Keane was a thoroughbred player, but is a ticking time bomb of a character, a manager who apparently had grown men trembling before he departed Sunderland in 2009 after leading them to promotion to the Premier League.

"A statement of intent" is how the Ipswich chief executive Simon Clegg described Keane's appointment a couple of months after he left Sunderland. He was dismissed at the outset of 2011 with the club toiling in the Championship.

Keane is remembered for walking out on Ireland during the 2002 World Cup finals after branding the manager Mick McCarthy a "liar" among an array of obscenities. Whatever is said about his opinions, Ireland's players have underperformed. Even if they improved in their 2-0 defeat to Italy, it was all pointless.

'Cork boy' remains his own man. In a world full of crashing bores, that has great value. Despite Dunphy's claim that he is "attention seeking", Roy Keane has cut a gloriously more engrossing figure than the Ireland team over the past few weeks. You'll never beat the Irish, nor silence Roy Keane. Keano, there's only one Keano.

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