Football is a game where the manager is the main man who dictates whom to play, how to play, and every other detail of a team. Many people think that team captains are only there to take part in the toss and select sides. But a certain Roy Maurice Keane, popularly known as Roy Keane was one of those who changed the definition of a football team captain from just a team member to the one who anchors the team motivate the young players, defend his troops in front of the enemy and leads from the front. Born on 10th August 1971 the Irishman was destined to become a legendary character in world football and a charismatic captain as well. Let’s take a look back at the story of a legend and one of the best midfielders of the modern football.
Table of Contents
Early Life and Youth Career
Keane was born into a working-class family in Ballinderry Park, Mayfield, Cork and his father Maurice and was keen on sport, football especially, and many of his relatives had played for junior clubs in Cork, including Rockmount. Roy Keane, however, took up boxing at the age of nine and trained for several years, winning all of his four bouts in the novice league.
Along with boxing Keane was growing as a promising footballer and joined local side Rockmount‘s youth system at the age of 10 and his potential was highlighted when he was voted Player of the Year in his first season. Roy Keane supported Scottish side Celtic and North London outfit Tottenham Hotspur as a child, citing Liam Brady and Glenn Hoddle as his favorite players, but growing up, Manchester United’s ‘Captain Marvel’ Bryan Robson became the footballer he most admired.
Senior Club Career
Roy started his senior club career at Irish side Cobh Ramblers in 1989 and after one season with Ramblers, he joined the English side, Nottingham Forest, in 1990. At the start, Roy Keane found life difficult in a new country far away from his home and often requested the club for a few days’ home leave. Then Forest manager Brian Clough handled the situation well and made Roy Keane used to with life in England. His professional league debut came against Liverpool at the start of the 1990–91 season, and the standout performance from the young Irishman encouraged Clough to use him more and more as the season progressed. Roy Keane scored his first goal for Forest against Sheffield United and by 1991 he became a regular starter in Brian Clough’s side.
Keane is the hottest prospect in football right now, but he is not going to bankrupt this clubNottingham Forest manager Brian Clough on Roy Keane in 1992
As the English Football League renamed the Premier League in 1992, Roy Keane started to draw attention from a handful of top sides in the league. In 1992 Blackburn Rovers manager Kenny Dalglish wanted to secure his signing at the end of the 92-92 season. With Forest struggling to stay in the league and continuous negotiation over Keane’s transfer left manager Brian Clough angry and he termed Roy Keane as the ‘greedy child’ for his high wage demands.
In 1993, Roy Keane’s transfer to Blackburn was, however, failed after Dalglish realized that they did not have the correct paperwork needed to complete the transfer on a Friday afternoon, and the office had been locked up for the weekend. With a verbal agreement in place, they agreed to meet on Monday morning to complete the transfer officially but when Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson heard about this move and a mistake from Blackburn’s side he didn’t wait too long to phone Roy Keane and asked him if he wants to join them instead of their Lancashire rivals. With all the required paperwork, Ferguson secured Keane’s signing on Saturday for £3.75 million, a British transfer record at the time. Despite joining them for a record transfer fee, Roy Keane wasn’t guaranteed a regular starting position at United as Paul Ince and Bryan Robson had established a formidable partnership in the center of midfield, having just inspired Manchester United to their first league title since 1967. But with Robson nearing to the dusk of his footballing career and a series of long injuries, it was only a matter of time for Keane to become a regular name on the teamsheet. Roy Keane scored on his home debut in a 3–0 win against Sheffield United and grabbing the winner in the Manchester derby three months later when United overturned a 2–0 deficit at Maine Road to beat Manchester City 3–2.
Keane won his first professional trophy as United retained their Premier League title in 1994 and broke his Wembley losing streak by helping United to a 4–0 victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup Final, sealing the club’s first-ever “domestic double”. In the summer of ’95, United saw a period of changes with Ince leaving for Internazionale, Mark Hughes moving to Chelsea and Andrei Kanchelskis being sold to Everton. Then a bunch of young players from the academy termed as ‘Class of ’92‘ such as David Beckham, Nicky Butt, and Paul Scholes was brought into the team, which left Keane as the most experienced player in midfield. United made a slow start to the 1995–96 campaign, but made a defining comeback in the title challenge and leapfrogged Newcastle United, who had built a commanding 12-point lead by Christmas, to secure another Premier League title. Roy Keane’s second double with United in three years was confirmed with a 1–0 win over Liverpool to win the FA Cup for the ninth time.
At the start of the 1997-98 season, club captain Eric Cantona unexpectedly retired from football which made Keane took over as club captain and soon became the inspirational character in the United dressing room. But unfortunately, he missed a large part of that following season due to a cruciate ligament injury after attempting a tackle on Leeds United player Alf-Inge Håland. Roy Keane was nothing but a mere spectator from the sideline when United surrendered 11 points lead to Arsenal losing the league. Many pundits told that Keane’s absence was pivotal behind the United collapse. Then in the next season which is considered to be the best of his career, Keane captained United to a famous continental treble winning the Premier League, the FA Cup, and the UEFA Champions League. Roy Keane, unfortunately, couldn’t take part in United’s miraculous comeback win against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final due to a suspension but scored the only goal in the final of the Intercontinental Cup, as United defeated Palmeiras in Tokyo. The 1999-2000 Premier League season saw prolonged contract negotiations between Keane and Manchester United, with Keane turning down an initial £2 million-a-year offer amid rumors of a move to Italy. His higher demands were eventually met midway through the 1999–2000 season, committing him to United until 2004 and Keane celebrated the big contract with their sixth Premier League title in eight years as well as winning PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year at the end of the season.
Controversy followed the next season when Roy Keane in November, criticized sections of United supporters after the Champions League victory over Dynamo Kyiv at Old Trafford. He complained about the lack of vocal support given by some fans when Dynamo was dominating the game, saying,
“Away from home our fans are fantastic, I’d call them the hardcore fans. But at home, they have a few drinks and probably the prawn sandwiches, and they don’t realize what’s going on out on the pitch. I don’t think some of the people who come to Old Trafford can spell ‘football’, never mind understand it.”
Keane’s comments started a debate in England about the changing atmosphere in football grounds, and the term “prawn sandwich brigade” is now part of the English football vocabulary, referring to people who attend football games or claim to be fans of football because it is fashionable rather than due to any genuine interest in the game. Roy Keane was always depicted as the angry captain and his prolonged rivalry on the pitch with Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira proved it right away. Two infamous incidents in his career made him a ‘Villain” in the eyes of many pundits as well as rival fans. First of which came in the 2001 Manchester derby, when five minutes from the final whistle, he was sent off for a knee-high foul on Alf-Inge Håland in what was seen by many as an act of revenge. He initially received a three-match suspension and a £5,000 fine from The Football Association (FA), but further punishment was to follow after the release of Keane’s autobiography in August 2002, in which he stated that he intended “to hurt” Håland.
I’d waited long enough. I f*c*ing hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c*n*. And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries.Roy Keane in his Autobiography in 2002
His admission that the tackle was a premeditated assault led the FA to charge him with bringing the game into disrepute. He was banned for a further five matches and fined £150,000 in the ensuing investigation. Despite widespread condemnation, he later maintained in an interview that he had no regrets about the incident. Håland could never play a full game afterward. However, Håland did complete the match and played 68 minutes of the following game. He also played a friendly for Norway in between both matches. It was, in fact, a long-standing injury to his left knee that ended his career rather than his right.
Another one came in the form of a heated tunnel debate between Keane and Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira at the Highbury in February 2005. Vieira was seen confronting United defender Gary Neville in the tunnel before the game over his fouling of José Antonio Reyes in the previous encounter between the two sides, prompting Keane to verbally confront the Arsenal captain. United, however, won the game 4-2, and the referee of that game Graham Poll later revealed that he should have sent off both players before the match had begun, though was under pressure not to do so.
Keane unexpectedly left Manchester United by mutual consent on 18 November 2005, during a significant absence from the team due to an injury sustained in his last competitive game for the club, caused by a robust challenge from Luis García against Liverpool. His departure marked the climax of increasing tensions between Keane and the United management and players since the club’s pre-season training camp in Portugal when he argued with manager Sir Alex Ferguson over the quality of the set-up at the resort. Ferguson was angered further by Keane’s admission during an MUTV(Manchester United’s official TV channel) phone-in that he would be “prepared to play elsewhere” after the expiration of his current contract with United at the end of the season. Another of Keane’s appearances on MUTV provoked more controversy, when, after a 4–1 defeat at the hands of Middlesbrough in early November, he criticized the performances of 4 of his teammates John O’Shea, Alan Smith, Kieran Richardson, and Darren Fletcher and about the club’s record signing Rio Ferdinand, he said, “Just because you are paid £120,000-a-week and play well for 20 minutes against Tottenham, you think you are a superstar.”The outburst was deemed too damning by the United management and was subsequently pulled from transmission by the club’s TV station. Keane’s opinions were described by those present at the interview as “explosive even by his standards”. Keane scored the last of his 51 goals for the Red Devils in all competitions on 12 March 2005 in a 4–0 away win over Southampton in the FA Cup.
Two weeks later, after another row with Ferguson, Keane reached an agreement with Manchester United allowing him to leave the club immediately to sign a long-term deal with another club. Keane, in an interview with the Irish media company, Off the Ball, in September 2019, stated that Manchester United was pushing to get him out of the club because he was getting old and his strained relationship with then assistant manager Carlos Queiroz and later on with Sir Alex Ferguson, rather than the mere MUTV incident. Keane’s testimonial took place at Old Trafford on 9 May 2006 between United and Celtic. United won the game 1–0, with Keane playing the first half for Celtic and the second half in his former role as Manchester United captain. The capacity crowd of 69,591 remains the largest crowd ever for a testimonial match in England. All of the revenue generated from the match was given to Keane’s favorite charity, Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.
On 15 December 2005, Keane was unveiled as a Celtic player, the team he had supported as a child. But only after playing 13 games in all competitions for the Glasgow outfit he retired from professional football on medical advice. His announcement prompted glowing praise from many of his former colleagues and managers.
Over the years when they start picking the best teams of all time, he will be in there.Sir Alex Ferguson on Roy Keane after his retirement in 2006
Roy Keane served his country, Ireland for 14 years starting from 1991 to 2005. During 1991 Keane wasn’t shy to express his anger on the set up for Irish National football team described the whole thing ‘as a joke’ which made manager Jack Charlton angry and he eventually told Keane that he’ll never play for Ireland if he refused to join the National team but surprisingly he chose to stay at home. Keane, however, was selected for the senior squad of the Ireland Football team for FIFA World Cup 1994. He played every game of that campaign including that famous win over tournament favorites and eventual runners Italy.
During the 2002 World Cup, Keane again expressed his misgivings for the shortage of adequacy of Ireland’s training base and described that as ‘a car parking area’. Then after a row with goalkeeping coach Packie Bonner and Alan Kelly Jr. on the second day of training, Keane announced that he was quitting the squad and that he wished to return home to Manchester due to his dissatisfaction with Ireland’s preparation. In 2004 after the departure of manager Mick McCarthy, new manager Brian Kerr, discussed with Keane the possibility of a recall, and in April 2004 he was brought back into the Irish team to face Romania on 27 May. Keane was not reinstated as captain, however, as Kerr decided to keep the armband with Kenny Cunningham. Keane scored 9 times in 67 appearances for his country. After the team’s failure to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, Keane announced his retirement from international football to help prolong his club career.
After hanging up his boots as a player, Keane returned to football as a manager and took over English Championship(2nd tier) side Sunderland who were struggling at the 2nd bottom position in the table. Keane rejuvenated the team as Sunderland went on to win the Championship title and secure promotion to the Premier League. But in the Premier League next season Sunderland was facing the reality check and tested an embarrassing 7-1 defeat at the hands of Everton. Meanwhile, Keane carried on his trend of buying ex-Manchester United players with the addition of Kieran Richardson, Paul McShane, Danny Higginbotham, and Phil Bardsley. He has also continued his strict disciplinary policy by putting Liam Miller (one of Sunderland’s more consistent players) on the transfer list for being regularly late for training and other team meetings. The next season in the Premier League, Keane’s Sunderland defeated Newcastle in the ‘Tyne & Wear’ derby for the first time in 28 years but teams overall performance was inconsistent. Keane being uncertain about his future decided to part ways with the Black Cats in November 2008. Keane’s harsh management style was not appreciated by the Sunderland players, who were reported to have celebrated when they heard he had resigned.
After departing Sunderland, he joined fellow Championship side Ipswich Town in 2009 in a two-year contract. But failing to put a promotion challenge to the Premier League, was sacked in 2011. After that, he joined his country as an assistant manager of Martin O’Neill and served his nation for 5 years. Meanwhile, he joined Aston Villa as an assistant manager in 2014 and combined his role but eventually left the Villa job in 2018 to concentrate as an assistant manager for his country. Leaving the Ireland job he appointed as assistant manager of his first professional club Nottingham Forest in January 2019 but after only 6 months, left the job in June.
Keane married Theresa Doyle in 1997 and the couple has five children: Shannon, Caragh, Aidan, Leah, and Alanna. When Keane moved to Manchester United, the family lived in a modern four-bedroom house in Bowdon, then moved to a mock Tudor mansion in Hale. His family then had a 1930s-built home bulldozed so they could build a new £2.5 million house near Hale. On 6 June 2009, it was announced that Keane and his family would purchase a house in the Ipswich area, near to the training ground of Keane’s new club, Ipswich Town.
He eventually settled in the nearby market town of Woodbridge. In October 2014, Keane released the second part of his autobiography The Second Half, which was ghostwritten by Roddy Doyle. It is the follow up to his first autobiography, released in 2002 which was ghostwritten by Eamon Dunphy. Keane is presently working on Sky Sports show Super Sunday starting from September 2019.
We wish Roy Keane a very happy birthday and best of luck for his future managerial career and personal life.
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