“You’d want to hurt him.”
Throughout his career, Roy Keane has made enemies with plenty of people, both on and off the pitch, but his rivalry with Jason McAteer is one that has lingered for a long time.
However, in a recent interview with One Last Match podcast, McAteer has opened up on his intense rivalry with Keane and claims he would go into games wanting to ‘smash’ his former international team-mate.
Of course, there’s no love lost between McAteer and Keane since Saipan.
Subsequently, both men’s books and their infamous bust-up during a match between Sunderland and Manchester United in 2002 exacerbated the rivalry.
For context, Keane had just released his first autobiography – in which he criticised McAteer among other former Ireland teammates – and the Scouser believes that was the reason behind the flare-up.
In his first autobiography, Roy Keane characterised Jason McAteer as stupid, resulting in the pair clashing on the pitch which saw Keane red-carded for elbowing the then Sunderland man. After Keane was sent-off, McAteer gestured that the Cokman should include that particular incident in his next book.
“We understood where he came from, what he stood for and what he wanted – we all just felt it was at the wrong time. There was a time and a place for it and it was after the World Cup. Obviously, the disappointment and the anger spilled over into the Premier League season. He had been a little unsavoury towards the lads, me included, in his book.
“When we had words on the pitch, I just said to him ‘put it in your next book, I’ll read about it I’m sure.’ That’s all that was, but unfortunately, we never kissed and made up – we’re still bayonets at thirty paces,” said McAteer in a previous interview with Ray D’Arcy on RTÉ Radio 1.
In his autobiography, McAteer was fiercely critical of Keane’s exit ahead of the 2002 World Cup, even suggesting he had an ulterior motive for rowing with Mick McCarthy.
“It was all too well planned, too thought-out in his strange head … it was almost like he wanted Mick to make a big deal of it in front of the lads and give him an excuse to get out of Dodge,” he wrote.
However, the former Liverpool, Blackburn and Bolton player has given further insight into how their rivalry manifested itself on the pitch.
“Sometimes you play against fellow (countrymen)… like Leeds I’d play against Ian Harte, I’d never think I’d want to smash him. He was on the left, I was on the right, it was always a battle. But it was fair, we’d hug each other at the beginning and hug each other at the end.
“If there was any words said, which very rarely there wouldn’t be, we got on with it. With Roy, you’d want to smash him, you’d want to hurt him. You wouldn’t pick him up. You’d have words, you’d mean it, you wouldn’t shake his hand at the end of the game. It’s how it was,” said McAteer.
Despite their rivalry, Jason McAteer also said that he is still ‘gutted’ that Roy Keane missed out on World Cup 2002.
‘I’m quite sad about it. I’ll be completely honest. I am actually gutted for him that he missed that competition. He was arguably the best midfielder in the world at the time and he was going to a tournament that was actually wide open. I’m not saying we would have gone on to win it but we got knocked out on pens by Spain, we missed a pen in normal time and I just think having him on the pitch would have been that little bit more we needed to get through.
“We plotted our way to the semi-finals at one point. We would have played South Korea, then Germany and we didn’t fear them. Having Roy there in the moment he was in would have enhanced the team and made us better. Roy lives by his decisions. He had a reason to go home, he made his point, he stood by it and his decision was ‘I am going home.’
“He will stand by that now and he will be right. That’s the thing with Roy, he’s right. I personally think he should have bit his lip, there’s a time and a place for a debrief, we get his argument and the situation, we understand where he’s coming from but let’s get on with it.
“Can it for a month, can it for three weeks and do it when you get back. I really regret that he went home. He missed out on a World Cup in a moment when he was one of the best centre midfielders in the world and I am gutted for him,” said McAteer.