One day, two autobiographies. In the era of the twenty-four hour sports coverage where the action can’t even satisfy the demand for stories, the media were given a gift from the gods on Monday as Roy Keane and Kevin Pietersen’s books could be poured over on the same day.
The sifting in this country mostly concerned Keane who reached hysterical levels of national obsession long ago. While in England, for most of the media, Pietersen was the bigger story as he launched his defence against those who he perceived wronged him in the aftermath of the Ashes series.
The similarities between the two men don’t begin and end in the timing of an October book launch. Both are extraordinarily outspoken characters, a quality which has seen the two men clash frequently with figures of authority.
They have made rash career decisions which have been micro-analysed. Each of them has, admittedly in wholly different circumstances, been accused of betraying the country of their birth. Finally, it is hard to think of two more polarizing figures in sport.
It’s hardly the most ground breaking conclusion to put forward that the books themselves are a little more than a moneyed exercise in score settling. In Pietersen’s case he was getting his digs in first as a confidentiality agreement with his former employers ended. While Keane’s is a clear rebuke to Sir Alex Ferguson’s post-retirement tome in which he accused his former captain of disloyalty.
The Corkman’s desire to constantly raise the stakes in his feud with Ferguson has a danger of overshadowing the glittering career he built for himself at the club. It’s now almost a decade since his departure from Old Trafford and the only mention of his time there seems to be the manner of his leaving. Pietersen should take note, if he continues to obsess over the ending he may found himself written out of the England story altogether.
Both men took relentless enjoyment from winning personal battles so it’s unsurprising they would continue this once the curtain fell. Of course Pietersen claims he still wants a role with England but that is surely fanciful now, there can be no reconciliation process here. For all his praise of the wonders of the IPL, the batsman was consumed by the challenges of international cricket. It is one of the reasons he left his homeland and moved to his adopted country in the first place.
Keane too is in a personal purgatory, as a number two. One can see now why he rejected the Celtic job; a failure there, which appeared likely, would have banished him from the upper echelons of the game forever. Each man finds himself in a kind of wilderness from which they want to be heard. In an era where the vast majority of athletes are company men who only choose to utter banal soundbites we were always going to listen.
It is unsurprising, then, the furore we have witnessed this week. Two men obsessed with trying to show that history will prove them right and the rest of us all trying to place their latest treatise in the context of the story we have built around them.
The hope is that as the weeks pass and the pages stop turning we remember what fascinated us with them in the first place: the fact that each could win contests single-handedly through their ability and desire. In Pietersen’s case it was more his talent which shone through so often in flamboyant individual brilliance while Keane’s will made him an extraordinary leader of men.
Both men, as well as the rest of us, could do with being reminded that before all the tribulations came the triumphs.
Conor Hayes, Pundit Arena.