There were opinions flying around this morning that Martin O’Neill should get rid of Roy Keane for the sake of the Irish team. The main point was to bring the focus back onto the welfare and progression of soccer in Ireland. With Keane, there is no attention on the team. It is all about him, his book, his beard, etc.
But can this not be viewed as a positive? By diverting the talk away from the team, there is space for O’Neill and Co. to buckle down to work without major distraction. If the media are fretting over the fact that Keane’s beard has magically disappeared the night before a game, so what? Never has a nation been so obsessed with their assistant manager. In fact, in many countries, few know who the assistant manager even is. Only the most learned of Irish fans will recall who were the right-hand men of Steve Staunton, Brian Kerr, or Mick McCarthy. Where else in the world would a report that a man has shaved his beard appear on the front pages? Our obsession with Roy Keane is unique, but nonetheless detracts hype from the team, and allows our players to concentrate on the task at hand.
To look for an example of a manager whose antics steer hype away from the players, look no further than Chelsea. Jose Mourinho has been at it for years. Through the controversies that follow him wherever he goes, little is said about the players. In the build-up to big games, all the talk is about the ‘Special One’. The difference is, Mourinho appears to do this on purpose, whereas it is an accidental consequence of Keane’s hunger for headlines.
The problem with Keane’s ‘act first, think second’ policy is that he can get caught up in the whole thing himself. However, perhaps this suits his current situation. While the media spent the week busy at Keano’s press conferences and photoshoots, O’Neill was putting his troops through their paces in Malahide. If Keane were manager, there would be a problem. His assistant role is suited to the controversy, and gives players a chance to get ready for Gibralter.
Roy Keane lives for making headlines, simple as. But perhaps this should not be construed in a negative light in the context of his role with Ireland.
By the way, you might not have heard, but there is a European Championship Qualifier at 5 o clock today. Make sure to tune in.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.