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Roy Keane: Two Sides Of A Genius

By any stretch of the imagination Roy Keane is an extraordinary sports personality and an unusual human being. For a football player that was not blessed with natural footballing skills he became the most effective player of his generation and beca…

By any stretch of the imagination Roy Keane is an extraordinary sports personality and an unusual human being. For a football player that was not blessed with natural footballing skills he became the most effective player of his generation and became a monumental figure in the midfield of the park for both club and country.

His manager at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson, famously once said of Keane:

“If I were putting Roy Keane out there to represent Manchester United on a one against one, we’d win the Derby, the National, the Boat Race and anything else. It’s an incredible thing he’s got.”

The fact that Keane was able to make so much more out of his football ability than other more extravagantly talented footballers is down to his willpower, his consuming desire to be the best that he could be, his single-mindedness, his sense of purpose – his character.

Many fans who detest Manchester United and Keane in particular would say that Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, etc. have the ability to produce moments of magic but it was Keane’s sheer willingness to win. He was a man who would never accept second best. He hated to lose and if this was to happen would make sure the opposition deserved it. A work horse who will undoubtedly go down as the greatest Manchester United captain of all time.

To say that Roy Keane is an interesting and intriguing character is something of an understatement. Keane himself in his autobiography makes no obvious effort to dodge some of the numerous major unsavoury incidents in his life and most notably his Manchester United and Republic of Ireland career. What is not inspiring to the aura of Keane is that he seems take some sense of pride and rallied around his tough man persona. He thought of these incidents as badges of honour or trophies of battle.

In almost every single case that is remembered he never expresses any real regrets. There is no sense that if Keane found himself in the same circumstances that he would do things any differently No remorse. No guilty conscience. If he got sent off he deserved it. He uses terms like, ‘I should have known better’ but in almost every dark memory most notably a sending off he presents us with, he gives us his own justification for his actions and never expresses any genuine remorse.

The only regret that Keane has ever admitted was the Alan Shearer red card incident is that he should have punched Shearer instead of pushing him because the punishment is the same for both offences. For his disgraceful double stamp on Gareth Southgate when Southgate was lying defenceless on the ground at Keane’s feet in the 1995 FA Cup Semi-final, Keane admitted that the tackle that led to the stamping was a fair tackle. Keane’s justification for stamping on Southgate, was that the defender should not have been lying on the ground as he reminisced “I felt he got in the way.”

Despite these moments of madness damaging yet making the Roy Keane we all know fiercely feared on a football pitch culminating with Keane earning a dozen red cards and numerous yellow cards Keane himself did not consider himself to be a dirty player:

“I’m not saying that I’m an angel but I’ve played professionally for 13 years now. I’ve been involved in two tackles where players have been injured and taken off.”

Surely it is only Roy Keane that sees his style of play through this perspective. Those on the receiving end of his tough tackles not to mention remorselessness such as Haaland and Southgate mentioned above and others such as Neil Pointon and Vitor Baia, that spring to mind, might take a distinctly different view.

Keane’s admission that, “I’m no angel” is a long way from admitting that some of his tackles were mistimed unethical or even downright disgraceful. Far from being ashamed of these repeated ‘crimes’ Keane really enjoyed his well earned hard-man reputation throughout his illustrious career.

The bad side of Roy Keane will most notably be remembered but Manchester United fans admired a man who would never allow his side to be bullied and demanded the best from his club. He is one of the most unusual characters to ever grace the game and not even the troublesome Mario Balotelli can compare to the antics and success of Roy Keane. Although there was always two sides to a genius so to speak..

Roy’s Alternative Side

It’s worth remembering constrating his attitude towards his on-pitch violence with his view of one of the most inspiring and jaw-dropping performances by any football player, anywhere, at any time.

The performance in question was his. The opposition was the mighty Juventus. The venue was the Stadio Delle Alpi in Turin. The circumstances were that it was the second leg of the 1999 Champions League semi-final United had just about scraped 1-1 draw in the first leg at Old Trafford with a very late equaliser from Ryan Giggs.

Juventus were big favourites to make the final within ten minutes of the start of the second leg United were 2-0 down. The Italian’s midfield was oozing with the class of Edgar Davids, Didier Deschamps and Zinedine Zidane. Even the most biased Manchester United fan would admit they looked dead and buried but then Roy Keane does not tend to view things as the rest of us do.

Roy Keane gritted his teeth, clenched his fists, refused to ease up and admit defeat and began to stamp his authority on the star-studded Juventus midfield. In a inspiring performance of leadership, sheer willingness to win and determination Keane first tormented the Juventus midfielders making them accept this was not over and then sunk their oozing dominance with a beautiful headed goal.

He eventually totally dominated them to provide an authority and hold on the game for his team mates to strive on to victory and finish Juventus off. Goals from Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole completed the amazing turn around inspired by the Irish captain. It was a truly stunning performance by Roy Keane and a real privilege to have witnessed it live.

His performance was all the more remarkable because, while United were still trailing in aggregate by 3-2 and the Juventus team was still posing a major goal threat. It could have gone either way not to mention being a huge risk of the counter attacks from the silky Italian’s. Keane was booked for an mistimed tackle on Zidane as he stretched to reach a poor pass from Jesper Blomqvist who no doubt felt the fury of Keane afterwards. The booking meant that Roy Keane would be suspended for the 1999 Champions League final in the Nou Camp in Barcelona. Keane said that:

“I was so much into this battle that the consequences of the card barely registered.”

That is somewhat doubtful as Keane’s berated Blomqvist and that he was fully aware of the significance of the booking. What is not in doubt is that unlike Paul Gascoigne, who found himself in similar circumstances in a 1990 World Cup semi-final he did not allow emotions to take over or affect him in anyway. He didn’t hurt. He knew the consequences and accepted them and it didn’t stop his pursuit to push his United team to victory. It was Manchester United’s first European final since 1968. This was an objective that Keane and Alex Ferguson had mutually shared since their first ever meeting.

It is worth contrasting how Manchester United’s manager Sir Alex Ferguson and Keane viewed the Irishman’s monumental performance on that amazing night in Turin. Ferguson described Keane’s performance as such:

“I did not think I could have a higher opinion of any footballer than I already had of the Irishman but he rose even further in my estimation at the Stadio Delle Alpi. The minute he was booked and out of the final, he seemed to redouble his efforts to get the team there.”

“It was the most emphatic display of selflessness I have seen on a football field. Pounding over every blade of grass, competing as if he would rather die of exhaustion than lose, he inspired all around him. I felt it was an honour to be associated with such a player.”

Roy Keane himself has a different view on the performance and is much more understated and modest in his comments about his performance:

“I was proud of our team that night. I was for once proud of myself, content that I had justified my existence and honoured my debts to the manager who’d placed so much trust in me.

“The Champions League final was where I believed Manchester United should be. I genuinely felt that that was so much more important than whether or not I would be there. When that euphoric feeling evaporated (it lasted quite a while) I was gutted.”

For Keane this was no false modesty. In 2002, he expressed a view that he felt guilty about the booking in the semi-final as it meant that he had let the team down by not being available for the final which highlights the selfishness of his character. Everything had to be perfect for success. Nothing could go wrong. He demanded the best.

In the same way that Roy Keane cannot see how his acts of violence such as those as his horror tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland and his stamp on Gareth Southgate, are totally unacceptable to any right-thinking football fan he cannot fully understand that his performance against Juventus was of completely inspiring to every up and coming football youngster.

To most people both are as obvious as the unquestionable success of Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson yet Rot Keane being the unorthodox individual he is refuses to follow the crowd and doesn’t see things the way the rest of us do. This is the positive side of his character and no doubt the most memorable performance from Keane. Despite being labelled a thug among things by rival football fans Roy Keane will in my mind go down as one of the greatest Manchester United midfielders of all time.

He is a man who makes me proud to be Irish and proud to be a Corkonian. A tortured genius is an ideal statement of Roy Keane. For every disgraceful challenge there was an inspiring performance of determination and sheer wiliness to win and a man who always demanded the best. If there was any crime in life it would be any person not fulfilling their potential and not giving their absolute best and utilizing their talent. Certainly this wasn’t the case with Roy Keane, a man who was a better player than those who had more natural ability and skill.

While people are still murmuring about how we replace Paul Scholes, may I ask the question: How on earth did we manage to get by and continue success without Roy Keane?

Submitted by Football Friends


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