On This Day - Roy Keane is born
Former Manchester United player and Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane is 46 today.
Roy Keane doesn't need an introduction. A listing of clubs played for and managed is nothing new. Such banalities bore. Not that the man does. On the contrary. On the day, the Irish international assistant-manager turns 46, one question does intrigue. Has Keane mellowed with age?
Maturing and mellowing are not necessarily the same thing. In Keane, the first of the former Manchester United player's two autobiographies, Keane speaks of an infamous row he had with then Ireland manager Jack Charlton on a tour to the USA in 1992.
The Irish squad were due to fly out from Boston after a tour that saw them lose to the host nation and Italy, before defeating Portugal. At a time when the drinking culture still played a large role in international football, Keane and teammate Steve Staunton, carried on the previous nights drinking, leaving their teammates sitting, waiting on the team bus.
When Charlton chastised Keane on his eventual arrival, he responded "Why didn't you go without us? I didn't ask you to wait". When Mick McCarthy chimed in, Keane told him to "Go and f**k yourself." A pre-cursor to Saipan in 2002, if you like.
If Keane was immature, it didn't show in his all encompassing style of play on the pitch. But it showed that day in how drink was playing a part in his behavior. However more acceptable it may have been in 1992 as opposed to now, or even in 2002, Keane, in his second autobiography The Second Half, acknowledges the role drink played in his career and his mental health.
"With my drinking, I used to go missing for a few days. I think it was my way of switching off, never mind the consequences. It was my time. It was self-destructive, I can see that, but I’m still drawn to it. Not the drink – but the madness, the irresponsibility."
Keane fell out with Alex Ferguson over his regular drinking in his early years at Old Trafford. But now his attitude to drink has altered. Even to the point where he has called out the culture in not just Irish players, but Irish people. Noting that a rush to celebrate any occasion with a drink is embedded in the behavioral patterns of Irish people.
Keane's maturity transcends his past battles with drink and was part of the wave of footballers who realized in the late 1990's and early 2000's that alcohol was slowing their careers. Keane might have been slow to back down from arguments, as Patrick Vieira will testify. But for all the animosity the two shared, the 2013 documentary Best of Enemies, showed his capacity to move on.
Relaxed in each others company, the Tim MacKenzie-Smith directed ITV documentary, made for engaging if not ground-breaking viewing. Yet while the two were amiable and warm to each other, Keane spoke in the program of how he would not have done anything different with the infamous Alfe Inge Haaland tackle.
An ability to move on from some rivalries doesn't equate to accepting some decisions he made in his career may have been wrong. The debate of the tackle on Haaland was tied up in a tale of retribution. But twelve years on from the tackle he wasn't backing down.
When Keane went into management he had mixed fortunes before his current role with Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neil captured the imagination; and aided Ireland's qualification for Euro 2016.
In October 2014, as Aston Villa assistant manager to Paul Lambert, Keane looked on intensely as Villa lost 3-0 away to Chelsea in a Premier League fixture. Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho decided to leave the pitch early. Keane refused to shake his offered hand. Afterwards he said: "You wouldn’t do that on a Sunday morning, you would get knocked out.”
But the argument in his favor, is that he didn't knock him out. Stern-faced, he kept his eyes focused on the pitch and ignored Mourinho.
Maturity or mellowing? Maybe a little of both.
There are a litany of examples and counter-examples to make the various cases. The reality is though, at 46, Keane is calmer. He is wiser, because that comes with age. Seeing things and learning from errors. Even if some won't be admitted.
Will Keane ever be a nonchalant and breezy? No. But why should he?
Anyway - would you want him to be?