The Graham Cummins column: I always fought Roy Keane's corner but this time he crossed a line

The Graham Cummins column: I always fought Roy Keane's corner but this time he crossed a line
Roy Keane during the Cadbury launch third year as sponsor of Premier League at Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

THERE are only so many times a person can be controversial before eventually crossing that line.

I admired Roy Keane as a player. I was proud to say the former Manchester United captain was from Cork. However, Keane’s recent public comments have gone too far. I’ve always fought Keane’s comer in any argument I’ve had with people about the former Cobh Ramblers player.

When I was in the UK, teammates would always ask why Irish supporters adored Keane so much even after he walked away from the Irish team before the 2002 World Cup?

Keane was a legend; how could I not defend him?

His remarks last week, about players he’s worked with and his relationship with Alex Ferguson, have shown Keane to be a bitter man and someone who can never admit when they are wrong, and that’s not someone I can idolise any more.

During his time as Republic of Ireland assistant manager, Keane fell out with John Walters and Harry Arter because of the players’ training regime. It’s not Keane’s place to tell a player how their body feels and how much they should train. It’s not uncommon for older players or injury-prone players to miss training sessions, in order for them to be at their best for matches.

A player knows their own body better than anyone else.

If Walters and Arter believed that by missing the odd training session, it will help them be fresher for matches or avoid injuries, Keane should have respected their decision. Yet again the former Sunderland manager thought he knew better than anyone else.

Altered training programmes are designed to make sure the player is ready for matches and also to prolong a player’s career. In the early 2000s, players were seen as ‘past it’ and were retiring in their early thirties. However, because of research and individual training programmes, players are playing, and playing at a high standard, into their late thirties. Think of a player’s body like a car, the more miles a car does, the quicker it will end up off the road.

Keane talked about getting back into management but if I were a chairman of any football club, I wouldn’t be looking for his number. People say that one of Keane’s problems as a manager is the demands he puts on players that can’t meet his standards.

I don’t have a problem with that because the 48-year-old is simply trying to encourage players to reach their full potential and get the best for the team. The problem Keane has as a manager, is the lack of trust he has with his players. Trust, like any relationship, is the most important aspect between a manager and a player. Footballers need to feel that they can go and speak to their manager and have the manager listen to what they are saying.

There are so many times throughout the season players will go to their manager and say that training sessions need to be lighter because they have been too tough and players are drained. I’ve been in teams where managers listen and reduce training loads. I’ve also been in teams where managers can’t understand how professional players can be tired and chose to ignore the players and ultimately, by continuing the same intense training sessions, leads to players picking up injuries.

Funnily, the manager would then blame the player for getting injured. Some managers believe that players should never get injured if they are looking after themselves properly and that injuries aren’t caused by overload on a player’s body. Keane’s behaviour with Walters and Arter showed a complete lack of trust and would have been the beginning of the end for his time as Irish assistant manager.

When the Irish players saw how Keane treated their teammates, the Corkman would have lost respect amongst the group.

Keane also talked about his relationship with Ferguson. It’s sad to hear how much their relationship has deteriorated. Keane holds a grudge with Ferguson about how the Scott lied to him at the end of his United career.

Ferguson supposedly told Keane, that he could sign for another club immediately after United terminated his contract but it turned out, Keane had to wait another two months. Ferguson should have been honest with Keane but the former United manager was doing what any manager would do by looking after the club’s interests first. When a player’s time is up at a club — no matter how much that player achieved there — a club will do all they can to get that player out the door as quick as possible.

I don’t agree with what clubs do to players but as the saying goes ‘no player is bigger than the club.’

Fair enough, Keane refused to speak to Ferguson after that incident but when Ferguson’s well-being was in danger, the former Celtic player could have let bygones be bygones but instead, Keane’s stubbornness still refused to acknowledge Ferguson.

There’s no doubt, Keane is box office. Everything he says makes the headlines. I do wonder, whether he says things to get in the headlines or that he really does mean what he says.

I hope it is to make headlines

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