But as a TV pundit where his clear views and willingness to voice strong opinions contrast sharply with some of his more bland PC studio colleagues. Making him a big draw for ITV Sport’s Champions League fixtures during the winter months. Promising much too for this month’s World Cup in Brazil. Until. Well, until he changed his mind.
His commercial value alongside Martin O’Neill in the backroom of the Republic of Ireland, was viewed as a marketing coup. However in classic Keane mode the recent headlines have been more of a PR headache as the Republic’s Assistant manager has been consistently linked with other vacant managerial positions. Ranging from Celtic to the most recent Aston Villa. The type of headlines though that were giving his current gaffer some annoyance during the trip to the USA.
"I think that he has enjoyed it here immensely - that obviously plays a part in his thinking," added the Republic boss.
"In the future, he will have loads of offers, as he has had in the past and in the immediate past," O'Neill said.
"Things like this here will crop up again, with a wee bit of luck. I'm not saying Celtic will, but that type of job will.
"Everything now at this minute is on the backburner in terms of all speculation, all that type of stuff. I don't really want to continue on with this until we come back from the United States."
In opting out of his ITV commitments ahead of a World Cup is bound to bring some reminiscence of a previous walk out. Albeit in less dramatic fashion than the infamy of Saipan, where in 2002 as a Manchester United player – at the peak of his game – left the Irish squad. Undoubtedly would also have proved that vital cog to a team that made it to the World Cup quarterfinals without him. Particularly, if he delivered performances similar to Lansdowne Road on September 1, 2001 against Louis van Gaal’s Holland.
Although it is easy to see Keane’s value as a player, it is a manager that the value seems over stated. After all promotion was secured at Sunderland in his first season, then survival in year two, with year three more tumultuous. All ending in his resignation before Christmas 2008.
His next move to Ipswich Town in April 2009 was in a two year deal that saw him sacked within seventeen months. Leaving the ream no better than when he arrived and with his nemesis Mick McCarthy following in his footsteps to work miracles. In November, amidst much fanfare, Keane became part of the Football Associations Dream Team with Martin O’Neill as replacement for the departed Giovanni Trapattoni.
Then over the six month mark O’Neill’s deputy is being linked with other offers. Lending weight to Sir Alex Ferguson’s comment when pressed by the media about Keane’s potential pedigree.
"Young managers come along and people say this one will be England manager or boss of this club, but two years later they're not there. It's not an easy environment to come into, I wouldn't forecast anything.”
So why were Celtic FC anxious to hire the Cork man? Or now supposedly Aston Villa. Or indeed a number of other clubs who seemingly have enquired about his services. The answer. He puts bums on seats it seems.
In Glasgow the void left after the departure of the highly regarded Neil Lennon will be hard to fill and with season tickets on sale, a Champions League qualifier due. Keane would have been a commercial catch. But he also would have been under pressure straightaway. Given Lennon has left a legacy to be fulfilled at the club - that exceeded Martin O'Neill's tenure - is one that an ambitious manager might be tempted. But for the long haul.
Many others would be fearful of taking on the task as recent seasons have seen Celtic set benchmarks that will be unbeatable in the short term. Having punched well beyond their weight outside the Scottish Premier League.
Yet with little track record beyond Sunderland, and no CV that points to building strong squads, or a coaching pedigree second to none. Or some radical new formations, it seems that box office is exclusively where Keane adds value.
Regardless last week the FAI released a short statement confirming Keane would be staying put.
"The Football Association of Ireland [today June 2] confirmed that Roy Keane will travel with the Republic of Ireland squad to the US after he decided not to pursue the informal talks that took place with Celtic any further."
Having been first touted at Old Trafford as a possible replacement for Sir Alex Ferguson, Roy Keane seemed on the fast track until that interview in 2005. A critical interview that caused much reaction within the club. Then at Keane’s suggestion, the players gathered to watch the interview.
Afterwards, Keane stood up and rounded on Ruud van Nistelrooy, Edwin van der Saar and assistant manager Carlos Quieroz - as Ferguson recalls in his book:
“Roy asked the players whether they had anything to say about what they had just seen. Edwin van der Sar said yes. He told Roy was out of line criticising his teammates. So Roy attacked Edwin. Who did he think he was, what did Edwin know about Manchester United? Van Nistelrooy, to his credit, piped up to support Van der Sar, so Roy rounded on Ruud. Then he started on Carlos. But he saved the best for me.”
“‘You brought your private life into the club with your argument with Magnier,” Fergsuon wrote.
“At that point, players started walking out. What I noticed about Roy that day as I was arguing with him was that his eyes started to narrow, almost to wee black beads. It was frightening to watch. I never understood his obsession with the Rock of Gibraltar affair.
“After Roy had left, Carlos saw I was quite upset. ‘He needs to go, Carlos,’ I said. ‘One hundred per cent,’ he said. ‘Get rid of him.’”
In one interview Ferguson summarised Keane as follows: “The hardest part of Roy’s body is his tongue… It was frightening to watch. And I’m from Glasgow.”
Clearly Keane is box office on TV. The problem is everyone is chasing him for his dug out work.
But so far there is little sign that is of equal quality.
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