SportSoccer

Ronald Koeman has his say on Roy Keane's verbal attack

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Koeman on McCarthy: "Last time he went with Ireland, he was not fully fit and he still played two matches in the space of a few days"
Koeman on McCarthy: "Last time he went with Ireland, he was not fully fit and he still played two matches in the space of a few days"

IT’S safe to assume Ronald Koeman and Roy Keane hold very different views on the art of leadership, but both seem to find common ground in Seamus Coleman’s version of captaincy

The poisonous/comical attack on Koeman served up by Keane over the fitness record of James McCarthy appeared more than a little trivial as Donald Trump stormed into the White House.

It may be that Keane appreciates the brash rudeness served up by America’s new Commander-In-Chief, as he has been following an equally distasteful line of public rhetoric for two decades now.

Yet Koeman is cut from very different and more refined cloth and he confirmed as much when he sat down with the Sunday World for an exclusive interview.

A legendary sportsman who arguably enjoyed an even greater career than that of Keane, Koeman did it all with a placid calmness that remains in place to this day.

So when we ask him to evaluate Coleman’s promotion to the role of Ireland captain in recent months, he suggested the quiet leader is more effective than the outspoken firebrand.

“Seamus can be a leader and in many ways, his personality is just what you need in a captain,” began Koeman, speaking at an event to promote the Kick It With Help anti-smoking campaign.  

“To be quiet off the pitch and loud on, with your leadership, it’s the perfect combination. You don’t want a leader who makes too much noise as this is not always good for the team.

“Maybe I was like this in my career and now we see something similar with Seamus.

“I know how amazing I felt to be captain of my national team and Seamus should be very proud that he has been given he honour to lead Ireland.

“First of all, Seamus is a great player and what I like most about him is that he is always willing to learn. Some players do not want to listen so much, but Seamus is not like this.

“He could become the best full-back in the Premier League, but there is a lot of competition for that title. 

“Full-back is such an important position in the game now because often, the most space in a Premier League game is in the wide positions and Seamus can give us so much when he goes forward.”

Amid this cordial chat, it seems a little unnecessary to bring up the Keano-sized green elephant in the room, but Koeman was eager to discuss the ongoing spat between the Ireland management team and Everton over McCarthy.

Koeman’s suggestion that Ireland were reckless by playing McCarthy in World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Moldova last month, shortly after his return from injury, sparked a feisty response from Ireland boss Martin O’Neill.

Predictably, Keane spewed up a Trump-style verbal attack when he was asked about Koeman’s comments and, just a couple of hours after those barbs were delivered, I was sitting before the man who was on the receiving end of those comments.

“I am a big fan of James McCarthy and believe in his qualities, but the problem for me at the moment is he is not fit to play,” said Koeman. 

“Last time he went with Ireland, he was not fully fit and he still played two matches in the space of a few days.

“That leads to a problem. Then he comes back to Everton and we can see what happens. 

“He was overloaded and still the player cannot train now, which is a problem for Everton and Ireland. Hopefully he can be back soon.”

When I offered up a slice of Keane’s latest attack on Koeman, and what he perceived to be Everton’s second-rate medical staff, it was clear that he had said more than enough on this toxic subject.

“Ah, these comments are not my problem, let’s move on,” he said, bringing a close to the feud. And so we did.

Ronald Koeman is backing the Kick It With Help campaign to highlight the importance of expert help in quitting smoking. Check out the website at: www.quitwithhelp.ie.