With O’Neill as boss and Keane a trusted number two, they guided the Republic of Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals.
With O’Neill as boss and Keane a trusted number two, they guided the Republic of Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals and later worked together at Nottingham Forest, developing a strong personal and professional relationship.
Since leaving Forest in 2019, Keane, who previously managed Sunderland and Ipswich Town, has focused on his media work at Sky Sports as a hard-hitting pundit but retains an urge to one day return to the dug-out.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph in an interview about his brilliant new autobiography ‘On Days Like These’, O’Neill was full of praise for Keane, the man and the manager, declaring that there are more sides to the ex-Republic skipper than the one seen by television viewers.
“Sometimes when people voice an opinion and have a reputation as being hard and like a motivator, a shouting motivator, things get lost along the way. Roy is someone who can take a quiet moment out, reflect on the game and look at the technical side of things. Roy Keane can do that,” O’Neill insisted.
“That is glossed over when people start to talk about him. There are different adjectives used to describe him before you can actually get to the point where positionally he knows where to put players and he knows what to do.
“Just because he doesn’t describe it in greater detail than someone else and maybe doesn’t spend as much time fidgeting around with the remote control, as I say in the book about (current Republic coach) Keith Andrews, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an excellent insight into the game.
“Roy is articulate, self-deprecating and he can listen and, believe me, he knows his positions and his football. That’s why I think going into management again, he would be really successful at it.”
One of the most influential players when O’Neill and Keane were with the Republic was Wigan Athletic winger James McClean. It was O’Neill who gave fellow Derry man McClean his first team debut in English football at Sunderland in 2011 before things turned sour at the Stadium of Light.
Often viewed as a controversial figure, 33-year-old McClean, who is fast approaching 100 caps, is held in high regard by O’Neill.
“James McClean was at Sunderland when I arrived and I gave him his debut and, honestly, he was a breath of fresh air,” says the 1982 World Cup star.
“He became an instant hero with the crowd and did brilliantly and then the crowd turned against him because of the poppy incident where he didn’t want to wear a poppy or refused to do that and then not only visiting fans would give him stick for that but also the Sunderland fans.
“I have to say, though, that James McClean did marvellously for me both at club level and international level. In fact, in the 2018 World Cup campaign after the Euros in 2016, he took on the mantle as our main man trying to get us to Russia.
“He did brilliantly for me and I have the utmost regard for James McClean.”