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high hopes Why I hope my former team-mate Keano learns lessons and succeeds at Sunderland


Roy Keane at Sunderland

Roy Keane at Sunderland

Roy Keane at Sunderland

ROY Keane is in talks over a return to management with Sunderland and he may need to change how he does things if he gets the job.

More than ten years have passed since Roy was a manager at Ipswich and the landscape in the game has changed during that time.

I know Keane has had time in and out of the game as assistant manager with Aston Villa and the Ireland team under Martin O’Neill, and that will have helped his development as a coach.

Yet he needs to appreciate the managerial rulebook has been ripped up and, whether we like it or not, we have to adapt to how things are now.

Roy has a reputation for clashing with players and that is probably the reason why he has not been offered a job in management over the last decade.

He is seen as a fiery, unpredictable character and, in many respects, I see something of myself in Roy’s approach to management.

When I look back on my time in management at Tranmere, part of me thinks I probably was a little too harsh on certain players, but there was a method behind my madness.

I wanted to get a reaction from players who I felt were underperforming and not maximising their potential. My method for doing that was to give them a hard time and hope it fired them up.

That’s how Jack Charlton worked during his time as Ireland manager – and the players in that squad could take criticism on the chin, and try to bounce back.

I’d argue that was one of the main reasons why Jack’s Ireland team was so successful, as we were a band of men who were hard when we needed to be and could handle the pressure of the big occasion.

Keane would have worked with other managers like that during his career, as neither Brian Clough nor Alex Ferguson were afraid to give a player a rollicking when he needed one.

Yet the reality is that brand of man-management doesn’t work with a lot of players anymore, as times have changed.

There will still be some who need to be taken to one side and screamed at occasionally, as they would thrive on the desperation to prove their manager wrong.

I would have been in that camp myself, but a lot of players these days don’t respond well to that and you need to read their personalities a little more.

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If Keane gets the Sunderland job, he will be walking into a club operating in the third tier of English football, yet there will be a lot of wealthy lads in that dressing room.

So if a new manager comes in and starts slagging them off on day one, a lot of players will down tools, and get on to the phone to their agent to ask for a move.

The players hold a lot more power these days than they did when I was playing and that has tripped Roy up at times in recent years.


Jack Charlton in the States in 1994. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Jack Charlton in the States in 1994. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

Jack Charlton in the States in 1994. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

If the reports are to be believed, he had bust-ups with players during his time as Villa assistant manager.

He also had his infamous bust-up with Harry Arter and Jonathan Walters during his time with the Ireland squad, with that incident proving to be the beginning of the end for O’Neill and Keane in the Ireland set-up.

Motivating players is an art form that has evolved in recent years and I look at winners like Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola - they get the balance just right.

You look at the Amazon documentary on Manchester City and Guardiola doesn’t hold back in his criticism of players in the dressing room, but they still seem to be on his side at the end of it.

I’m sure Klopp is the same at Liverpool, with the smiling face we see on TV replaced by something very different when the time is right behind the scenes.

These guys are winners and if the players working under them don’t share that passion, they will be out the door.

Yet they both understand that without their players, they can’t succeed and Keane needs to remind himself of that reality if he gets the Sunderland job.

I always got on great with Roy when we were in the Ireland squad together, even though I was a Liverpool man and his colours were very much pinned to the Manchester United mast.

We both had a similar attitude to football and life – and it probably explains why I could ignore the fact he was playing for that lot at Old Trafford!

Now he is keen to get back into management and purely on what he achieved in his first spell as Sunderland manager, I’d say Roy deserves a chance to go back to the club and try to get them promoted once again this season.

If anyone else had a story in the game like Keane and then achieved what he did at the start of his coaching career, he would have had managerial offers coming his way in recent years.

The trouble is, a negative reputation is quickly created and hard to change. Keane’s often angry outbursts on Sky Sports in recent years fuel the belief that he still has a short fuse when a player or a team underperform.

Yet the Sunderland owners will not be hiring Roy Keane to go into the club and sing lullabies to a team that has lost its way. They know they will be getting a manager who demands high standards and won’t tolerate players who hide.

As always, the man on the touchline is reliant on the players he sends into battle in his name to get the job done.

If he returns as Sunderland manager in the coming days, I’ll be rooting for Roy to succeed.

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