Like one of those ominously effective disciplinarian parents, Roy Keane is a far more terrifying proposition when he appears calm than when he allows his rage to be exposed to the world. So when his new autobiography comes out shortly, expect some fireworks!
So when the current Republic of Ireland assistant manager revealed he was “relaxed” about the accusations Sir Alex Ferguson had made about his former captain in his recent autobiography, it was clear something terribly foreboding was in fact bubbling away beneath that forever stern and furrowed brow.
This, after all, is Roy Maurice Keane, a man for whom all traditional urges of restraint or conventions for decorum appear to decisively not apply. Episodes from his life serve as constant proof that it may be almost factually and physically impossible for him to not have the last word in a dispute.
“To constantly criticise other players that brought him success… I won’t be losing any sleep over it” Keane responded, a glint in his eye and unmistakably threatening tone perceptible in his deep Irish growl.
And now Keane has an altogether more substantial riposte in the works: his second autobiography.
The book will be ghost-written by Irish writer author Roddy Doyle, winner of the Booker Prize for his 1993 novel Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. Yet make no mistake: this book will take on a wholly different tone than that found in the gentle tales of Irish life with which Doyle is traditionally associated with.
The book will have a fair amount of ground to cover, including Keane’s brief stint with Celtic following his departure from United, his eventful but ultimately flawed managerial stints at Ipswich Town and Sunderland, and the development of his intriguing career in the media.
Yet let’s be clear from the off: the key purpose of this book will be to readdress Ferguson’s interpretation of the incidents which prompted United’s near-legendary captain to be hastily expelled from Old Trafford.
In My Autobiography, Ferguson painted a picture of a volatile and tempestuous Keane, a man whose unsustainably high standards and relentless desire for perfection ultimately backfired on his team and his own United career. The well-documented flashpoint, of course, was the MUTV interview he gave in the wake of United’s 4-1 defeat to Middlesbrough in 2005, which involved the side’s skipper ruthlessly tearing into a succession of United players. As Ferguson tells it, during the ensuing training ground summit argument, Keane refused to go back on his comments, provoking a row with his manager which ultimately involved him bringing up Ferguson’s controversial Rock of Gibraltar episode.
Ferguson claims that Keane’s outburst made his position at the club untenable. “The hardest part of Roy’s body is his tongue,” he wrote. “He has the most savage tongue you can imagine.”
Keane’s interpretation, of course, will present an entirely different version of events. It is, after all, true that Ferguson’s account lacked a sufficient degree of gratitude for his captain’s largely unfailing loyal service over many seasons, and it is hard to disagree with the argument that the former manager’s dispute with John Magnier had anything but a negative effect on the club. How Keane is able to justify the value of his MUTV tirade, though, will require some highly imaginative passages of writing.
It’s an enthralling duel, and, thankfully for United, is one which no longer has much of a direct effect on the fortunes of the Old Trafford club. The best course of action is to just sit back and enjoy it: a fascinating power struggle between two of modern football’s most notoriously immovable objects, both of whom are unable to comprehend any wrongdoing on their behalf, and are subsequently monumentally affronted by anyone who dares to accuse them of it.
Still, Keane and Doyle will have a tough job on his hands if the former Republic of Ireland captain is to match the levels of entertainment and controversy set by his last book. The Autobiography was a comprehensive manual of hate and bitterness, earning Keane a £150,000 fine for comments it contained about the injury he inflicted on Manchester City player Alf Inge Haaland in 2001.
“I’d waited long enough,” it infamously read. “I fucking hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that, you cunt. I didn’t wait for [the referee] Mr Elleray to show the card. I turned and walked to the dressing room.”
Orion, publishers of Keane’s new book, claims it will represent “a benchmark for sports autobiography”. It could well turn out to be far more fun than just that. The Keane – Ferguson rivalry, after all, is one that is set to run and run.