When I saw Keane in Ireland recently I wondered if he might leave his job there to concentrate on his job in the Premier League. I was wrong, writes Vernon Grant.
He has stayed on as assistant to Martin O’Neill with the Republic of Ireland squad and quit Villa. That despite the fact that the Republic do not have another European Championship qualifying game until they meet Poland at home in March of 2015.
Keane said: “Ultimately, my roles with Villa and Ireland and combining my commitment to these have become too much. It isn’t fair to either Villa or Ireland, so I’ve made this decision. I’d like to thank Paul for giving me a great opportunity to come to a brilliant football club. I’ve really enjoyed my experiences at Villa and I wish the management team, the players, the supporters and the club nothing but the best going forward.”
The game against Poland is a crucial one for the Republic of Ireland. Roy Keane has displayed a level of loyalty to his country that was not always to the fore when he was a player. He has had his conflicts at Aston Villa and he has been disappointed by the level of professionalism shown by certain Villa players. To Keane, a player who always gave everything in a game, the lack of effort from some Premier League players drives him to distraction.
You cannot accuse him of being a Premier League groupie. Of wanting the limelight that goes with top flight football in England. He has less daily contact with players in his role with the Republic of Ireland and, in Martin O’Neill, he has a manager who will support Keane and stand by him no matter what bad press comes his way.
Some members of the sports press in Ireland simply want to write about Keane having a scuffle with someone in a bar or hotel. The tabloids in England want to picture him arguing with players on the training pitch.
He’s no saint. I disagreed with him for walking out of the Republic of Ireland squad in Saipan as they prepared for the 2002 World Cup. No matter what gripes he had then with the Football Association of Ireland, or team manager Mick McCarthy, his walking out on the squad was an act of selfishness and he badly let down his team.
But we cannot forever go on painting him as a villain of the peace. In quitting Aston Villa now, perhaps he just wants to give everything to one job and do it to the best of his ability.
Some present day footballers might consider following his example.