Roy Keane’s decision to part ways with Aston Villa could see him become another manager cast adrift in club wilderness, writes Garry Doyle
WHEN it comes to sudden departures, Roy Keane is a world-class operator.
Think Saipan, Manchester United, Sunderland. Now it is Aston Villa’s turn, the club he joined as recently as July.
Six successive defeats preceded two uninspiring draws and then came Keane’s resignation.
Officially the reasons given for Keane’s resignation relates to his difficulty juggling a work-life balance.
In time, it would be no surprise if an undercurrent of tension existed.
Sportsmail reported that Roy Keane was involved in a training-ground row with Aston Villa players 24 hours before his sudden exit from the club. Villa have disputed this.
For some context, think back to his departure from Sunderland, his first managerial job.
He had performed miracles there, rescuing a club in free-fall.
They were second from bottom in the Championship when he arrived, but located in the Premier League when he left.
Then five defeats came from six, including a harrowing 4-1 loss at home to Bolton, which preceded his decision to go.
The choice he made was not based on results but on a clash of personalities, particularly with Sunderland’s new owner, Ellis Short.
“We had sat down with him a couple of times, Niall Quinn and I,” Keane said in 2008.
“I went down to London to meet him twice. I thought, hmm, the dynamics are changing here.
“He said he had read my book. I felt he was thinking from the start that I wasn’t for him.”
Plus his relationship with Quinn was no longer harmonious.
“He was talking to me about the players needing to come into work with a smile on their face. That really concerned me.”
Keane added: “Players had been taking the p*** out of the club for years. If they wanted them smiling all the time they should have employed Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown.”
Which makes the reports that something was supposedly happening in the background at Villa less of a surprise.
There are precedents with Keane.
Last summer, before accepting the post at Villa, he was offered the Celtic job.
Again it was politely declined. A few months passed and his book was released. Then came the real reason he said no.
“Had Celtic shown enough in their negotiating, ‘we’ll move this, you can take that’ — a bit of give and take — I might have hesitated.
“They just didn’t show me that they wanted me and I was happier staying in the Ireland job.
“Working with Martin had given me back a love of the game and I’m all for showing a bit of loyalty.
“I had only been in the job two minutes. We hadn’t played a competitive game yet.
“I felt powerful saying: ‘No’. I felt good. But I wondered if I was making the right decision.
“Right job, wrong time.”
Within a month, he was taking the wrong job at the wrong time.
“I am relishing the prospect of linking up with Paul Lambert and combining both roles to the full advantage of both Villa and Ireland,” Keane said in July.
By Friday, his tune had changed. “I cannot give both 100 per cent,” he said.
It raises worries about where this will leave Keane’s club managerial career.
While O’Neill is constantly championing his cause — saying ‘Roy will manage again, no doubt’ — the reality is that away from Ireland he may not.
If this seems an outlandish suggestion, think back to the year his managerial career began.
That summer, of 2006, saw David O’Leary leave Aston Villa.
There, he had done a reasonable job, given the financial constraints he had to work under.
Plus, his previous job had been a success when he brought Leeds to the semi-finals of the Champions League and Uefa Cup.
Having never finished outside the top six at Leeds, you would imagine O’Leary would have earned credit in the minds of would-be employers. He hasn’t worked in England since 2006.
And remember Gary Megson? Few chairmen appear to. Megson was the Bolton manager on Keane’s final day at Sunderland. Bolton won 4-1. Megson has been out of work since 2012.
That’s modern management. Once you leave the stage, you get quickly forgotten and the danger for Keane is that this exit may be one too many.
With a reputation built on single-mindedness, he has proved an attraction to some and a turn-off to others.
His managerial stats — 42 wins out of 100 games at Sunderland, 28 out of 81 at Ipswich — are average.
If he wants work, he needs to stay visible.
Which is why the Ireland post, acting as O’Neill’s sidekick, is so crucial.
This can be his pathway to another number one job. It is an opportunity. A chance. Maybe his last one.