A new season brings new players, new managers and new ideas. But fans are hoping for the same old Roy Keane pundit.
The box office Irishman calls it what he sees it, delivering no-frills takes much like he was as a gamer.
Except that as a player he didn’t have much time for pundits, being at the end of a signature Keane look will have been a rite of passage for many journalists.
And the idea of being an expert after his playing career was over was once absurd for Keane.
“I did it once for Sky. Never again. I’d rather go to the dentist,” Keane reportedly said in 2008.
But Keane found himself distraught after quitting as Ipswich manager and that was after reading his horoscope (Keane is a Leo in case you were wondering) encouraging him to stop saying no to things who convinced him to dive.
He wasn’t half reluctant at first though.
“The problem for me was that the television work felt like a failure,” Keane wrote in his 2014 autobiography The Second Half.
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“Because I failed at management, at Ipswich. I’m only talking about me – not the guys who wanted to work in the media.
“I was a reluctant pundit. That attitude contributed to the quality of my commentary, I think. I tried to speak as I played – very simply.
Over time, although the punditry seemed to grow on him and the fact that he worked for ITV, which doesn’t show football at nearly the same rate as Sky, proved to be a nice distraction with his Assistant manager roles at Aston Villa and the Republic of Ireland prioritised.
If there’s one thing he wasn’t going to do, it was become a full-time pundit with one of the big chains.
“Balance is important. The more I talk, the more I say nonsense. So I made it short,” Keane added in The Second Half.
“The hours they have to talk on Sky or RTE would kill me. I would end up overanalyzing everything.
Less than five years later, Keane signed a contract with Sky to join Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher in their top-flight team after leaving the assistant manager position at Nottingham Forest.
Shortly before that, fans got a taste of what was to come as Keane slammed Jesse Lingard for launching a clothing brand before Manchester United played Liverpool in December 2018.
And in April 2019, Keane asked Neville to fend off the urge to burst out laughing with his simple but hard-hitting version of an interview Paul Pogba gave with Sky after a humiliating 4-0 loss to Everton.
“I wouldn’t believe a word he says,” Keane said. “There is no sense, no meaning behind it.
“I don’t even think he believed what he was saying there… He said it got a bit heated after the game against Everton; I heard they were actually throwing their hair gel at each other.
Meetings with Carragher and Jamie Redknapp vindicated the powers that be at Sky’s decision to give Keane a regular spot.
A budding friendship with former Manchester City defender Micah Richards, who joined Sky shortly after Keane, no doubt helped his stock – the clip where Keane disputed Richards’ claims he broke onto the scene while a player is still making the rounds on social media.
However, a huge rant, furious even by Keane standards, at half-time in Man United’s clash with Tottenham in June 2020 made the Red Devils legend more than just an asset to the punditry squad. .
Analyzing the goal that put Man United 1-0 up at half-time, Keane said: “I’m furious watching this. I can’t believe Manchester United, I can’t believe Luke Shaw is heading the ball and running forward.
“I am amazed at [Harry] Maguire, stunned that an international player can get away with it.
“I’m sick to death of this goalkeeper. I would fight him at half time…I would punch this guy.
“It’s a standard save for an established international goalkeeper. I’m flabbergasted.
“Maguire and David de Gea – I wouldn’t even let them get on the bus after the game. Take a taxi back to Manchester.
“We’re trying to analyze the game…you’re doing your job. We’re trying to get into the top four, let alone win the league.
“Shocking! Maguire, I’m disgusted with him and De Gea. You should hang your heads in shame.
Man United fought back to claim a draw and Keane praised their second-half performance and backtracked somewhat in his assertion that De Gea and Maguire should be made to return to Manchester separately.
But by then it was too late – Keane, the hot-headed expert, was officially born.
Those who know him are always quick to point out what a good guy he is, but there’s no doubt that when he’s most angry is when bettors want to see him.
At a time when a bad comment can result in an individual being canceled, Keane’s refusal to mince words reassures those who fear that the ability to speak frankly about things is being phased out of society.
Danny Mills is concerned, however, that this is all going a bit too far.
“Roy Keane is a huge, unbelievable influence,” Mills said on Kick Off in March. “Roy Keane says it, that’s the gospel.
“I think when Roy Keane speaks we all sit down and listen. I think he has a huge gravitas in the game, for what he’s achieved, for what he’s done and everything he’s been through and achieved in the game.
“You have to listen, but he can be particularly vicious at times.
“If Alan Shearer, Ian Wright or Jamie Redknapp say we’ll just ‘okay, that’s their opinion’. But when Roy Keane says it, everyone says ‘that’s the right opinion because Roy Keane l ‘said”.
“How many times have these people seen Harry Maguire play for 90 minutes? Mills added. “They will have seen clips and they will have heard Roy Keane comments everywhere, no matter what.
“No matter how he played, if Roy Keane says he was in absolute shock and it’s disgraceful and he got a stink, we’re all going ‘well he did’, even without looking the match ourselves and get through it.
“We listen because it’s Roy Keane and he spoke so without seeing him as ourselves, we take his opinion as gospel. Maybe we shouldn’t do that.
“Then you get memes, then you get social media and trolls and everything else comes into play and it influences opinion.”
Maguire being booed in a friendly earlier this summer shows that Mills may be right and recent research has shown Maguire to be the second most abused Premier League footballer on social media.
But blaming all the vitriol against Maguire at Keane’s gates would be totally unreasonable.
There is no doubt that Keane’s expertise has been hugely beneficial, the success he has had in the game allows him to provide great insight, especially into how elite players and teams think.
The comments Keane has made lately seem to suggest he is enjoying the position he is in right now. He ultimately turned down the chance to lead Sunderland again at the start of 2022.
His initial reluctance made him stand out from the crowd and proved to be a great starting point for his punditry career, while other factors came into play including Man United not being as good as they were when he was a player, his double act with Richards and of course Keane staying true to himself also made him look at the box office.
Dare we say, all of this made him an enthusiastic expert.
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