Highlights on Off The Ball

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Highlights on Off The Ball


From table dancing to cups of tea in pubs: the maturing Roy Keane

In the week that Roy Keane turns 50, several of his peers have talked about growing up with and a...

In the week that Roy Keane turns 50, several of his peers have talked about growing up with and around a football stalwart.

The Athletic caught up with his colleagues at Sky Sports, as well as those around Nottingham and Manchester to celebrate the life of one of the sport's true stand-out performers.

Craig Bromfield, author of 'Be Good: Growing Up with Brian Clough' believes that the emergence of Roy Keane had a rejuvenating effect on Clough.

Roy Keane at 50

"Brian would take me for a walk round the cricket ground in Quarndon, where we lived, and whenever he talked about Roy he had this glint in his eye. He called him “Irishman”, and it gave him such a spring in the step. He got a buzz when any young player came through, but especially this one. “What did you think of Irishman, eh?” Brian would say, and he’d be glowing.

"I honestly believe there was a point, approaching the 1990s, when Brian was considering whether to say goodbye to Forest. Then Keane exploded on the scene and I genuinely think it extended Brian’s career by a couple of years. In his eyes and mine, Keane was a gem, with an engine that purred like a Rolls-Royce."

Climbing on tables

Larry Lloyd, former player under Clough at Forest, owned a bar called The Stage Door in Nottingham city centre - and said one player went 'too far' at the Christmas do.

"Roy was climbing on the tables and wouldn’t get down. I said, “Get off, Roy”, and he wouldn’t. I asked Stuart Pearce, the captain, to get him off and he said, “Nah, you get him off.” So that was Roy barred. I stopped the music and told them all to get out.

"They were drunk, they were happy, but Roy could always blow up at any time. I wasn’t the only landlord to have trouble with him. He went quietly and he did apologise, even if it was a long time afterwards. He wouldn’t say sorry on the night or even the same week. It was months and months afterwards. But he did say sorry."

Sky Sports' Dave Jones explains how it is to work with Keane as part of a team and how his tastes have mellowed with age.

"Any anxiety I might have had about working with him disappeared within that first five seconds. He couldn’t have been friendlier or more enthusiastic about the day ahead. We sat together just talking football until the studio busied itself around us.

"There is a public persona and there is a very different reality: the funny stories, the quick wit, the self-deprecation, the genuine passion for football and the delight at being part of a team.

"When we had a Christmas lunch in 2019, we invited Roy to join us in London. He got the train down from Manchester, rolled from restaurant to bar with us all, sipping cups of tea, talking football and swapping stories before catching the last train home."

Roy Keane with teammates

"When I was at Villarreal, Roy kept trying to convince me to play for him at Sunderland. “Diego,” he said, “I know you like beaches and we have a great one here in Sunderland. We don’t have so much sun, but we have a great beach. Come and see it.” I stayed at Villarreal.

He left Sunderland a few months later and when I next saw him, he said to me: “You could be living in Sunderland now.”

Forlan also let on as to how Roy Keane helped him improve his game.

"I always tried to put the ball in the top corner during training when I joined Manchester United. Maybe I wanted to impress, maybe score the perfect goal. Roy spoke to me one day and gave me simple advice that I still give to players today, even though I was a striker and he wasn’t.

“Diego, try to hit the target,” he said. “If you hit the target, you at least have a chance of a goal or the goalkeeper not getting it properly and we can still score. I know it’s nice to score in the top corner but if you don’t hit the target, we won’t have that.”

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