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Kenny Cunningham gives a unique insight into what it was like to play with Roy Keane

Darren Cleary
Darren Cleary

01:12 20 Feb 2019

Roy Keane is an Irish icon, the enigmatic Cork man will go down as one of Ireland’s greatest exports.

His exploits in the sporting sphere and the heights he reached in his career will likely serve as inspiration for a generation of footballers.

The Roy Keane factor was not just confined to the Cork man, his greatness was contagious according to Andy Reid.

He shared the view that Keane brought out the best in those around his, the former United captain's drive to raise standards was successful as he managed to drag his teammates up a level.

He told TalkSPORT: “Roy is one of the best players I've played with and when he came into the team, everyone raised their game by 1% or 2% because he was there, because of his personality.

“If everyone in the team raises their game by one or two percent, your team is going up 20 percent in performance. I've never known a player to have that kind of effect before.

“Roy is probably still finding a way to do that in management and coaching and I think he can do it. When he does, I think he can be very successful.”

Cunningham came into the Ireland setup in 1996 and played with Keane and Ireland up until 2005, he was appointed captain of his country in 2002 and managed to fill the void left by the Cork man's self imposed exile and Steve Staunton's retirement.

Speaking on OTB AM Cunningham was reluctant to buy into the suggestion that Keane managed to harness an extra 1%-2% from the players around him:

“I don’t remember Roy being particularly vocal in the international squad in terms of the sessions, I don’t remember him carrying himself like that being vocal and demanding this, that and the other, if anything it was the opposite.

“Roy would’ve had a few injuries along the way so he would’ve managed himself when he came over for the international squad in how he trained and the intensity he trained at.

“I don’t remember that with Roy training with the international team, we spoke about it before the general principle in terms of high standards is how you get that information across.

“Demanding a certain level of performance in terms of training is fine, but it’s how you go about it in terms of the tone and how its delivered its one thing saying: ‘oi you that’s not good enough you this, that and the other boom, boom, boom you’re disgrace’ then there’s saying ‘lads c’mon, we’re better than this, we need to raise the standards’ so it’s all about the approach.

“You need to get into the players head, all the top managers are good psychologists as well so for me the argument isn’t demanding high standards I think every coach and manager does that, Roy is no exception there.

“In terms of how you go about getting in the minds of players and getting that type of performance out, that’s the real skill.”

Kenny Cunningham shared a unique insight into what it was like to play alongside Roy Keane

Reid launched an impassioned defense of Keane’s methods and approach to dealing with players. Cunningham feels he may be wide of the mark to suggest Keane had a magic ability to make players better:

“I’m not too sure in all honesty, Roy was an inspirational figure when he was on the pitch, we spoke about Virgil van Dijk coming back for the second leg in terms of the effect that will have around the team, there was that with Roy on the international stage when he was there.

“In terms of being vocally demanding and almost critical and very aggressive like the way he was the on the pitch.

“I’m not necessarily sure I’d agree with it totally, he didn’t get a lot more out of me and in some respects it can be quite intimidating.

“Reiddy talks about players have to accept and change their personalities and that’s a very difficult thing to do at 22, 23 years of age, I don’t think id agree with that.

“International football players are a little bit battled hardened they can take it so most players can take that criticism and demand from Roy, we kind of understood where it was coming from.

“But players not as battled hardened, younger coming into the squad, not as developed emotionally that’s not easy to deal with someone of Roy’s stature, someone of his ilk, being that demanding, I wouldn’t be in total agreement of it, no.”


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