Keane: I'm not an animal that needs to be tamed
Roy Keane has insisted he is not an animal who needs taming after returning to the Republic of Ireland fold.
The 42-year-old former Ireland skipper conducted his first press conference since accepting the offer to become new Republic manager Martin O’Neill’s number two this afternoon, and was quick to defend himself against the perception that he is a combustible character.
Keane admitted he might have to rein himself in at times, but asked about O’Neill’s determination to allow him to be his own man, he said: “There’s nothing to tame. I’m not some sort of animal, you know what I mean?
“I’m a footballing man, I like to work hard and push people, and sometimes I suppose I have got that slightly wrong on one or two occasions over the years.
“But generally speaking, I look back and I think I have got a lot of it right.
“Yes, there are areas I need to look at, particularly as now I’m the assistant, when to step back, and hopefully I get that right as well.
“But I am also there to push the players and put demands on the players, like we did today in training.
“We have got some good players and sometimes the players themselves are the last to realise how good they are.
“We have got some really good young players and we have got to push them and put demands on them because from my own experience, I used to like that. I used to like people pushing me.
“That’s the name of the game from when you’re a kid. My manager from when I was a kid at [boys’ club] Rockmount – ’Come on, you can do better’. I loved it, it was great.
“But obviously, there’s a way of speaking to people, I understand that, there’s a way of getting that message across and how you put the demands on them.
“You have to treat people with respect and hopefully the players from the last few days will appreciate that.”
Keane's return to the Ireland set-up - the scars of his exit from the Far East before the 2002 World Cup finals still run deep for some - has sparked a frenzy of interest and he was inevitably quizzed on the repercussions of events in Saipan.
He accepts that some supporters may never forgive him for his bust-up with then manager Mick McCarthy, but is not losing any sleep over it.
Keane said: “I can’t really worry too much about that, it’s about the future and about today and working with the present group of players, and trying to help Martin and the rest of the staff and the team.
“If we can do our jobs properly, hopefully people will get behind the team and there are some good days ahead.
“It’s obviously going to be hard but I am not here to try to change anybody’s opinion about myself or decisions I have made in the past.
“I have spent years trying to please everybody and, trust me, it’s a waste of time and energy. You have just got to do what you think is right and get on with it.
“I’m certainly not too worried about what’s gone on in the past, it’s just about trying to bring something to the table and help the players.”
Keane parted ways with McCarthy and the rest of the squad after voicing his displeasure at the facilities and the preparations for the tournament, and he was quick to reflect on the progress made since after two days working with the players in Malahide.
He said, to the amusement of the media pack: “We have had a lovely few days. The hotel has been lovely, the food has been excellent, the training ground is lovely, not potholes, we have had footballs.
“It’s been great, everything, there’s been major progress.”
Keane has been put off football since losing his job at Ipswich in January 2011 and has, in the meantime, occupied his time in part with television punditry, the source of his contact with O’Neill.
He was outspoken in his criticism of Ireland’s performance at the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine, and was making no apologies for that as he set about the task of helping to take to the nation to the next edition in France in 2016.
Asked if he had gone over the top, Keane said: “Not in terms of what I said, that I felt the team could have done better. I think everyone would agree with that.
“Saying they were controversial comments – I didn’t think they were.
“I felt during the Euros, like everybody else, Ireland should have done better and surely there’s nothing wrong with saying that when you lose your three games?”
O’Neill joked in the wake of the dual appointment that he would perform the “bad cop” role with Keane playing the part of the “bad, bad cop”, but the younger man questioned the casting.
Keane said with a mischievous smile: “I think it’s going to be the other way round, I think I am going to have to be the good cop.
“You obviously don’t know Martin as well as you think you do. He makes me look like Mother Teresa. It should be interesting.”
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