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roy keane

first published on oilzine.com

Roy Keane: Saint or Sinner? Blah-di, blah-di, blah. We've heard it all before.

I'm not really interested in which he is, or which Chinny Hill, Trevor Brooking, Mark Lawrenson, etc. thinks he is. All I know is life would be very boring without the Man United midfield warrior to liven it up.

Life without him would be full of Giggsy-wiggsy ghosting past defenders to score effortlessly amazing goals, the Neville inbreds giving 'articulate' interviews, Becks and Posh doing something suitably nouveau riche, and Yorke and Cole doing what footballers do, i.e. 'shaggin' birds'.

Football has been crying out for someone like Keane since Graeme Souness stopped playing. West Ham's Julian Dicks came close to claiming the mantle - but without the international standing and reputation, he was like just another football league bovver-boy. In the interim between Souness and Keane there was only one occasion a truly famous player came close to the sort of career ending tackling Souness loved. This was when Gazza, in the FA Cup Final no less, got over excited, like the young pup he was, and launched himself at Gary Charles. Gascoigne didn't realise that a shocking tackle is meant to end the career of the other player. In those few seconds, he may have ended his own.

Keane is now amongst us, however, and if anyone needs reminding of the fact, talk to 'dirty' Alf-Inge Haaland about this season's Manchester derby. What a tackle. A knee-high, studs showing, stamp. Beautiful. It's not the first time those two have clashed, either. An incident in 1997 between the two, put Keane out of action for a year with knee ligament damage. Keane went mad for a second and attempted the aforementioned Gascoigne lunge and got what he deserved. Terrible.

Those of you who have watched both men in action may wonder how I can label Haaland 'dirty' and talk of beautiful stamping tackles from Keane. Well, you may disagree with me, but Haaland is just a thug. Like a lot of players, he has no class. Everything he does is off-the-ball. Elbows etc. Keane is a true entertainer. He plays the villain at the front of the stage, even in front of the referee. As befitting a former amateur boxer, Keane has been in trouble with referees his entire career. He's received 8 red cards in 8 seasons with Man U.

He's not popular with everyone though (oh, what a surprise.) According to an Irish guy I know, Keane cost Ireland their place in the last World Cup through his irresponsibility. You see, his cruciate knee injury, following the 1997 Haaland tackle, came at the worst time for his country: the Republic went into the two-legged play-off against Belgium without him, and they lost 3-2 on aggregate.

However it was a different story 4 years earlier, during the qualifiers for the World Cup in USA. Keane was the Irish inspiration, even Diego Maradona watching from the stands in Spain wanted to know who this fiery Irishman was. "Buy him," said Maradona, "together we play good."

This, of course, shows that there is more to Keane's game than just excellent, grimacing fouls. He can play a bit, too. He can defend, attack, pass, cross, shoot, score, but most of all, he has a powerful engine which sees him steaming from end to end of the pitch, from the word go to the final whistle.

He was picked up at the age of 18 by Nottingham Forest after applying for trials at several English clubs. Here he made his name, appearing in two Cup finals, before Man United snatched him for 3.6 million, then a British record fee. It must be one of the best deals Man United have ever done.

Keane was entrusted with the captaincy of Man U in 1997 after the retirement of Eric Cantona, an equally despised/God-like figure. Nearly everything went well:the 1998/99 season ended in professional tragedy for Keane as not only did he miss the Champions League final through suspension, he was also injured in only the 5th minute of the FA Cup final. Therefore missing out on the two biggest games of a massive season (For those of you who don't know, Manchester United won an unprecedented treble - Premier League, FA Cup, Champion's League.)

Only in the perverse career of Roy Keane could such a thing happen. What an entertainer. Few would deny that Roy Keane is the most inspirational footballer in England, and probably worth the reported 52,000 a week he is paid.

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