A few weeks ago having been fired by Ipswich, I remarked that Roy Keane was my favourite player on Twitter.
The response I got back was strange to me to say the least, some thought I was joking whilst others assumed I meant favourite United player but no I meant favourite player ever. No clauses.
The nature of the character that is Roy Keane means that he should be a player that EVERYONE likes. A combative spirit and fierce loyalty added to his undeniable talent meant he would be the first player you would choose to go into the trenches with. As a person and as a team player, Keane has always been a player I have admired. Keane played hard all the time, wasn’t afraid to get stuck in and have a word with anyone who needed to hear it whether it was one of ours or the opposition. With the likes of Robson and Ince leaving Old Trafford, Keane assumed the role of midfield general and took to it like a natural. He prowled the pitch like it was his and snarled at anyone who dared try take it from him.
It was things like that that made him the ideal option for captain once Cantona decided to call time on his career. He provided a lift for his team mates and I, as well as many others, knew that with him on the pitch we as a team would try until we couldn’t any more and if we didn’t Keane would be there to tell the slacking player to pull up his socks.
His battles with Patrick Vieira were always entertaining as we saw two men, two leaders, who refused to concede an inch thus when they went head to head it was like when worlds collided. Their battles on field were entertaining but it was an off field incident that for me highlights why I love Keane so much.
Prior to a game at Highbury in February 2005, Patrick Vieira felt he would try and have a ‘friendly’ word with Gary Neville before kick off. He must have forgot that Keane was playing that game as the Irish man came steaming down the tunnel, with a dark mood and dark eyes to match the all black kit telling Vieira where he could go.
When Keane was fired up he was remarkable and there was no occasion more remarkable than on that night in Turin. It’s an obvious game to pick out but his performance against Juventus in the Champions League semi final for me is one of football’s great individual performances. At the gate to greatness, he declared he was getting in whether others wanted to or not and proceeded to drag us there with him. Taking on the talent of Zinedine Zidane, Edgar Davids and co. he cared not for reputation and went about putting the Frenchman as well as the rest of his team to the sword.
The fact he got a yellow card meaning he would miss the final but said ‘f*ck it, I’ve started so I may as well finish!’ makes him even more admirable, how many people would have been moping around thinking I’m not going to play in the Champions League final? Not Keane and rightfully Sir Alex sang his praises after saying:
“It was the most emphatic display of selflessness I have seen on a football field. Pounding over every blade of grass, competing if he would rather die of exhaustion than lose, he inspired all around him. I felt it was an honour to be associated with such a player.”
This being said he was also criminally under rated as a player, he could read the game, making up for the fact that he wasn’t the fastest and despite not being massive he was always there to stick a tackle in. He could pass, he could shoot and his engine taking him from box to box made him a nightmare to play against.
I’m sh*t at football, I have found myself going backwards on the field from striker to midfield and now to defence. I lack any kind of technical ability and get by purely on physical attributes (I’ll rarely be beaten in a race to the ball and even with a head start I could probably catch a defender) but one thing that does help is that I like to model myself on field as Roy Keane, sad I know but when you are playing around people who are more talented and think they can rest because they are it works a treat. He, like I, seemed to reject defeat up until the last second and even when victory was impossible he still carried on.
A lot is made of our problems in midfield today. We have been trying to replace Keane since he departed in 2005 but that’s the problem, players like Keane are few and far in between. Players who are willing to run that extra mile but also ensure that everyone else will, players that will throw in that last ditch tackle as well as play that telling through ball.
Liverpool fans dream of a team of Carraghers but give me a team of Keanes any day, we may not finish the team will 11 men every match but there will no shortage of trying, heart and determination!