Roy Keane turns 50 today. Here are 50 of his most famous quotes – and some hidden gems – from the former Ireland and Manchester United captain.
“Belvedere were big time and there was a large crowd in Fairview Park to watch them play. I played for myself. Even when I knew the game was lost I kept going. I’d show those Dublin bastards that I could f****** play.”
Keane on the famous 1990 Belvedere-Cobh Ramblers FAI Youth Cup game
“My obsession with football offered no prospect of job security, yet I had more faith in my ability to become a professional footballer than I had in my capacity to cope with the Inter Cert. I did fail my Inter Cert. It hurt, I felt I’d let my parents down.”
Keane’s struggle with the education system.
“I am a big fan of the LOI, maybe because of the fact that I played in it for a year and it helped me get to England, it was a good experience for me.”
Those days at Cobh Ramblers.
“The amount of fights I’ve had in Cork would probably be another book. I mean, people go on about my problems off the field, but they don’t even know the half of it.”
Those boozy nights out in his home town.
“I found it hard – impossible, really – to come to terms with the fact that fame denied me the private existence I felt entitled to. So I was belligerent and stood my ground when trouble loomed, especially late at night. The more I reacted, the faster I acquired a reputation as a hothead.”
On early struggles with fame while at Nottingham Forest.
“Playing for Ireland was very disappointing. Preparation, training, medical facilities and travel arrangements were all far below the level of the English First Division. To describe the FAI as amateurs would be an insult to amateurs. Given the resources available to them, the set-up at Rockmount seemed far more professional.”
Early signs of frustration with the FAI, after Keane’s competitive debut in the Euro 92 qualifiers.
“As for Maurice Setters, I was never sure what his role was. He did, however, keep Big Jack supplied with chewing gum.”
Keane on early impressions of Jack Chartlon’s assistant manager.
“I loved Old Trafford from the moment I set foot in it.”
“I found it difficult to cope with the kind of fame that accompanied my status as a footballer. You could describe this as the Greta Garbo Syndrome. I wanted to be alone.”
An unsettled Keane in his early days at Old Trafford.
“Six-three at Southampton. My own family and friends couldn’t leave the house, people taking the piss out of them at work, the jeering, mocking and sneering. Too many players forget what defeat means to the people who pay our wages. We were being paid to play. Paid. To play for Manchester United. The fans were forking out their money to support us. And we can’t be bothered to pick our legs up against Matt Le Tissier.”
Roy’s rage after United’s 6-3 loss to Southampton.
“I thought I knew what the group might need, that we didn’t need a big team talk. It was Tottenham at home. I thought, ‘please don’t go on about Tottenham’, we all know what Tottenham is about, they are nice and tidy but we’ll f****** do them. He came in and said: ‘Lads, it’s Tottenham’, and that was it. Brilliant.”
When Keane and Alex Ferguson were on the same page.
“People said he always had the best interests of Manchester United at heart. Darren Ferguson won a medal. He was very lucky, his brother was the chief scout for Manchester United for a long time. I’m surprised his wife wasn’t involved in the staff somewhere.”
When Keane and Ferguson were no longer on the same page
“The yellow card meant I’d miss the final and when Andy Cole scored our third I knew there would be a final to miss. I didn’t care at that point, although later I would. I was proud of our team that night, I was for once proud of myself, content that I’d justified my existence.”
On the booking against Juventus which ruled Keane out of the 1999 Champions League final.
“No matter how many people tell me I deserve that Champions League medal, I know I don’t.”
On the the ‘medal’ he got as suspended squad player with United at the Nou Camp in 1999
“Your first f****** day at Manchester United and you turn up an hour late for f****** training.”
Keane’s welcome to Old Trafford for Marc Bosnich in 1999.
“I don’t think some of them can even spell football, let alone understand it. Away from home our fans are fantastic. But at home they have a few drinks and probably the prawn sandwiches, and they don’t realise what’s going on out on the pitch.”
Keane and the prawn sandwich brigade at United, 2000.
“It was a set-up but that was no excuse, there was no excuse, I was just a daft f*****”. Remorse and shame should sober you up. I went home to Theresa and the kids vowing that I wouldn’t make the same mistake again. Of course I’d made that vow before.”
The bust-up at a Manchester bar in 1999 which landed Keane in a police cell.
“I’d waited almost 180 minutes for Alfie, three years if you looked at it another way. Now he had the ball on the far touchline. Alfie was taking the piss. I’d waited long enough. I hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that, you c***. And don’t ever stand over me again sneering about fake injuries.”
Keane’s verbal assault on Alf Inge Haaland.
“It wasn’t hurting them enough. Some of them were getting away with murder. Glory, believing the publicity, cost us. Rolex watches, garages full of cars, f****** mansions, set up for life. forgot about the game, lost the hunger that got you the Rolex, the cars, the mansion.”
Roy on slipping standards in United’s dressing room, 2002.
“I wouldn’t say we were disliked each other but we weren’t best buddies either. And we had a fight. It felt like ten minutes, there was a lot of noise, Peter’s a big lad. Nicky Butt refereed the fight, Peter had grabbed me, I’d head-butted him. We’d been fighting for ages. He started it. He said it himself, he held his hand up, he said he started it. I think he had two pints and got a bit brave.”
Keane on his row with Peter Schmeichel.
“There was nothing to celebrate. We’d achieved little. The whole thing was a fraud.”
Unhappy with the Ireland team’s homecoming from USA 94.
“Every week you, Senegal this, Senegal that, why don’t you f**kin’ play for them then?!”
Keane and one of his many clashes with Patrick Vieira.
“I dreaded the prospect of international weeks. I was proud to be Irish, ashamed at the way we went about preparing for games. I knew we were giving other footballing nations a head start, we were cheating the Irish fans.”
“What’s up with me? We’re playing f****** Holland tomorrow in a World Cup qualifier. Do you think Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is eating f****** cheese sandwiches or a takeaway f****** pizza tonight.”
Keane’s clash with Mick McCarthy before a World Cup clash with the Dutch, 2000.
“In this group we needed every point we could get, we’d just dropped two. Everybody was celebrating. McCarthy was on the pitch, pleased as punch. He moved in my direction, I walked past him. We’d failed Mick’s challenge, cheese sandwiches.”
Keane on that 2-2 draw in Holland.
“It’s not being a prima donna. There are things you can’t accept. That kind of pitch, no training kit, no balls, a 20-hour flight and there’s no skips. They should have been here two weeks ago. We’re getting advised that we have to drink this stuff – it’s not here yet.”
Keane’s rage in Saipan.
“When I was younger I was up and down like a rollercoaster. I was up, out and in headlines, injured and winning trophies. High up, low down, I’m trying to get things down, accepting things but there’s only so much you can accept. This will be my last trip, I can’t go banging my head against a brick wall.”
More of Keane’s anger in Saipan.
“You’re a f****** w*****. I didn’t rate you as a player, I don’t rate you as a manager, and I don’t rate you as a person. You’re a f****** w***** and you can stick your World Cup up your arse. I’ve got no respect for you.”
Keane’s version, from his autobiography, of his clash with McCarthy in Saipan
“Nobody would play for me but we’d have great facilities.”
Keane’s future vision of himself as Ireland player/manager, 2002.
“I think players have agendas, certain players come over all the time no matter what. Maybe they want to get 50 or 100 caps and a pat on the back for it. Shay is one of those ones. He wants to get 200 caps.”
A 2007 jibe at Shay Given for his habit of playing in Ireland friendlies.
ROY THE MANAGER
“I got Robbie’s mobile number and rang him. It went to his voicemail: ‘Hi, it’s Robbie – whazzup!’ Like the Budweiser ad. I never called him back. I thought: ‘I can’t be f****** signing that’.”
Why Keane backed off from signing Robbie Savage for Sunderland.
“I’m ashamed today. Sunderland losing 3-0 at home to Wigan is very hard to take. The fans have been fantastic to me, they’re intelligent and for them to say this was a disgrace, well they’re spot on.”
After Sunderland’s 3-0 loss to Wigan, January 2008.
“If a player didn’t want to play for me, I know what I’d do – I’d drive him myself to wherever he wants to go.”
On Dimitar Berbatov’s strop while at Spurs, August 2008.
“I feel anger, frustration, disappointment – I could think of a few harsher words but you couldn’t print them. It was one of the longest nights I’ve ever had in my football career. I’ve done my cruciate, been sent off, lost titles, lost cups, but this is up there with them. I couldn’t wait to see the back of it.”
Keane’s lack of love for Sunderland’s League Cup win over Northampton Town, September 2008.
“The last song before the players went on to the pitch was ‘Dancing Queen’ by Abba. What really worried me was that none of the players – not one – said: ‘Get that s**t off.’ They were going out to play a match, men versus men, testosterone levels were high. You’ve got to hit people at pace. F*****g’ ‘Dancing Queen.’ It worried me. I didn’t have as many leaders as I thought.”
Roy at Sunderland.
“He’s a young man who can go as far as he wants. He could be a top, top player or he could be playing non-league in four or five years’ time. He’ll go one way or the other, I’m sure. He’s a young man, simple as that. I was his age and everyone makes mistakes. The obvious pitfall is The Glass Spider in Sunderland.”
Keane’s 2007 warning to Anthony Stokes to avoid the infamous Sunderland nightspot.
“You have got to be on time for training. If a player is late once or twice, well and good; if he is late three or four times, maybe well and good. But when it goes beyond five, six, seven times, then you have got to draw the line. In any walk of life, you have got to be on time. We had an incident last year when players were late for the bus, and you move on. We cannot wait for anybody at the club.”
Keane on why he transfer-listed Liam Miller at Sunderland, in 2008.
“On a night we got beaten in the cup by Luton, the staff came in and said, ‘Clive Clarke has had a heart attack at Leicester’.”I said, ‘Is he OK? I’m shocked they found one [heart], you could never tell by the way he plays’. We’d been beaten 3-0 by Luton, a shocking result, but at the press conference after the game I said that football didn’t really matter and I mentioned that Clive had had a heart attack. And I had the evil thought, I’m glad he had it tonight because it would deflect from our woeful performance. That was the world I was in.”
Keane’s nasty put-down of Sunderland’s Ireland international Clive Clarke after he suffered cardiac arrest at half time in a game while on loan to Leicester.
“Damien Delaney came in and did OK. I was hard on him, probably because I knew him and he was from Cork. I went over the top. I was the same with another lad, Colin Healy. He was from Cork, too, and I told him he was moving his feet like a League of Ireland player. It was wrong. Colin was new at the club; I should have been bending over backwards for him. I made the point about Ellis Short talking to me like I was something on the bottom of his shoe. I think I spoke like that to some people at Ipswich.”
Keane’s regret at Ipswich.
“John Delaney? I wouldn’t take any notice of that man. People seem to forget what was going on at that World Cup. I was one of the players and he didn’t even have the courtesy to ring me. I’ve been involved with Ireland since I was 15 years of age and that man didn’t even have the decency to make a phone call.”
Keane on John Delaney, 2009.
“I’ve been amazed at the commotion that has been going on for the last few days. We’re going on about Henry’s handball and, yes, of course he handled it, but I’d be focused on why didn’t they clear it? I’d be more annoyed with my defenders and my goalkeeper than Thierry Henry. How can you leave a ball bounce in the six-yard box? How can you let Thierry Henry get goalside of you. If the ball bounces into the six-yard box I’d be saying, where the hell is my goalkeeper?”
Keane’s lack of sympathy over the Thierry Henry handball, 2009.
“In the second half we had opportunities to score and we didn’t take it. But usual Irish, FAI reaction. We’ve been robbed. The honesty of the game. There was one of the group matches, I’m sure it was Georgia (in February) where Ireland got a penalty and it was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen from one of their defenders. I think Robbie [Keane] scored a penalty and Ireland went on to win it. I don’t remember the FAI after the game saying we should give him a replay.”
Keane again on the Henry incident.
“I would sleep outside his [Stephen Ireland’s] house if I was Trapattoni. I don’t know Stephen Ireland, you have to respect his decision. But I would sleep outside his house to try and get him back, he would make a big difference. Brian Clough once slept on Archie Gemmill’s couch to get him to sign, I wouldn’t sleep on Stephen Ireland’s couch but I would sleep outside his house. If he doesn’t want to come back, we have to respect that, we might not like it but we have to respect it.”
On Stephen Ireland’s international exile, 2009.
“I was humming and hawing about the Sunderland job but enjoyed it, I was dying to get my teeth stuck into the Ipswich job and it didn’t work out, I just didn’t do a good job there, I didn’t manager well in my time at Ipswich – I am very self-critical. One or two players were sold behind my back but we should have won more matches, I should have bought better.”
From 2012, on his time at Ipswich.
KEANE AND IRELAND WITH MARTIN O’NEILL
“He could be a raving lunatic when he’s at home in the evenings, I hope he is. I hope he’s a head case and we’re all proved wrong when he’s locked up in six months and we’re all saying ‘Jesus, I never saw that coming’. But I don’t think so. He’ll probably have a nice steady life. Probably become a coach or a pundit.”
Keane on John O’Shea, 2018.
“We have had a problem with [then-Everton manager Roberto] Martínez. Every time, we felt, the Everton players were turning up they were always carrying knocks. I always felt the Everton players were going to turn up on crutches or crawling in the hotel door. Everton as a football club – I’m not sure when was the last time they won a trophy, I think it was a good number of years ago. Maybe their players need to toughen up a little bit.”
Keane’s frustration with Everton’s sick bay while he was Ireland assistant manager.
“It’s one of my biggest weaknesses, dealing with the disappointment and the self-loathing that comes with it. I didn’t get over that quickly enough. I couldn’t.”
Keane on getting over bad results.
ROY THE PUNDIT
“That’s in Tottenham’s DNA, they will constantly disappoint you.”
Keane’s lack of fondness for Spurs. Again.
“If Liverpool were playing out in my back garden, I wouldn’t watch them. They’re just drifting. Drifting nowhere.”
Keane on Liverpool, 2017.
“I am sick to death of this goalkeeper. I would be fighting them at half time I would be swinging punches at that guy, this is a standard save for an established international goalkeeper — I am flabbergasted.”
Roy on David de Gea, 2020.
“A lot of the modern players now that I worked with recently, and I am on about when I worked at Aston Villa for a while, with the Irish senior team, Nottingham Forest, there are a lot of players out there who are impostors. Impostors to the game, of being a professional footballer. They talk about being professional but they are the opposite. You talk about good or bad players, I am on about them as people, as human beings, you are almost pandering to them, we’re getting to the stage where we’ll start praising players for putting their boots on, that’s the stage we are getting to.”
Keane’s rage in 2020.