Sunday World Newsletter
Sign up for the latest news and updates
Roy Keane took centre stage at the 3Arena on Thursday night
“Top Of The Slagheap. The Nabob of Gob. Big Mouth Strikes Again. He who makes Louis Walsh look like a Trappist Monk.”
Roy Keane is not stuck for a word, and last night in front of 10,000 fans at the 3Arena in Dublin was no exception. He joined fellow football icons Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville on Neville’s new series The Overlap On Tour, which will be aired on Sky later this year.
Even allowing for exaggeration, the landscape of football broadcasting would be a lot flatter were it not for these three. Keane, Neville and Carragher can actually string a sentence together and have a discernible talent other than self-promotion. (Unlike some of their colleagues in football punditry on the telly across the water.)
Keane in particular carries it off with a wit that was increasingly endearing and even warm. Though, those on the end of his recent stinging criticisms, like Manchester United’s Harry Maguire and West Ham’s Declan Rice (to say nothing of the poor, dancing Brazil team at the World Cup) might beg to differ.
Last night, however, he turned sporting memories and opinions into comic entertainment worthy of Father Ted-lite, as was evidenced over two hours from a crowd who were mad about the Roy.
Here are some of the highlights – funny, poignant, enlightening and otherwise . . .
1: Co-host for the night Kelly Cates opening the show: “Roy, how does it feel to be home?”
Keane, looking like she had just offered him a prawn sandwich, replies with the first zinger of the evening: “Home? I’m from Cork. This is Dublin.”
So far, so awkward.
2: Keane on the difference between his manager at Nottingham Forest Brian Clough and Alex Ferguson, his manager at Manchester United, who he fell out with in the end
“Oh Jesus. I was a bit younger at Forest and I thought Clough was a bit more personal. Ferguson I always felt was about business and results. Clough had more of…[deliberate long pause for comic effect] the human touch.”
3: Keane on his manager at Clough’s tactics to stop him passing it back to the goalkeeper
“He punched me.”
Jamie Carragher: “The human touch!” [Laughs]
Keane: “It worked. It was against Crystal Palace [in a FA Cup game in 1991]. The goalkeeper was really bad that night. Mark Crossley was about five stone overweight and he couldn’t get back for the ball. And Clough punched me.
"I remember being taken back by it after the game. I never went out. And I’d always go out on a Wednesday night to a place called Ritzy in Nottingham. Grab A Granny was another name for it! [Laughs] But I stayed in that night. So, I must have been in shock.”
4: Gary Neville on his ill-fated, four month tenure as manager of Valencia in 2016
“I made three mistakes.”
To which Keane quickly interrupts to say: “The first one was getting on the plane.”
5: Keane on being shown the notorious picture of him in 2000 squaring up to referee Andy D’Urso to verbally attack him, literally inches from his face
“I wasn’t that close to him. [Laughs]. He had just given a penalty against us [after Manchester United defender Jaap Stam hacked down Middlesbrough’s Juninho]. And I didn’t think it was a penalty. We chased him. But he kept running. If he had just stood still, he have been okay. He kept running - so we kept chasing him. It was like Benny Hill! [Laughs].
"I was trying to hold the other players back [Laugh.] I got a lot of trouble for it. I did see the referee a couple of weeks later and I did apologise to him ….for the other players’ behaviour! [Laughs]. But we never touched him.”
6: Ex Liverpool player Jamie Carragher being booed by Manchester United chanting their team’s name
“F*** off. We f***ed you 7-nil two weeks ago!” [referring to Liverpool’s recent hammering of Man U at Anfield.]
7: Keane on Jamie Carragher saying he got a letter from Alex Ferguson after he retired from playing for Liverpool
“I never got a letter. He didn’t write to the players who won him trophies. I’m not one for bearing grudges [Laughs]. I’ve no regrets. I’m sure he’s got a few. He knows where I am if he’d like to apologise. I’ll put my hand out – and then pull it back! [Laughs.] “
You felt like heckling Keane to remind him that Fergie did generously describe his display in the 1999 Champions League semi-final against Juventus as “the most emphatic display of selflessness I have seen on a football field. Pounding over every blade of grass, competing as 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.”
8: Keane being shown a giant picture of him seemingly being garrotted by Stuart Slater and Ian Bishop of West Ham
“It’s two against one! I remember the lad Bishop, he scratched all down my neck. I did forgive him [Laughs]. People forget how brilliant I was. Obviously, there is a perception out there that I used to go around kicking people – and I do have to remind people that they were kicking me.
"I’d like to think that I couldn’t survive, particularly at United, unless I could deal with the ball, and get around the pitch, and get the odd goal. People tend to remember me getting involved in little battles, but I can deal with it.”
9: Neville: “Roy took me for a lovely pub lunch today in the Anglers.”
Keane: “Yeah, it was a lovely lunch but Gary had to go back to the spa in the hotel for a facial. A facial,” he says shooting Neville the same look he once gave Alf-Inge Haaland. “Rock n’ roll stuff.”
Asked what was the best prank any of them saw in their playing career …before they could answer , someone in the crowd shouts in the direction of Neville: “Managing Valencia!”
Neville and the whole crowd erupt in laughter. “The Irish and the Scousers – there’s always a piss-take,” he grimaces.
10: “Do you remember [Manchester United midfielder] Nicky Butt with Peter [Manchester United goalkeeper] Schmeichel?” asks Keane.
“Nick Butt was in the dressing room in the old days before it was like protein drinks and fruit – he had a tea pot with some biscuits. Nicky had a hot spoon and burnt Peter on the …it was little Peter! [Laughs]”
Neville: “That’s why he has a red nose!”
Carragher: “I was involved in a Christmas party. I had a stripper on my shoulders. I wouldn’t class it as a prank, I f***ing loved it. [Laughs].”
11: Asked by Kelly Cates if they had to be stuck in a lift for 48 hours who they’d most like to be in there with them, Neville turns and says to Keane:“I’d think you’d like it with me”, to which Keane responds with a laugh: “That sounds a little bit dodgy, that, Gary!”
“A facial?” Neville offers, as him and Keane – and the crowd – crack up in convulsions of laughter.
Cates asked then them what actor would they choose to play Keane in a movie of the story of his life. Keane pipes up: “It would have to be someone good looking.”
Neville suggests Cillian Murphy, before telling the story of spending the day with the actor on the set of Peaky Blinders in Manchester.
“I had a fantastic day. I was in his trailer talking to him. Then at the end of the day he walked past, and I said: ‘Cillian, can I get a picture before I go?’ And he said, ‘I’d prefer not to, if you don’t mind’.”
Neville paused before adding and looking in the direction of Keane and laughing: “They can’t all be the f***ing same from Cork!”
12: Keane on what it was like going back to Cork after he signed for Nottingham Forest from Cobh Ramblers for £47,000 in 1990 – and did people treat him differently
“Yeah. They still do, not always nicely, especially Liverpool fans.”
13: Keane on Cobh Ramblers
“Without Cobh Ramblers, I’m not sure I’d have made it to England. That year in the League of Ireland was a great education for me – playing against experienced men.”
14: Keane on the advice Clough gave him before his debut for Forest
“He said to me, ‘I’ve seen you play. You can control the ball. You pass it. You can run. Just do those three things.’ That was my career in a nutshell. When I say that people will laugh at me. But not every player can do that. They can’t, honestly [Laughs.]”
15: Keane on his infamous attempt to sign Robbie Savage for Sunderland in 2007
“I was desperate at the time. He’s not here tonight, is he? At Sunderland I was thinking about a personality. I was thinking about his hair more than anything else.
"I rang him and he had a voicemail on his phone with Budweiser stuff. ['Hi, it's Robbie – whazzup! '] Do you want me to repeat it? I just thought he wouldn’t be for me.”
16: Keane on being a football pundit
“Punditry is unfulfilling. “
Asked by co-host Josh Denzel what makes a good pundit, he says: “I don’t know any good ones. I see a lot of people who do football stuff – they talk a lot but they add nothing. There’s loads out there. They’re too close to the players or they’re friends with the agents. There’s dodgy ones out there.”
17: Keane on Evan Ferguson scoring his first international goal for the Republic Ireland in the 3-2 win against Latvia in the friendly at the Aviva Stadium
“It’s great for any young player to get involved in the senior team and score his first goal. Obviously worried that people get carried away. He’s still 18 but the prospects are good. I watched the game last night. Listen, it wasn’t great. Obviously, the tough game is on Monday [against France] but it is great to see these young players come through.
"It’s nice to get excited but you’ve got to give the kid a chance to mature. It’s a great start for him. I’m absolutely delighted for him. He seems like a nice kid.”
18: Gary Neville on playing hurling in Cork yesterday
“I’ve been underestimated and ridiculed all my life.”
Keane could see why: “He called the hurley a stick. And the ball he called a baseball. I educated him that it was a sliotar.”
19: Keane asked whether he could see himself being friends with Neville if it wasn’t for football
“I’m not friends with him now! [Laughs]"
20: Keane upon being asked who was the toughest opponent he ever played against
“Zidane was brilliant but people always tend to forget how nasty he was. He won the big trophies, a goal scorer, brilliant. He was really nasty. I enjoyed my battles with Zidane. He was an amazing player.”
Before Neville can give his answer, Keane suggests, jokingly, former Aston Villa player – and radio host of Talk Sport - Gabby Agbonlahor…
Neville can’t contain his laughter. Nor can Keane.
“He slags me off every week on that radio show,” says Neville. “They tag me on Twitter and it really f***s me off, honestly. He will be asked who was the player that you’d like to play against most and he’ll go, ‘You know what? It was Gary Neville at Manchester United.’ You cheeky bastard. You didn’t win one against us in 25 years. Roy, you were a coach of him at Aston Villa [in 2014]. You liked him as well, didn’t you?”
Keane: “He was up there with Zidane. [Laughs].”