Roy Keane. He became what he despised.

Published: Monday, 16 November 2020

I remember the day well. It was Old Trafford and we were all very excited because our best fixer (actually our only fixer at the time!) Geoff Shreeves had persuaded Fergie to allow us to have Roy Keane as a guest.

We’d come a long way from the first season when Fergie had banned us from any access at United, from about the October of our debut season, because we’d had the temerity to show him throwing his toys out of the pram on the touchline at QPR.

The ban actually worked in our favour. We got to know some really good guys - Denis Law, Bill Foulkes and of course Besty - who I knew anyway but not as intimately - as United stormed to their first title in 26 seasons. That summer Fergie called our senior producer, Andy Melvin, and asked if we’d take his boy - Jason - on the staff! You couldn’t make it up.

Fergie was wrong. I’ve said this before - we always operated on the basis that anything that happened in the arena was fair game. We had a rule that we would never point a camera down a tunnel - that was off limits. That was footballs ‘office’ and we had no place there.

Anyway. I digress. Roy Keane. Now we were being trusted with his captain.

As he sat down I explained that our attitude to football was always to try an accentuate the positive. I remember saying ‘if a game is shit - people know that themselves. What I need to know from you is - how can this get better?’

We didn’t have the luxury that Alan Hansen and his mates had at the BBC. Alan used to make me laugh ‘for me, I wouldn’t watch this is it was being played in my back garden - ball’s in the back of the net!’

Fine. The BBC are the only organisation in the world that know what income they’ll have year on year. We were a commercial organisation doing our best to promote our national game. That’s not to say we didn’t call it honestly - but why spend fortunes on a product and then kick the shit out of it? I know Arsene Wenger feels that about the way tv companies conduct their business these days. I don’t get it either.

Anyway. Keane looked back at me with an icy stare. I could see the devil in his eyes. The only other time I’d seen that same menacing look from a guest was when Mick Harford joined us at Luton. I remember thinking ‘don’t mess about tonight fella. Keep it straight’. We loved a laugh in that studio. It’s what made it - like any happy dressing room.

We were always very much aware that if we were going to criticise then it had to be done constructively. That we could offer both explanation and education. Andy Gray did that better than anyone else - and he’s still doing it. Teams and their managers back then were so sensitive. I can only imagine what would’ve happened If we’d ever called Gary Neville a ‘car crash’ and an ‘idiot’. And there were plenty of opportunities!

You can see where this is going can’t you? What a disgrace Roy. Cheap. Even by your standards. How would you have described your assault on Alf-Inge Haland - an incident that would’ve seen you arrested anywhere other than on the pitch?

I know why they do it these days. It’s all about ‘hits’. Young tv execs wrongly encourage it. Why do bang ordinary defenders - who had many bad games - always want to tell us why a goal shouldn’t have been scored? Why can’t they sometimes accept that not every goal can be stopped? And where would we be if it was? This is something that Andy has preached all his life. It’s probably because he was a forward and knows what it takes to score a goal - the hardest thing to do on a football pitch.

Again. I digress. We all remember Keane in 2008 hammering me - saying ‘he’d rather go to the dentist’ than be an analyst - actually, I’ll use the word I hate ‘pundit’ - because few actually ‘analyse’ anything these days.
He added that I sold ‘something that was built purely on hype’.

He also once said ‘there are ex-players and ex-referees being given air-time who I wouldn’t listen to in a pub’. Quite Roy. And you’re now one of them.

His barbed jibes might have more impact if his managerial career had been anything to get excited about. But it wasn’t. At Ipswich it was a ‘car crash’. Sunderland wasn’t much better and let’s not get into what he left behind when he  finished as Ireland’s asst. manager. I know a few of his ex-team mates were furious that he was welcomed back into the fold after he’d walked out on them in Japan. I know. I know. Mick McCarthy sent him home - but Keane wanted to go.

As for his comments about Kyle Walker - well it comes as no surprise to me that Manchester City have lodged an official complaint with Sky Sports. I don’t have to defend Walker Look at his career. A car crash? An idiot? I don’t think so.

Today’s ‘pundits’ need to be careful. In the U.K. we handed over a product that made multi millionaires of all of them. We did that on the back of supporting them as players. Of supporting the game I love. After all these years I still enjoy watching it. I’m proud of the way that we cover the product on BeINSPORTS. We must be doing something right. We’re still going and the channel is in everybody’s ‘most watched’ across 23 countries in our part of the world. That’s some going.

My advice is this. Everybody on that pitch has a bad day. You all did - some of you a lot more often than you care to remember. Mistakes happen. That’s often why goals are scored. But they’re also scored because sometimes it’s impossible to stop them. Enjoy our game. Stop trying to destroy it. Respect it.