Amid the inevitable furore and the tiresome lampooning that surrounded the launch of his new book, there were a few small moments in particular that revealed so much about Roy Keane.
I had contacted Orion weeks in advance of the launch of The Second Half to enquire about potential serialisation only to be told that there would be none prior to the launch of the book.
However, an apparent oversight on the part of a major supermarket chain in Britain saw to it that the book was available to the public prematurely and, consequently, so-called ‘leaks’ were published in newspapers and websites across the globe.
Within hours, profanity-laden stories from the memoir were circulated, reinforcing the view of Keane as some sort of bitter, irascible soul, tortured by the inadequacies of others and angered by their indiscretions.
Here we had old ‘Keano’ the hot-head, the former Manchester United and Ireland captain who physically clashed with his team-mates and walked out of the World Cup, the harsh critic, whose sharp-tongue and temper meant that such incidents were unavoidable as he made the transition into management with Sunderland and Ipswich Town.
But when Keane, along with his ghost-writer Roddy Doyle, met the media to ‘officially’ launch the book, he was composed.
His demeanour was cool beneath the beard as he batted away questions about the stories that had been publicised in the media over the course of the previous two days. Tellingly, he referred to the whole rigmarole that he was at the heart of as ‘a game’.
“In terms of the real me? Hopefully you never get to know that because…that’s part of the game, isn’t it?” Keane said to assembled reporters. “Your job is to find out little snippets…”
Keane’s recognition of the idea that he is simply a piece within a process, a Shakespearean player on the stage as it were, actually speaks volumes of his inner machinations and, ultimately, what constitutes the ‘real’ Roy Keane.
That is to say, while his personality may be prickly to the point where he can sometimes fall out with fellow professionals, the 43-year-old is nevertheless intelligent and has, despite the depiction of him as incontrovertibly serious, a sense of irony.
Certainly, Doyle acknowledged as much in an interview with the Guardian newspaper. “He talked about playing a role, like being an actor,” said the author.
If it wasn’t clear before now, Keane has undoubtedly grown more philosophical in his old age. Indeed, the notion of life as a ‘game’ was one which was repeated by Keane in a further one-to-one television interview with RTÉ.
“If you look over the years at the sending offs and the disagreements I’ve had with people, I suppose I’m not surprised [at the lampooning of his character]. There are a lot of lazy journalists out there looking at easy headlines. But that’s part of the game…[smiling] it’s just one big game, isn’t it?”
In another radio interview with RTÉ, Keane mused genuinely on the financial implications of retirement from football, but did so with a warmth that betrays his true self.
“Obviously when you do stop playing you do have to cut back a bit,” he said. “Maybe not like the man on the street, but from the lifestyle of when you’re a player getting literally hundreds of thousands a month, suddenly that stops and we do have to adapt to it.
“When you stop playing you do think, ‘where is the income going to come from?’ You’ve been spoiled; you’ve been getting brilliantly paid for doing something you love doing anyway and ridiculous amounts of money.
“But you do look at it and go, well hold on, hopefully there’s a little bit of time left on this planet, and I’ve got five kids – four of them are girls, and girls aren’t cheap!”
These moments, within the hysteria of the headlines and the din of the commentary, brought to mind the words of a former Rockmount representative, who said that Keane was actually one of the most charming and down to earth people he knew.
It’s not all score-settling and vitriol and it’s not surprising that Keane agreed to work with Roddy Doyle. For, while, there is undoubtedly lingering resentment, the real Roy Keane, like Doyle, sees the funny side.