The Saipan-saga

Keane and McCarthy before the split in Saipan 2002.

Roy Keane is and has been my hero in football for a long time. He is maybe one of the most honest and straight-forward footballers that have ever excisted. I remember quite well that rant he had before the World Cup in 2002 in Japan. The Keane-incident was a public feud between him and the national-manager Mick McCarthy when the team was preparing for its matches in the World Cup. It resulted in Keane leaving the squad. The general public in Ireland was divided about who should be getting the blame for the incident.

When Roy Keane was faced with an inferior and inadequate training facility in Saipan he wasn’t pleased with those whose job it was to take responsibility for such matters. «I’ve come over here to do well and I want people around me to want to do well. If I feel we’re not all wanting the same things, there’s no point,» he told Tom Humphries in the “Irish Times”. Keane discovered, painfully, that Ireland’s setup didn’t go about organising their world in the same right way, even though they might had the aims to win the World Cup.

From the perspective of the perfectionist profile everyone needs to put one hundred percent effort into everything. The mediator profile of Mick McCarthy was most likely focussing on teambuilding through recreation and relaxation, to gather solidarity so that when the hard training began the group would be more an unit.

It’s not easy for perfectionists like Keane to relax in the work environment. A man like Keane would not see the point in spending a week relaxing with the team before the most important football championship in the world.

Duty comes before pleasure for them, «…we’ve come here to work, » he told Humphries. «This trip is the tip of the iceberg. From the training facilities to all sorts.»  «I’m not asking too much – for everyone to want what’s best …it plays on me when something can be done about it… There’s things you can’t accept. That kind of pitch. No training kit. No balls.»

Keane then gave an interview before the World Cup on how bad things where in the irish setup. Manager Mick McCarthy decided to question Keane about the article. And in a team meeting he held up a copy of the article and asked «What’s this all about?» Keane then unleashed a stinging verbal tirade against McCarthy: «Mick, you’re a liar … you’re a fucking wanker. 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 fucking wanker and you can stick your World Cup up your arse. The only reason I have any dealings with you is that somehow you are the manager of my country! You can stick it up your bollocks.»

McCarthy replied that if Keane did not respect him, then he could not play for him. Keane left the room.

Niall Quinn later wrote in his autobiography that «Roy Keane’s 10-minute oration was clinical, fierce, earth-shattering to the person on the end of it and it ultimately caused a huge controversy in Irish society.

The public opinion in Ireland was running against Keane after his departure. Jack Charlton led the criticism. But there were friends about, too. Paul McGrath, himself a turbulent character, who was sympathetically handled by both Sir Alex Ferguson and Charlton, described the affair as ‘a terrible tragedy for Irish football’. He was disgusted with McCarthy. As was the irish football pundit Eamon Dunphy. The old Irish footballer Kevin Sheedy reckoned ‘it has all become too much for McCarthy to handle’. And Ray Houghton defended his old team-mate, pointing out that ‘Roy was standing up for all the lads’ – a view backed up by Tony Adams actually.

Keane also gave a few interviews where he expressed his feelings after he had gone home before the World Cup.

The irish people where all devastated by the fact that he was just walking away like he did. They could understand Keane’s reasons behind doing it, but it was really unusual to witness anything like that. The nation as a whole automatically thought negatively of the situation.  Because not only had Ireland lost their captain, the driving part of the team and midfield,  but also their motivator who helped Ireland battle on through times when they had not been playing so well.

‘We all knew we wouldn’t be as much of a force without him in the team as he was such a great midfielder in the attacking and defensive sense’ says the irish football supporter Stewe Bannon. Bannon is from Castleknock in Dublin and adored Keane from his time at the national side and Manchester United.  ‘When you come from a country with shit footballers as much as we do, you have to love a hero who is actually amazing and can have a say in a football-game like he did for ireland and United. He was easily one of our best players and losing him so early in the competition made it hard to think that we would progress any further than the group stages’.

Bannon thinks the confidence of the whole team went down at that stage. And since they didn’t have a charismatic midfielder or any other player like Keane, Ireland didn’t play to their abilities. They eventually lost on penalties against Spain. Keane made his comeback for Ireland in 2004 before retiring from playing football in 2006.

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  1. Dette vitner vel bare om en maktkamp mellom to sterke personligheter, der en måtte forlate redet uten noen som helst form for enighet. Treneren for irland hadde forsåvidt riktig i det han sa angående respekt, ingen kan spille under en trener de ikke respektere. Sett bort i fra det, så virker hele denne saken som en maktkamp og ett stort markeringsbehov fra trener sin side » ikke kom her, jeg er sjefen». Noe som forøvrig er en tendens i fotball verden, da enkelt spillere får stadig høyere posisjoner og makt….

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