Friday 5 December ~
With coverage of football more celebrity fixated than ever before, a personality who is guaranteed to sell papers is invaluable. Even more useful is a strong or controversial figure around whom a set of myths can be constructed and regurgitated at will. Throughout his tenure at Sunderland and especially in the light of yesterday's resignation, the media have indulged themselves in depictions of Roy Keane as maverick, psycho, “bottler”, mellowed genius or a man with deep psychological weaknesses. The truth of course is more complex.
The official line on the resignation, with Niall Quinn looking visibly upset as he explained his failure to convince his manager to stay, was that Keane felt he “reached the end of his journey”. According to the chairman: “Roy's decision sums up his desire to always do what is best for the club, despite the club's efforts to keep him.” Quinn's almost overly dignified press conference, however, can only tell part of the story. This morning other versions gradually appeared, most of which were based around Keane losing either his mind or his dressing room.
The Daily Mail, under the headline So, what now for the tortured one?, led the pack in getting deeply psychological, with a detailed picture of Keane's mental weaknesses and crisis in self-confidence. This is a far cry from when Keane was depicted as a “man who knew his own mind” when winning the Championship. Meanwhile, Eamon Dunphy, never one to shy away from courting publicity, claimed earlier in the week that the man whose official biography he wrote had “lost it”. Unfortunately for Keane he has not helped himself by proving that those critics who doubted his personal capabilities for management were correct.
It has also been reported that Keane's man-management technique had alienated several players and that the enigmatic manager who appeared in press conferences was never seen by the playing staff. This of course fits perfectly with a view of Keane, that has endured since his playing days, of a hotheaded perfectionist who could stand neither failure nor the celebrity culture around football. Both of these he experienced at Sunderland, though the latter he brought upon himself by signing the likes of El-Hadji Diouf and Pascal Chimbonda.
Media pressure is, of course, only one factor in Keane's demise. A lot was made was made of Sunderland's six defeats in seven games, yet Keane's job was safe – Sunderland’s board were begging him not to leave. But the papers have made the most, in every sense, of yesterday's resignation – special mention goes to a column written in the Times from the point of view of Keane's dog. Ed Upright