Don’t the fans matter anymore?

Other side of the world

After six months of silence, I’m back to really bug you all with self-righteous opinions and the arrogant sway of someone who reckons the world revolves around them. But that’s enough about Roy Keane.

I’ve been quiet due to a relocation on the other side of the world – New Zealand. So yes, I’ve missed the most exciting Premiership season since Andy Cole missed open goal after open goal in 1995. And with all that has been going on, you just know it is time for one of those long rambling columns. Sorry, you have been warned.

With the World Cup less than a week away, I’ll have to definitely do one of my famous (and hopeless) prediction columns. But first…

Facts?

As mentioned above, you’ve probably gathered that the Roy Keane ‘thing’ is very prominent in the thoughts of this Irishman. Students, quantity surveyors, housewives, vagrants and, yes, politicians, all have an opinion about it and with the ‘facts’ being what we read in the media, it’s hard to know what to make of it.

An overview of the situation is that Roy Keane has been sacked from the Irish squad for openly criticising the Irish perperations for the World Cup, and directing a barrage of insults at coach, Mick McCarthy. Left shell-shocked by a tirade of abuse at a ‘clear the air’ meeting last week, McCarthy had ‘no choice’ but to dismiss the tempermental Keane, Ireland’s only world class player.

Hard decision

It is obvious that this was not an easy decision for McCarthy. His feud with the fiery midfielder goes back almost ten years and the two have established a less than stable ‘working relationship’ in that time. Keane asked to go home last Tuesday before being talked around by his club manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. It was thought that an innocuous training ground argument with the coaching staff was the reason for his unhappiness, but it later emerged that a build-up of tension over a period of years was the reason for his request.

It seemed that the disaster had been averted, wth Keane stating in a newspaper interview that he would stay but would retire from international football after the World Cup. When McCarthy asked him to explain his comments in the paper, Keane blew up at him, turning the air blue, and walked out of the meeting. In no time he was dismissed.

Sacrifice or sacriligious

Keane says that what he did was the biggest sacrifice in his career, but he did it for what he believed in. He is backed by the likes of former Manchester United team-mate and Corkonian, Denis Irwin, and Irish TV and newspaper pundit, Eamonn Dunphy.

The reality is that the sacrifice has been made with little regard for those that really matter in all of this – the Irish fans. Keane spent most of the last two years moaning about everything from prawn sandwiches to training kits. His attack on Manchester United fans last year now has a certain amount of irony to it. Corporate guests and fans, who were paying for his salary, were criticised for being more interested in sipping beer and eating prawn sandwiches, as Keane put it, than cheering on the team. Now Keane is more interested in the problems with training logistics than performing what is essentially national service, something he should be proud to do.

Hateful

Hateful and moody seems to be the standard guise of Ireland’s best player, and with few friends in the Irish squad, there will be few tears shed at his departure. But his talent will never be denied and Ireland without Keane is like a bicycle with no gears – predictable, unspectacular and going nowhere very slowly.

My outside hope that the Boys in Green might emulate their run of 1990 and reach the quarter-finals is now less likely than seeing Senegal overturn France in the opening game.

And finally…

What a happy man I was to see Liverpool fail to capture any titles this season. I was bemused to see their dull and rigid tactical style propel them up the league and into the last eight of the Champions League. Their lack of midfield creativity (Smicer? Murphy? Hamann? Gerrard? Biscan?) proved to be their achilles heel. Nothing against Hamann and Gerrard who are wonderful players, but as a central pairing they don’t exactly give the likes of Litmanen and Owen enough chances.

If Houllier bags a stylish midfielder and adopts an attractive style then Liverpool will be embraced as Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea and Leeds have been over the last few seasons.

Oh and the fact it was Spurs that effectively ended their title hopes was bloody wonderful.

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