06 December 2008

On Keane and quitting

Apologies if you've, quite understandably, had your fill of Keane analysis. What with the Modern World being such a go-getter and all, it's already ancient history. But hey - my blog, my rules...

First of all, if you haven't already read Tom Humphries' excellent contribution to the Roy Keane talk, I humbly recommend that you do.

The nature of negative views on Keane seems to depend on where they come from. In England, his detractors have him down as a raging psychopath, barely able to restrain himself from legging it after a passer-by who might have looked at him with a less than adequate degree of respect and pummelling them to death in the street. In Ireland, those who feel personally aggrieved at his exit from the national squad days before the 2002 World Cup regard him as a traitor beneath contempt.

Some have attempted to draw a connection between the goings-on in Saipan and Keane's latest departure, in a "he's got previous" way. The thinking goes that he walked out in 2002, running away from a difficult situation by publicly slating the setup, with his public admission of doubt before the Bolton game last week amounting to Keane laying the groundwork for a new retreat from the front line.

I have some problems with this. Firstly, is this view of Keane's words last Friday tainted by hindsight? As Niall Quinn says, Keane is his own harshest critic. He was an infrequent interviewee as a player, but the more demanding media life of a manager has more candidly revealed the inner Roy. I don't know: perhaps another such moment coupled with the bring-out-your-dead call that seems to inevitably follow a bad run of form these days was more than a co-incidence and really was an obvious portent, but it doesn't quite ring true, somehow. If he wanted to go, he was going to go; he didn't need to spell it out for anyone beforehand.

It doesn't help in our understanding of this issue that Saipan is usually analysed so reductively. It wasn't a case of the upright and honourable Mick McCarthy being unforgivably slighted by the wretched, selfish, unpatriotic Keane (and there are some people who are so far up their own arses that they are willing to use such nationalistic bluster to describe someone who plays for a sports team they happen to follow and who has dreadfully offended them in some way). Nor, I should remark, was it a bumbling, incompetent manager being taken to task by a righteous rebel martyr striking a blow for all that's good in football, as one party in the civil war would have it. What it came down to was two men, each with many excellent qualities but also with profound reserves of pride and stubbornness, allowing their deep set personal animosity to explode in the team's faces at the worst possible time. The bitching about whether Keane was sent home or left the squad is irrelevant. This wasn't a solo operation by either man: it was a tango of death.

Even with the recent relative openness of Keane, he's still fundamentally inscrutable. Come to think of it, most people in the public eye are. Leave aside those celebrities whose list of residence usually tends to be towards the end of the alphabet, and who feel that they simply must share every detail of whatever private devil has been prodding them with their harrowing pitchforks of minor fame. Of the rest, there are layers of their psyches which never get revealed to us - which, for a number of reasons, never should. This is especially true of Keane. He is more than the caricatured thug he is often drawn as. Why should we presume that we can read his mind? How can we really know why he did what he did, especially in the absence, thus far, of even a cursory explanation from the man? Why are those who should know better attaching the Quitter label to him like C-4?

I hope that Keane made the decision for the right reasons, whatever the right reasons are, and that he doesn't come to regret it. I'm uncomfortable with the notion of quitting being something only fit for a pejorative retort. Maybe I would say that, given that I've sired seven different children by seven different mothers, all of whom I've left after impregnating them.* But life's too damn complicated to always divvy up into sharply defined sectors of morality. Our media may beg to differ - and let's face it, all of us hanker for that simplicity, at least some of the time. But there are often too many unknown quantities for the equation to work out so neatly. This is one such occasion.

*That's a lie, by the way.


Anonymous,  6/12/08 2:46 PM  

hey lad enjoying the coverage from the last few days - better coverasge then the radio and main media anyway

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