It’s only a game - It’s not often I agree with Keane

Roy Keane
Roy Keane

Roy Keane a.k.a Mr. Rent A Quote is at again. If there was a World Cup to see who was the most antagonistic person on planet earth he surely be in with a shout of winning. But this time Keane’s 100 per cent right.

Since stepping down as manager of Ipswich Town Roy Keane has withdrawn into obscurity but this weekend he chose to stir everything up by criticising modern footballers and claiming, on the eve of the Manchester derby, that current City player Carlos Tevez has let down both sets of supporters.

“Carlos Tevez has disappointed both sets of supporters but that’s just the way the game is going now. Players are changing, they are having a fit when they get brought off or not brought on and a lot of them are going soft,” said Keane

“There’s a skill in tackling and nailing people. Yellow cards are fine, you need to worry about the red ones. You can still leave your mark on a player but when I see United games now, even against Arsenal, everyone’s being nice to one another. Everyone’s gone a bit soft.

“I don’t think it will be a cagey affair.

“United will be hurting from the semi-final and they will want to keep City in their place. If City won on Sunday that would shock everyone and that’s why they need to be kept in their place.

“I think given the progress City have made, if I was still playing for United, City would be the game I would want to win more than anything else. They’re serious challengers for the league.”

Keane’s claim that footballers have gone soft has credence. The sport has become so sanitised and void of physicality that it’s no wonder that discerning football fans such as myself do not pay any heed to the Champions League games during the week.

It’s not fanciful to say that modern day football’s best days are in the past. Many players are more concerned with how much money they’ll be taking home each week or what car they’ll drive to training on Thursday than they are with scoring goals and winning matches.

The current Derry City football club’s blend of players are direct contrast with say the Manchester City and Chelsea teams of this world.

In terms of skill and ability, I think most would agree that there are considerable differences but when it comes to integrity, passion and outright decency teams such as Derry City are streets ahead of some of the world’s leading football clubs.

Roy Keane advocates a very simplistic approach to football and that is to avoid the time wasters and superficial nonsense and just get on with the job at hand. This is something that has been happening at the Brandywell for almost the last two years.

The Derry City players get paid 40 weeks of the year and their salaries are microscopic in size when compared to the likes of Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez. I know that salaries are relative to the league or the country a footballer plays in but when it comes to reliably greedy and selfish players like Rooney and Tevez all bets are off.

Only 12 months ago Derry City were the First Division. All of the players who had been with the club before it went into financial meltdown had to take a pay cut. The players weathered what was a considerable war of attrition and propelled themselves right back to the top echelons of Irish football by winning the First Division trophy.

It’s something that I have written about in this column before but I feel compelled to re-address the issue when players like Tevez and Rooney threaten to ruin the game for the rest of us.

Could you imagine if one of the Derry City players carried on like Tevez by allegedly refusing to come on as substitute? One thing’s for sure, he’d be booted out of the Brandywell quicker than you can say Lone Moor Road!

Keane’s comments may trigger off a moment of catharsis for some football fans. It certainly makes you think that following a team like Derry City is certainly more rewarding than following a team like Manchester United or Chelsea. There’s a greater sense of reality and togetherness.

A few weeks ago I was reporting on Derry City’s game against Dundalk FC at Oriel Park. Daniel Lafferty was awarded man of the match and after the game he came back out on to the pitch with some of the other players to warm down.

Several Derry City fans remained behind and as Lafferty emerged from the tunnel they called to him. Lafferty instantly obliged and jogged towards the fans. The fans congratulated him for his good performance and they talked for a while.

I thought to myself, this is how football should be. Let’s get rid of this instinctive desire to put footballers up on pedestals because that’s how they end up out of touch or, as Roy Keane says, ‘being nice to one another’.

Football fans want the games they are watching to abound in physicality and excitement. They want the players to behave like reasonable members of the human race but most of all the fans want to feel like they belong to the club, because if they don’t then the beautiful game is doomed to dissolve into a dark nasty pit of commercialism.