Roy Keane

Roy Keane’s Controversy

Keane vs. Alf-Inge Haaland

Never has a professional footballer been involved in so much controversy throughout their entire career. Roy Keane never ceased to amaze his fans with his frequent encounters with referees and opposing players, usually with disastrous results. In fact, Keane has been shown a red card 13 times during his career in English football, 12 times with Manchester United and once with Nottingham Forest,[1] which puts him tied for first in the record books for career red cards. One of his most famous sending offs was for his tackle on Alf-Inge Haaland in the spring of the 2000-2001 Premier League season. Keane had actually attempted to hurt Haaland several seasons before, but in that the situation Keane inadvertently ruptured his cruciate ligament. Keane then missed the rest of the season and endured a long rehabilitation process. Not only was Keane hurt physically but also it was thought that his ego was hurt as well because he was shown a yellow card for the attempted tackle. That is only the introduction to this incident; Keane blamed Haaland for his injury and several years later when Haaland played for Manchester City, Keane got what he felt was his justified revenge. You can watch the whole incident in the video below. The actual video is the only way to understand how malicious and reckless the challenge actually was. Obviously Keane was quickly issued a straight red and given his marching orders. This incident surfaced again though when Keane released his autobiography titled Keane: The Autobiography in August 2002. Keane commented on the incident with Haaland and brought more controversy when he said, “I’d waited long enough. I f***ing hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that, you c***. And don’t ever stand over me again sneering about fake injuries. And tell your pal [David] Weatherall there’s some for him as well. I didn’t wait for Mr Elleray [the referee] to show the card. I turned and walked to the dressing room.”[2] This incident was one of many in Keane’s career.

Roy Keane Ends Håland's Career In Manchester Derby

Keane vs. Alan Shearer

A similar incident with an opposing player was when Keane got into it with Newcastle United captain Alan Shearer. Manchester United were on their way to a 4-3 loss to Newcastle at St. James Park and Keane once again lost his cool. Shearer wouldn’t allow Keane to take a throw in by standing in front of him, so Keane decide to throw the ball at him. As the two exchanged words Keane threw a punch with the referee was right next to him. The video shows the latter stages of the incident. Again, Keane left the match earlier. Keane was never a player to hide from the referee, and if he was enraged and angry he would act right in front of the referee as seen by the video. Opposing players were not the only ones that set Keane off, more often than not Keane lost his self-control at referees. John Aizlewood describes the usual reaction Keane had when several calls did not go his way, “Eyes ablaze, veins bulging from the side of his head, mouth contorted into a contemptuous snarl: this was once the standard reaction to a refereeing decision that did not find favour with the combustible Keane.”[3] This reaction usually garnered a card if not one of the thirteen red cards he received during his career.

Shearer vs Keane

Keane vs. Patrick Viera

These were not Keane’s only incidents with opposing players. Another notable occasion didn’t actually take place on the pitch but in the tunnel leading to the field at Arsenal’s former ground, Highbury. Before a crucial Premier League game Arsenal captain Patrick Viera decide he was going to taunt and torment Manchester United right back Gary Neville. Aizlewood describes the events that followed, ‘As you might expect, this all proved too much for our brave hero Roy. Eyes blazing, he took it upon himself to fight Neville’s battle for him. “Vieira is 6ft 4in and was having a go at Gary,” explained Keane. “So I said, ‘Have a go at me’. If he wants to intimidate our players and thinks that Gary is an easy target, I’m not having it.” As a fearful Vieira blinked, referee Graham Poll quickly moved in to save the day. Before a ball had been kicked, Keane had won the game.’[4] The video below shows the incident.  Though it is difficult to make out everything, the video does contain some adult language.  Manchester United went on to win the game 4-2. The link below shows the highlights from the math. Take note of the emotion and the tough challenges that Keane’s incident in the tunnel set the tone for. Keane had that effect on games, he wasn’t the player to score game winning goals but over the course of ninety minutes he could win games with his hard tackling to win possession and running off the ball. These qualities are what made him such a successful footballer and vital to his team’s success. If he weren’t so vital his frequent public incidents would have surely ended his career prematurely.

Arsenal 2-4 Manchester United

Keane vs. His Manager

The incident that gained Keane the most media attention, in Ireland at least, happened during the lead up to the 2002 World Cup in South Korea. Keane had been instrumental in captaining the Republic of Ireland to the finals and was set on helping the national team make a serious run at winning it all. Unfortunately though the manager Mick McCarthy and the Football Association of Ireland did not equal Keane’s focus and commitment to achieve the goal. Keane and McCarthy had a war or words over the preparation that ended with Keane being dismissed from the Irish Camp on May 23. A BBC Sports article ran that day highlighting the incident saying, “Republic of Ireland captain Roy Keane has been sent home from Japan after falling out with manager Mick McCarthy. Keane’s blistering attack on the team’s training facilities and programme in the build-up to the tournament sparked the row. And the stand-off finally exploded during a stormy meeting between Keane, McCarthy and other players.”[5] Keane was reportedly unhappy about the lack of proper pregame foods (pasta), electrolyte replenishment fluids, travel arrangements, and training facilities. Keane spoke up and voiced his concerns creating a very public incident weeks before the World Cup that he had worked so hard to reach. He blamed Mick McCarthy and The Football Association of Ireland for the poor preparations, this outburst eventually led to Keane’s dismissal from the team. Keane’s resentment for the FAI resurfaced in November 2009 after Keane made harsh comments criticizing the FAI’s reaction to their lose to France in the final World Cup playoff game. The FAI asked FIFA for a replay of the match after it was clearly seen on video replay that French forward Thierry Henry used his hand to collect the ball to set up the winning goal. Keane asked the following questions, “How can you let the ball bounce in your six-yard box? How can you let Thierry Henry get goal-side of you? If the ball goes into the six-yard box where the hell is my goalkeeper.”[8] You can watch the whole interview below. Keane created more controversy even when he was not playing for or coaching the team. It must be remembered Keane is a citizen of the Republic of Ireland and is a fan of the national team, but yet Keane still has a personal problem with the FAI and even brings up the 2002 incident in which Keane was sent home adding to the controversy. Just as Keane ended his international career in controversy, he ended his Manchester United career in similar fashion. As Keane recovered from surgery on holiday, he watched his Manchester United teammates play uninspired football. So, when Keane returned to Manchester he unleashed a scathing attack on MUTV that was never aired. He directed criticism at the team and individual players for their lack of commitment to the team. Once Sir Alex got wind of the tape he showed it to the entire team. Once the tape concluded Ferguson, furious, confronts Keane in front of the team but Keane simply counters by accusing Ferguson of caring too much about his horse and attacks assistant coach Carlos Queiroz as “a waste of space” for leaving to coach at Madrid only to return once he was fired.[6] To say the least Keane’s days at United were numbered and he soon left on November 18 2005.[7]

Roy Keane Calls Out Irish Mentality on Hand Ball

The thing is when you step back and look at Roy Keane’s career you realize that footballers are typically not ones that want to be in the spotlight for negative actions. All of the above incidents had a negative impact on Keane and his reputation. Keane was not consciously trying to gain attention but rather that he couldn’t hold himself back most of the time. His aggression, ego, and will to win often took over his logical thinking. It is rare to see a player so committed to helping is team to victory that his own outlook becomes clouded between acceptable behavior and such behavior that jeopardizes his reputation, other players health, or his and his team’s opportunity to succeed. Keane’s career is not simply defined by these various incidents though. He was an inspired leader that set standards on and off the field that led to his team’s success. He even had some classic matches where he single handily played a major role in leading his team to victory. Darren Fletcher noticed Keane’s commitment to the little things that lead to success and had this to say, “He [Keane] was our captain, he was our leader and he left a mark: where we are now is down to him, our dedication comes from the standards he set. The rules about time-keeping, about getting in a half-hour early, they were his instructions back in the day and those traditions continue.” Fletcher made these comments four years after Keane had moved on from Old Trafford. Keane has had a lasting impact both positively and negatively on football. He always played with his heart on his sleeve and settled for nothing less than perfection but often got caught up in the moment and lost control resulting in public incidents that reflected negatively upon him.

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[2] Keane, Roy. Keane The Autobiography. New York: Penguin Global, 2004. Print.

[3] Aizlewood, John. “The top 10 Roy Keane battles | Football – Times Online.” Times Online | News and Views from The Times and Sunday Times. Times Newspaper, 6 Feb. 2005

[4] Aizlewood, John. “The top 10 Roy Keane battles | Football – Times Online.” Times Online | News and Views from The Times and Sunday Times. Times Newspaper, 6 Feb. 2005

[5] BBC SPORT | WORLD CUP | Rep of Ireland | Keane sent home.” BBC NEWS | News Front Page. British Broadcasting Company, 23 May 2002. Web. 03 Dec. 2009. <>.

[6] Hogan, John. “Roy Keane : Leaves Manchester United & Sir Alex Ferguson : MUTV : Saipan Parallels.” Soccer Ireland : Irish Football Club Directory : Teams Listed by County : Maps & Pitch Directions : Irish Soccer Information. Web. 10 Dec. 2009. <>.

[7] Hogan, John. “Roy Keane : Leaves Manchester United & Sir Alex Ferguson : MUTV : Saipan Parallels.” Soccer Ireland : Irish Football Club Directory : Teams Listed by County : Maps & Pitch Directions : Irish Soccer Information. Web. 10 Dec. 2009. <>.

[8] “BBC Sport – Football – Roy Keane has no sympathy for Republic of Ireland exit.” BBC NEWS | News Front Page. British Broadcasting Company, 20 Nov. 2009. Web. 11 Dec. 2009. <>.

One thought on “Roy Keane

  1. Footyfan

    A hard PLAYER is not someone who loses his cool big time when provoked.With Keane he crossed the line big time and certainly lost control,now dishing it out but not making violent challenges to the degree he did is fine if you can take it..Keane couldn’t take it and his reputation is tarnished for ever….not an Alan ‘Elbow’ Shearer fan but he was brilliant in his reaction in there clash…And the Haaland flick v LUFC a little unlucky…..but four years,yes FOUR years then revenge…you are a THUG!


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