Category: Archive

A new chapter

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

We made the point at the time that those people investing their emotional stock at the Stadium of Light on the back of Keane’s involvement were very obviously misguided for a pair of simple reasons. If he was a success there, he’d be gone on to somewhere better within a couple of years. If he wasn’t a success, he’d be gone anyway. Lo and behold, those shirts can only be used for washing the car these days and the weekend tourists who once waxed lyrical about the Mackems are now online checking the proximity of Portman Road to Stansted Airport
It is a measure of Keane’s standing in the football world that with one stroke of his pen he could make a forgotten club instantly relevant again. Those of us closing in on 40 will have fond memories of Ipswich trying in vain to compete with the then peerless Liverpool back in the early 1980s. Names like Alan Brazil, Eric Gates, Arnold Muhren and John Wark still resonate from that era when shorts were indecently short and hair was long and permed. That the team of Bobby Robson is ancient history to most people though sums up how far down the food chain this outfit had fallen.
Their diminished stature makes Ipswich the perfect place for Keane to launch the second act of his managerial career. There isn’t the ludicrous pressure of an environment like moneyed Manchester City. There’s a few bob to spend and one simple, immediate and very realizable goal in promotion. Unlike say the near impossible task of qualifying for the Champions’ League if your club is not in the Big Four, getting out of the Championship is achievable. He knows that much from his stint with Sunderland. The challenge this time will be managing it on a tighter budget.
Keane need look no farther than his old nemesis Mick McCarthy to see that it’s possible to get promoted without spending as lavishly as before. To his credit, McCarthy has brought Wolves and Sunderland into the top flight without paying ludicrous wages or exorbitant transfer fees. He’s plucked players from the lower English leagues and the League of Ireland and been incredibly smart in the nature of his loan signings too. The Corkman also did very well with loan players at Sunderland but, despite claims to the contrary in some papers, he also overspent on average players, bought far too many for each position, and failed to take character into account when evaluating talent. Worse again, Keane then railed against some of the footballers he bought because they were earning too much. After he signed them in the first place.
The success of his time in Suffolk will depend on how much he’s learned from these mistakes. Throughout his reign at Sunderland, there was a sense he would have benefited greatly from the counsel of a wiser, older man on his management team, preferably somebody with a larger network of contacts too within the game. If nothing else, Keane’s transfer dealings tended to look like the panicky work of a man without a proper scouting network. Unlike McCarthy, for example, he never picked up anybody cheap and unknown and watched them subsequently blossom.
A surer touch in the marketplace isn’t the only requirement for Keane to do well in his new role. There’s also the quarrelsome matter of his man-management. There have been enough leaks and revelations and rumors from Sunderland these past few months to suggest he suffered from a problem that often afflicts great players. He couldn’t handle less gifted footballers who cared less about their job than he did. This is a problem. A big one. He must learn the virtues of the carrot as well as the stick and he needs to acknowledge the sport has been fundamentally changed in the past two decades.
When Keane arrived at Nottingham Forest, it was deemed acceptable for Brian Clough to give him a clatter in the head to keep him in line and over his three years at the City Ground, his wages were index-linked to the quality of his performances on the field. The better he played the more he earned. That world is gone. Like the Ipswich team of Bobby Robson, it’s consigned to the history books. Now, teenagers are on

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese