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11th Oct 2017

A great half-time story about Roy Keane and Premier League full-backs shows you his love for football

"He said, 'it just offends me, it offends everything I believe in'"


“They’re f****** disgraces, he should take them off.”

Few sportspeople continue to garner attention and interest 11-years after they retired, but Roy Keane wasn’t an average sportsperson. The most high-profile assistant manager in world football was the defining player of his generation, the driving force behind Manchester United’s most successful period and a polarising figure who divided a country and made news around the globe when he walked, or was sent home from, the 2002 World Cup.

Keane’s intensity and unwillingness to accept standards beneath the ones he set for himself fuelled Sir Alex Ferguson’s team, but also hastened his departure from Old Trafford in 2005. The qualities that helped him rise to the pinnacle of English and European football, that brought an average team to the World Cup ahead of nations with greater talent, resources and pedigree in the sport, would in-turn lead to his downfall and brutal exit from the top level of football.

Keane’s complexities and aversion to bullshit continues to make him a compelling character, and the interest in him extends beyond the sporting world. Alastair Campbell, the former Director of Communications for Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, is one such person who finds the Irishman fascinating.

The lifelong Burnley supporter has crossed paths with Keane on a couple of occasions over the last 15 years, and was in the running to ghostwrite his autobiography.

Campbell also had a recent encounter with Keane that shows the former United captain continues to be offended by mediocrity.

“He’s an amazing guy,” Campbell said on Unfiltered with James O’Brien, a new podcast from JOE.

“He lives not far from Burnley, and he came to a game last season. I had a cup of tea with him at half-time. It wasn’t that great of a game, I think we were winning one-nil. And Roy Keane starts talking about the full-backs on the other team with a passion and a vehemence that is just beyond belief. ‘They’re f****** disgraces, they shouldn’t be… he should take them off! Take them off!’ So, I said, ‘why do you care?’ He said, ‘it just offends me, it offends everything I believe in’.”

Campbell also said that he can relate to Keane, as he believes that they share a similar compulsive personality trait. He also reveals that he wrote to the former Ireland midfielder when he left United back in 2005, and when he came home before the 2002 World Cup.

“I wrote to him when he… funny enough his agent sounded me out about ghosting his biography. I wrote to him after he got the boot from Fergie and I only had that story from Alex Ferguson’s side… but I just, I don’t know why… I felt an empathy, I wrote to him twice actually, I wrote to him when he quit the World Cup and I wrote to him when he left United and it was basically just to say, ‘(you can) tell me to get lost, and that it’s none of my business but I think I know some of the (your) traits’.”

“To give him a few thoughts on the pitfalls for obsessive, addictive personalities leaving an all-consuming job for an uncertain future,” O’Brien said.

“That’s exactly what it was,” Campbell said, before explaining how he fell into a deep depression after leaving his role in Downing Street.

He also says that how, like Keane, his “demons” have held him back but have also been the driving force behind his achievements.