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22nd Jun 2018

Roy Keane shares new details on Saipan: “I actually left people off lightly”

Paul Moore

“If you make them accusations against me. You’re going to get fireworks.”

Despite the fact that it occurred 16 years ago, the issue of Saipan was still the main focus of discussion this evening as Roy Keane and Martin O’Neill chatted with Mark Pougatch on the ITV World Cup podcast.

When asked by the host “Do you regret looking back on it, they way it all happened, and not getting the opportunity to play in another World Cup?” here’s what Keane said.

“I don’t have any regrets. I’m disappointed in how it happened and how it panned out, but there are two sides to every story. There was a lot of talk when we got over there about the facilities, no bibs, no balls, no cones. That really irritated me because if that happened to Germany, England or Brazil, there would heave been uproar. For some reason because it’s Ireland, it’s a laugh and joke.”

Keane adds: “I had enough years of that type of behaviour and I wanted to give us the best chance of winning. Into the week, just before we’re leaving Saipan, we had a bit of a team meeting and I was confronted by the manager and I’d do it again tomorrow. I’ve always said that I’ve never lost a wink of sleep about how I reacted to the accusations that were made against me but I’d have loved to play in a World Cup. Of course I would. That’s what the game is all about. It wasn’t to be but I don’t look back and regret my actions.”

The former Manchester United and Celtic midfielder reiterated that the main crux of the reason why he left Saipan had nothing to do with the training facilities and his perceived lack of preparation – in fact, all the proper training equipment had arrived a few days before the infamous team meeting – but his main grievance was with the accusations that McCarthy levelled in his direction.

“It wasn’t all to do with the balls, bibs and cones because that was all taken care of a few days before they (Ireland) left their training camp. What really made me angry is when you get accused of something by your manager – in front of a group of players – well then, you’re going to react…and I reacted. As a senior player and the captain, I just felt that these were lies.”

Regarding the specific accusations, Keane said: “I was accused of faking an injury and not being available for a match – when I was actually injured. What Mick was saying wasn’t true so if you make them accusations against me, guess what’s going to happen?! You’re going to get fireworks.”

When asked by Pougatch if any bridges could have been built to get Keane back into the Irish camp ahead of their World Cup opener against Cameroon, Keane said that he might have returned if an apology was issued.

“If there was an apology, possibly. Yeah. Here, if you spoke to Mick or the other staff then they might have a different side to it but that’s what happened. The team left the hotel the next morning and the damage had been done. If there was an apology that came my way – maybe (I’d return). If someone said it was a mishap – then yeah, I think things could have been different.”

After the midfield icon landed back in Ireland, he said that any chance of a reconciliation was over.

“Once I landed back in Ireland, the damage was done. Yet strangely enough, nobody ever made these accusations against me when I was playing well and when we were winning matches. I found the timing very strange, particularly in front of the staff and the group of players. Trust me, it wasn’t about the bibs and the balls and all that – because that was already taken care of. But to be accused of missing matches in front of a group of players, actually, believe me, I actually left people off lightly! There could have been a lot more trouble.”

Aside from expressing his disappointment at how the situation developed, Keane also said that that he regretted putting his parents through the whole ordeal.

“For my family, mostly for my parents, it was a stressful time. No shadow of a doubt. I didn’t bring it on myself, this stuff was thrown at me and I could deal with it but they suffered for it. I was thinking ‘I know what happened and I can deal with it’ but at no stage did they (his parents) ever put pressure on me. They knew me and trusted me.”

Aside from this take on Saipan, Keane also has a few cracking anecdotes about his time at USA ’94. Take a listen here.