Eye On The Experts: Roy Keane

He's there to be different, to emanate malevolence and weary disdain. He's a counter-weight to the cheery vanilla and we admire him all the more for it. Oh and we're scared.

Last Updated: 06/02/14 at 09:52 Post Comment

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John Nicholson and Alan Tyers look at some of football's pundits and commentators and try to pin down what makes them good, what makes them bad, and what makes them ugly. This week it's football's angriest man, Roy Keane.


Style
Usually favours the severe haircut of a retired sergeant major, a neat undemonstrative dark suit, a white shirt and an inoffensive tie. Can veer off towards Brendan Behan 'bearded poet' territory with wild, staring eyes like a vicious honey badger in a hencoop.

He moves very little in his seat, preferring to flick his dark eyes front and sideways at the pitiful fools who enter his field of vision.

In appearance at least, could quite easily be leader of a private, secret army.


Special Interest
Staring. Focusing. Looking badass. Withering insights into players who Roy adjudges to lack bottle/heart/guts.


Strengths and Weaknesses
By far and away Roy's biggest strength is his fearlessness in criticising anybody and anything. He doesn't suffer fools gladly, a fool in this case being defined as anybody who does not share Roy's view on something. Anything. Other strong suits: scowling, starting sentences with 'listen', burning holes in the carpet with his glare. His Ferguson-related comments are always worth hearing.

As for weaknesses, it's fair to say that Roy is uncomfortable with levity. When he laughs or smiles, it can be genuinely upsetting. His proven failure to man-manage players suggests he is not really in tune with what makes some players tick which, given that he is often the most recently retired pundit on a panel, denies the viewer an insight they could reasonably expect.


Tactical genius or tactics truck?
We're not sure that Roy is massively tactically astute or it just may be that his ITV gig doesn't give him the room to be so. More at home when it comes to dishing out critiques for general lack of manliness, cojones or unwillingness to physically assault a player.


Leg squeezer geezer?
If you tried to squeeze any part of Roy, it would be the last thing you'd ever do.

It might suggest affection or emotion, both things are to be despised in the Keane mind as weak and a distraction from the business of hard staring, walking dogs, starting sentences with 'listen' and crushing midfield opponents through sheer force of will.


Bantersaurus Rex?
Roy won't be bantering with you. He doesn't banter. He doesn't want to banter. He might tear your face off and eat it if you try to banter and that is why we all secretly love him. He won't be co-opted into childish games or weak thinking. If the Bantersaurus is typically an alpha male type, Roy is, like Nigel Tufnel's amplifier, one more.

Some ex-pros try to prolong the matey banter of the changing room well into their 40s, 50s and beyond. You sense with Roy that he cares little for this camaraderie and is not nostalgic for it. More than most ex-sportsman, we worry that life for Roy feels terribly empty without the binary, iron-willed world of winning and losing. Putting the fear of God up Adrian Chiles once a fortnight must feel like thin gruel in comparison to the glory days.


Cliché counter
While he would hate to be lumped in with those TV football men who deploy well-worn phrases as though they are original thought, Roy is not immune from an 'at this level' or a 'he should be doing better' or 'a soft one'. In fact, if you take the small amount of minutes Roy is on screen and talking, he doesn't always say that much of interest about the football. (Don't hit us, Roy, we have had plastic surgery and been relocated to Guatemala by F365's witness protection scheme).


Why does he get gigs?
Let's largely disregard his football contribution, because ITV have so little time to do anything like that. Roy is there, it seems to us, for his presence alone. He's there to be different, to emanate malevolence and weary disdain. He's a counter-weight to the cheery vanilla of some broadcasters. The feeling that he may lash out and give someone a proper savaging is ever-present. In a broadcasting world that is all too happy to be safe and predictable, this is a fantastic asset.

And he also gets gigs because no-one would ever dare sack him or tell him he's not needed. Would you?

John Nicholson and Alan Tyers

See extracts from Alan's new book 'Tutenkhamen's Tracksuit: The History of Sport in 100ish Objects' here.

Check out John's new series of crime novels about a football fan, set in Middlesbrough, are here.

You can also follow Alan and Johnny on Twitter.

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