Paul Kimmage Interview With Roy Keane in Saipan
This Interview First Appeared in the Sunday Independent on Sunday 26 May 2002
“In March of 2001, a few days before his monumental performance against Cyprus, I pressed the stop button of my tape recorder after a two hour interview with Roy Keane. There was one more item on my agenda. A few months earlier I’d heard a rumour he was considering writing a book and I wanted to throw my hat in the ring. “I don’t care if the deal is already done,” I said, “I just want you to know I would kill to do it.” My hat wasn’t quite big enough but I meant every word: I’d have given just about anything to have spent six months trawling through the crevices of that fascinating head.
So you can imagine my spirits last Wednesday afternoon in Saipan when, a few hours after he had almost quit the team, I was afforded the first interview. The hour we had wasn’t quite six months, but I certainly wasn’t complaining . . . ” Paul Kimmage
The Paul Kimmage Interview With Roy Keane
Paul Kimmage: This isn’t quite the same interview we had planned earlier in the week but here goes. How are you feeling?
Roy Keane: Not bad, could be better, could be worse.
Paul Kimmage: Okay let’s start from the top. We arrive here on Saturday afternoon after a long and tiring flight and you go to your room?
Roy Keane: Yeah.
Paul Kimmage: And you’re rooming on your own?
Roy Keane: Yeah.
Paul Kimmage: What do you unpack in terms of comforts of home?
Roy Keane: One or two books. A DVD that I’ve just purchased. Photographs of the kids and of the wife.
Paul Kimmage: What books?
Roy Keane: I’d rather not say.
Paul Kimmage: Music?
Roy Keane: A bit of Bob Dylan . . . a bit of Tupac who is a rapper . . . Phil Collins . . . some Irish pub songs . . . some Irish rebel songs which I try and save before kick off.
Paul Kimmage: Really? Irish rebel songs?
Roy Keane: Yeah.
Paul Kimmage: And what would be your favourite? In a piece about the Holland game last year it was suggested that Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘I am a Rock’ might be your private anthem. (You hand him a copy of the words).
‘I’ve built walls
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship
Friendship causes pain
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain
I am a rock
I am an island’
Roy Keane: (He reads it and laughs) Maybe I am an island.
Paul Kimmage: Does it come close?
Roy Keane: Yeah.
Paul Kimmage: Two photographs from the Holland game stand out: the photo of the joy on your face when Jason McAteer scored and the photo of you shaking hands with Mick McCarthy as you walk off the pitch. The contrast has always struck me as very odd?
Roy Keane: Well, obviously . . . it’s a job done. I’m not really into hugging and kissing and the hoo haa about it. Obviously I’m delighted, don’t get me wrong but just get off the pitch and get into the dressing room. I think sometimes there is too much carry on on the pitch regarding results. We should expect these results. For other people it might have been a shock but I always felt we would get a result. And my emotions are different I suppose. I react differently.
Paul Kimmage: A lot of people interpreted the photo with Mick as proof that you don’t get on?
Roy Keane: Emm.
Paul Kimmage: They say the camera never lies?
Roy Keane: Because you don’t get on with a person doesn’t mean you dislike them. Of all the people I’ve been around in football, there are none I would regard as a personal friend. Maybe the closest would be Alex Ferguson. So with Mick . . . I don’t expect to be pals with Mick. I don’t want to be pals with Mick. I played with Mick, I wasn’t pals when I played with him and I certainly don’t want to be pals when I’m playing for him. I mentioned Alex Ferguson because he’s someone I feel close to but we’re not pally-pally. I wouldn’t send him a Christmas card.
Paul Kimmage: Does that mean you dislike Mick?
Roy Keane: No, I don’t dislike him.
Paul Kimmage: What about your team-mates? Who are you closest to here?
Roy Keane: None of them, but that’s been the case for many a year which, I suppose . . . it’s not a problem over two or three days but over a length of time it does (bother me).
Paul Kimmage: That same photograph was the first time I noticed your tattoos?
Roy Keane: Yeah, very painful.
Paul Kimmage: What are they?
Roy Keane: I’ve got my kids on my right arm: Shannon, Caragh, Aidan and Leah. And on the left (arm) it’s just a standard cross. The wife did ask me why didn’t I get hers (name put on) and I said ‘they’ll always be my kids but you won’t necessarily always be my wife,’ which she wasn’t too pleased about. (laughs)
Paul Kimmage: The other interpretation of that photo would be ‘I want to get out of here as quick as possible’.
Roy Keane: Yeah.
Paul Kimmage: And that’s difficult when you come to a place like this and have a blow-out with your team-mates like yesterday, isn’t it? Because I would suspect that happens regularly enough at Manchester United, that you lose the head with your team-mates? But the difference this time was you couldn’t get into your car and drive home?
Roy Keane: Yeah. If I could have got a flight yesterday I wouldn’t be here now.
Paul Kimmage: Let me take you back to the Iran game and the problem with your knee.
Roy Keane: Well again I was having problems. I never played for three weeks before the first play-off match. I spoke to the manager, our own manager at Man United, and the deal was, and there was a deal done before the match, that if we got a positive result and 2-0 to me is positive I wouldn’t jeopardise it by doing any more damage.
First of all with the flight and obviously by playing two matches in four or five days which I hadn’t done for maybe three and a half weeks. So after the match I felt my knee again and on Sunday morning the manager (Ferguson) rang and said ‘we class 2-0 as a positive result.’ And that was it, I decided to go home. In my eyes the game was over. I couldn’t see us losing 3-0. And of course (that leaves) you open to criticism again.
Paul Kimmage: What criticism?
Roy Keane: That I was being put under pressure (by Manchester United) but I couldn’t play the second match. And I felt the job is done. And, as you get older, you have got to be more selfish regarding your body because I’ve played in hundreds of games when I probably shouldn’t have played, especially when there was something at stake.
But I weighed up everything: we’re 2-0 up going to play a team where I think we will get a result. If it was 1-0 or 0-0 it would have been different but I couldn’t see them scoring three and us scoring none.
Paul Kimmage: Okay but you’re the biggest player on the team and . . .
Roy Keane: Well I don’t see it that way. And I’m not being humble. People are entitled to their opinion but I think it’s so exaggerated, it’s untrue.
Paul Kimmage: So who is bigger?
Roy Keane: We’re all the same. No one is better or worse.
Paul Kimmage: The point I am trying to make is that Ireland without Keane is a much lesser team and that the Iranians were handed a psychological advantage the moment you didn’t check in for the flight?
Roy Keane: What was the score again?
Paul Kimmage: 1-0.
Roy Keane: And we qualified?
Paul Kimmage: We qualified . . . okay, point taken. Another criticism was that you left the hotel in Dublin that morning without wishing your team-mates luck or telling them you weren’t travelling?
Roy Keane: I can’t remember what happened. It was a Sunday morning and I booked the flight and I think they might have gone training or gone out for a loosener. Obviously I spoke to Mick McCarthy and Mick Byrne and, in between, obviously I spoke to the manager who rang me on my mobile. But I felt the job was done. There was no way I could see us losing the game.
Paul Kimmage: Your relationship with Mick and with your team-mates would suggest that you play for Ireland on your terms? Is that fair?
Roy Keane: No, probably not.
Paul Kimmage: It’s not fair?
Roy Keane: No. I am always one or two days late (joining up) but I feel I travel more than most of the players in the squad because of my European commitments with the club. And I don’t like being away for long periods of time. I’ve got four young children. I know the other players have kids but I don’t worry about them, I look after me. And there’s no doubt it must piss them off.
But when I’m here I work as hard as any of them. If there is a player who prepares better than me I’d like to meet him. And that’s what it’s all about. I love the 90 minutes playing for my country. I love it as much as the next man. And people go on that I keep blasting this and blasting that but all I want is what’s best for me and for my team-mates. And if that’s a crime, I’m guilty.
Paul Kimmage: Did you watch the second leg in Iran on TV?
Roy Keane: Yeah. At home. I was flicking.
Paul Kimmage: You were flicking?
Roy Keane: Yeah.
Paul Kimmage: Why?
Roy Keane: Because it wasn’t a great game. It was pretty dire.
Paul Kimmage: And when we qualified?
Roy Keane: It was no big deal. I felt we qualified on the Saturday before.
Paul Kimmage: So there was no sense of elation?
Roy Keane: No. I remember in ’94 going bloody berserk and I remember all the scenes but this was completely different. I think as you get older you accept it.
Paul Kimmage: Did you enjoy it more then?
Roy Keane: In ’94? Yeah, without a doubt.
Paul Kimmage: Why?
Roy Keane: I wish I had an answer. Maybe it’s because I was younger. As you get older . . . I’ve got more balance in my life. In ’94 it was more of a rollercoaster, I’d be up (if we won) and then down the following week if we were beaten. But now I’m trying to take the good and the bad along the same level. And the fact that I wasn’t there (in Iran) obviously makes it different. I was at home and obviously pleased but, again, I was convinced we had qualified on the Saturday.
© Independent.ie 2002
Soccer-Ireland.Com wishes to thank the Independent Newspapers & Paul Kimmage
for permission to reproduce this interview here
Continued at Roy Keane Interview 2 & Sunday Independent Interview 3
Back to Saipan Affair Table of Contents – Irish Football