April 22, 2024

Roy Keane – Relationship with Jack Charlton


Roy Keane’s relationship with Jack Charlton is relevant to the Saipan incident because Charlton is the link between Keane’s first disappointing contact with the FAI, and Mick McCarthy. In his autobiography Keane implies that it was an anti-Cork bias by the Dublin-based FAI that delayed his breakthrough into English soccer. His next contact was with the Republic of Ireland Under-21 squad during Jack Charlton’s reign as Irish manager. “…the Irish set-up…was a bit of a joke…I smelt bulls**t.” [Page 35-36].

When Keane declined an invitation to join the Irish squad because it clashed with a Zenith Data Systems Cup tie with second division Barnsley he was told by the FAI representative that Jack Charlton would never pick him for Ireland ever again. Keane didn’t hesitate to stick by his decision but he “…was disappointed that Charlton would seek to bully a player like this.”[Page 40] {An aside: Keane did not seem to view the fact that Clough was a bully when he laid Keane out with a punch. “Knowing the pressure he was under, I didn’t hold this incident against him.”[Page 38].}

Row in Boston with Jack Charlton

Keane’s lack of regard for Charlton, his methods, and his personality is made abundantly clear in his book. He did not agree with the view that Big Jack was in any way a

tactical genius and “I found it impossible to relate to him as a man or a coach.” [Page 54]. In an incident during a Republic of Ireland international trip to Boston in 1992 there was an exchange between Charlton and Roy Keane when a drunken Keane arrived back late to the team bus. Charlton took Keane to task but twenty year old Keane wasn’t in the mood to take any admonishment from his manager. “He neither frightened nor impressed me. He was a bully…” [Page 61]. During his infamous tirade in Saipan Keane referred to this row and the part that Mick McCarthy had played in it.

Keane admits that despite the disagreement with Charlton so early in his Irish international career he wasn’t singled out for any special treatment by his manager. “He treated me more or less the same as all other players.” Although Keane does state that “My relationship with Charlton was virtually non-existent.”[Page 74]. “He was like a big grumpy uncle with strong opinions about football, a bit eccentric, but not the worst. Not nasty. Cunning, though.”[Page 244].

Keane Compares Jack Charlton and Brian Clough

Perhaps the problem for Charlton was the only yardstick that Keane had to measure the Irish manager against was the soccer genius that was Brian Clough “Where Clough was astute and capable of detailed analysis, Charlton merely blustered…’Play it as you see it’ was Clough’s motto. ‘Play it as I see it’ was Charlton’s.”[Page 76-77]. It was an unfortunate coincidence that both Charlton and his successor, Mick McCarthy, were being compared by Keane to two of the greatest ever managers (Clough and Alex Ferguson) in English football. There are very very few soccer managers that could favourably withstand such comparisons.

Keane’s ‘Row’ with Maurice Setters

In the autobiography almost every reference to Charlton’s soccer coaching ability and organisational ability are far from complimentary. Keane is particularly derogatory in his comments about Charlton’s preparation for the 1994 World Cup in the USA. Keane also claims that he was used as a fall guy in a training ground row between Irish coach, Maurice Setters and the Republic of Ireland captain Andy Townsend. The press had reported that the row was between Keane and Setters. Charlton decided to call a press conference and trotted Setters and Keane out in front of the massed media where both of them would confirm that there were no problems in the Irish camp. “Like a fool I played the role…”[Page 121]. Keane was angry about this especially since he says he wasn’t involved in the initial row. This begs the question; why did Keane go along with the charade? He had no problems facing Charlton down two years previously in Boston when he had been in the wrong. This time he was just an innocent bystander. Why did he not simply refuse to attend the press conference?


It is clear from his autobiography that Roy Keane did not like or respect his first Republic of Ireland football manager. The fact that Mick McCarthy followed straight after Charlton as Irish manager, and with Charlton’s approval, appears to have soured the Keane / McCarthy relationship from the start. The full implications of this would be felt as events played out in the Saipan affair in 2002.

NOTE: Unless stated otherwise all quotations are from:
Keane: The Autobiography; Roy Keane with Eamon Dunphy (2002); Michael Joseph Ltd

Roy Keane – Zenith Data Systems Cup

Back to Saipan Affair Table of Contents – Irish Football

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Saipan Table of Contents Roy Keane & Eamon Dunphy
Saipan Introduction Roy Keane & Cork
Methodology Keane’s Aversion to Being Away From Home
Saipan Conclusions Roy Keane’s Relationship with Ireland
Roy Keane – Mick McCarthy Relationship Roy Keane – Zenith Data Systems Cup
Roy Keane Version of Saipan Incident Roy Keane – Jack Charlton Relationship
Mick McCarthy Version of Saipan Incident 1 Roy Keane’s Flawed Character
Mick McCarthy Version of Saipan Incident 2 Roy Keane’s Good Character
Niall Quinn Version of Saipan Incident Roy Keane – Footballer
Jason McAteer Version of Saipan Incident Roy Keane – Team Captain
Matt Holland Version of Saipan Incident Roy Keane – Family Man
Roy Keane & Saipan – The Backdrop Roy Keane & Faking Injury
Roy Keane & Saipan – The Issues Roy Keane – Bad Boy
Keane / McCarthy Boston Row 1992 Roy Keane – Career Lows
Keane Misses Iran Playoff Game Roy Keane – Red Cards etc
Keane Misses Niall Quinn Testimonial Roy Keane – Cruciate Injury
Countdown to Saipan Incident Roy Keane & Alf-Inge Haaland
Roy Keane Saipan Tirade at Mick McCarthy Roy Keane & Gareth Southgate Red Card
Roy Keane / Tom Humphries Saipan Interview 1 Roy Keane & Alan Shearer Red Card
Keane / Humphries Saipan Interview 2 Roy Keane / Alex Ferguson Relationship 1
Roy Keane / Irish Times Saipan Interview 3 Roy Keane & Sir Alex Ferguson 2
Roy Keane / Paul Kimmage Saipan Interview 1 Roy Keane & Charity
Keane / Kimmage Saipan Interview 2 Roy Keane & Autobiography Contradictions 1
Roy Keane / Sunday Independent Saipan Interview 3 Roy Keane & Contradictions 2
Roy Keane / Tommie Gorman Interview 1 Roy Keane – Integrity
Roy Keane / Tommy Gorman Interview 2 Roy Keane – International Matches
Roy Keane / RTE Interview 3 Roy Keane – Football Record
FAI Involvement in Saipan Affair Roy Keane & Sandwiches
Saipan Reaction of Irish Players Roy Keane – Walker
Mick McCarthy – ‘crap player, crap manager’ Saipan – Pacific Island
Roy Keane / Mick McCarthy Playing Record I Keano – The Musical
Colin Healy – Forgotten Man of Saipan Roy Keane – Football Manager
Saipan Ten Years Later Roy Keane’s Dog Triggs
Roy Keane’s Autobiography Saipan Bibiliography


Roy Keane – View Seven Years After Saipan
Football Quotes about Saipan


Triggs – The Autobiography of Roy Keane’s Dog
Ireland at 2002 World Cup Finals – Irish 2002 World Cup Squad – Irish Group Matches
Ireland V Cameroon – Ireland V Germany – Ireland V Saudi Arabia – Ireland V Spain