Roy Keane very nearly didn't make it as a professional footballer. Given
his current status in the game such a statement seems almost laughable but
as a youngster he was unable to secure an apprenticeship with any English clubs and
was forced to begin his football career with Cobh Ramblers in the Irish league.
Keane wasn't going to give up on playing at the highest level though, and requested
trials with a number of English clubs when he reached the age of 18. Brian Clough
was the only manager to respond and brought him over to Nottingham Forest and
immediately spotted the potential in Keane's game and signed him up. But instead
of blooding him in the youthg team or even the reserved, he was thrown into the
deep end and given his first team debut at Anfield. He was a Nottingham
Forest regular in no time and played in his first FA Cup final at the end
of the 1990/91 season.
There was to be further cup disappointment the following season as Keane
was runner-up again at Wembley, this time to Manchester United in the Rumbelows
Cup. However his reputation as one of the hottest properties in England
was spreading quickly. In 1992/93 when Forest were
relegated, Keane jumped ship and a bidding war between Manchester United and
Blackburn Rovers began. Nottingham Forest wanted £5 million, when the
record transfer at the time was only £3.3 million.
United were unwilling to meet their demands and it looked like Jack Walker's
millions would bring Keane to Blackburn. But Forest saw sense and lowered
Keane's price tag and Manchester United snatched him up for £3.6
million, a new British transfer record. It was to be some of the best money
spent by United this decade.
At the time of his arrival United already had a midfield dynamo in the shape
of Paul Ince. As the self-proclaimed "Guv'nor" of the United midfield Keane
became his understudy until Ince left in 1995 and Keane became boss.
The crux of Roy Keane's game revolves around his powerful engine which sees
him steaming from end to end of the pitch, right up to final whistle. He is
primarily played as a defensive midfielder, breaking up opposition attacks
and protecting the back-line. But when required he can power forward and
has contributed a number of important goals down the years. Not least a vital
header against Juventus in the second leg of last season's European Cup
Sadly Keane has also built up quite a long disciplinary record, with a string
of bookings every season and the occasional sending off to boot. Red card
offences include punching Jan Aage Fjortoft at Old Trafford, stamping on
Gareth Southgate, and more recently being
dismissed for a second booking in the FA Cup semi-final replay with Arsenal
at Villa Park in April 1999.
Despite his fiery reputation, Keane was entrusted with the club captaincy after
Eric Cantona retired in May 1997. He led the team into 1997-98 but his season
was short lived when in September a cruciate knee ligament injury ruled him out of
action for eight months. A seemingly innocuous challenge on Leeds' Alf Inge Haaland
snapped the ligament in Keane's right knee and with it United lost their most
influential player. The loss of their captain had costly results in United's
overall season as they finished empty handed in all competitions.
Upon his return last season many wondered whether he would be the same player
as before his injury, as other players like Gascoigne and Shearer had suffered long
term effects. But Keane soon proved all the doubters wrong as he came back
better than ever and was the backbone of United's assault on three fronts.
The season was to end in personal disappointment for Keane however, as he was first
suspended from the European Cup final and then injured in the fifth minute
of the FA Cup final. But he still lifted the FA Cup as captain and
was there in the Nou Camp to celebrate United winning the European Cup.
Keane is also highly experienced at international level and made his
debut for the Republic of Ireland in 1991. Since then he has been their most
influential player and was voted Ireland's player of the tournament in the 1994