Football/Soccer

'Tea-maker' Roy Keane hails Martin O'Neill's man-management skills ahead of Danish clash

Roy Keane says Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has a good knack of getting the right messages across to his players

ROY Keane would have everyone believe that his role as Republic of Ireland assistant amounts to “making lots of tea” before heaping praise on Martin O’Neill’s man-management skills.

Speaking ahead of Ireland’s first leg play-off clash with Denmark in Copenhagen on Saturday night, the former Manchester United midfielder said the nation’s hopes of reaching the World Cup finals in Russia next year could not be in better hands.

“The key to the really top managers - and I go back to the managers whom I worked with - is saying the right thing at the right time,” said Keane.

“Obviously that will not be through the media but at a team-talk, maybe in the dressing room, maybe at half time, pre-match or be it in a hotel.

“And I know that if I was a player, I like Martin's messages. Of course, you are going to say that I have to say that because I work with him…

“But I always try to picture myself as a player and if I was a player and these were the messages that I was getting from the manager I would be going: ‘Yes, I get that.”

The 46-year-old added: “There are hundreds and thousands of coaches out there but management is different.

“It's about saying the right thing at the right time, the right tone, the right message.

“You simplify things. I worked with Brian Clough and Alex Ferguson and I have obviously made it clear before about Alex Ferguson that - whatever you are saying about him - in team talks it was to say the right thing at the right time.”

Midfielder Jeff Hendrick (glute injury) did not train yesterday, while defender Stephen Ward (knee) also sat out the session but both players are expected to be fit for Saturday’s first leg tie.

Jonathan Walters and James McCarthy are among the players ruled out through injury, and David Meyler is suspended after picking up a booking in last month’s 1-0 win over Wales.

Keane was in jovial form at yesterday’s press briefing. He was asked for his reaction to Eamonn Dunphy recently describing him as a “cabaret act” in the Republic of Ireland camp.

“I've been called worse,” Keane said. “That doesn't worry me. We're here to try and win matches for Ireland. The beauty is that everyone is entitled to an opinion and stuff like that certainly wouldn't keep me awake at night.”

Keane also joked about his own modest role in the lead-up to big international games.

“[I do] Very little. Honestly, we don't do too much. A bit of light training, very little... I'm not sure what I'm doing here to be honest with you!

“I make lots of tea. I said that before and people joked, but I do make lots of tea for the staff and stuff. What else do I do? Not too much.”

While Martin O’Neill has agreed to remain as Republic of Ireland manager for at least another two years, Keane's future is less clear.

“I'm enjoying my role with Ireland, absolutely. My desire, my focus is to try to get through the next week and help the team qualify, of course.

“I'm not distracted by anything else out there; I'm not networking. I don't work that way. My focus is on trying to help the team in the next week or so and if that's making tea for everyone then hopefully that helps.”

Asked if his former United team-mate Peter Schmeichel had been in touch prior to Saturday's clash, Keane smiled.

The Cork man tells the story in his autobiography how the pair came to blows one night during their playing days.

“I would say f*** all to him," replied Keane. "What do you want me to say to him? Is he playing?

“The last time I saw Peter, I'd say about a year and a half or two years ago, we'd breakfast together in the hotel in London and it was nice.

“I had some good times with Peter, some very good times. I'd a nice breakfast with him.

“I've huge respect for all my ex-team-mates through the good and bad times.

“[But] he started it [the fight]. He said it himself, he held his hand up - he said he started it. I think he had two pints and got a bit brave.”

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