ITV left in the lurch as Roy Keane quits World Cup coverage team

 

Media Editor

Roy Keane left ITV’s sports department hobbling towards Brazil after the star pundit quit the broadcaster on the eve of the World Cup.

The former Manchester United captain and assistant manager of the Republic of Ireland told ITV bosses that he wanted to focus on coaching and did not want the distraction of the television studios. Although Ireland did not qualify for Brazil, Keane is strongly linked with a second coaching role at Aston Villa.

Perhaps Keane has been doing some astrology? He recently recounted that it was his horoscope which persuaded him to take a job with ITV in 2011, after the broadcaster asked him to join its commentary team for the Champions League final between Manchester United and Barcelona.

After reading his stars and being told “you can’t keep saying no to things”, Keane decided to take the job. “There’d always been offers and I’d always said ‘no’,” he told the Irish Independent. “I really wanted to see the match but didn’t want to be bothering anyone for tickets.”

Speaking earlier this month as ITV proudly announced its line-up for Brazil, Keane said of his punditry that he didn’t “intend to be doing it for years”, which was a poignant comment, given that he has departed before the tournament even started.

There’s something about “Keano” and World Cups. As a player at the Japanese tournament in 2002 he was sent home after a foul-mouthed broadside at the Irish manager Mick McCarthy. “I didn’t rate you as a player, I don’t rate you as a manager, and I don’t rate you as a person,” he said, locking antlers with the English-born boss.

Keane has a fearsome reputation. He ended Alf-Inge Haland’s career with a knee-high tackle and slated the corporate fans at Old Trafford as “the prawn sandwich brigade”.  When he first arrived in the studio, some of the ITV team were nervous of him.

 

But his uncompromising attitude has also proved an asset. Viewers knew that Keane, famed for his total commitment on the pitch, was not the type of person to issue platitudes or be afraid to criticise inferior performances. Any praise from Roy would be well-earned.

Having won every major honour in club football, including Player of the Year awards from his fellow professionals, Keane commands great respect within the game.

For ITV and its head of sport Niall Sloane, it was a great coup to acquire a star who is notoriously private and suspicious of the media. Sloane was formerly at the BBC, from where he poached ITV’s lead presenter Adrian Chiles and tactical analyst Lee Dixon. Keane, whose final game in the ITV studio was last month’s Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, became a popular member of the broadcast team, who he would often accompany for meals after big games.

Unlike his fallout with McCarthy, Keane’s split with ITV has not been acrimonious. “Roy has been a tremendous part of our pundit team in recent years, but we fully understand his decision to concentrate wholly on his coaching,” said an ITV spokesperson. “We wish him every success for the future.”

ITV must be feeling like Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez after the eve-of-tournament injury to star striker Luis Suarez. The broadcaster has a team of around 10 pundits and sources argued last night that although Keane was “a unique figure” his absence would not leave “a gaping hole”.

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