Clough was 'best manager I ever had,' says Keane

The manager of Sunderland, Roy Keane, marks his second anniversary in charge at the Stadium of Light by returning to former club Nottingham Forest in the Carling Cup tonight.

The Irishman made over 150 appearances in three seasons at the City Ground, his departure in 1993 coinciding with the retirement of celebrated manager Brian Clough. The Irishman attributes much of his managerial style to Clough, one of the most outspoken but successful managers in British football history.

"He was an absolute genius," Keane said. "I meet other players who played under him and we have all got our own stories. He was certainly the best manager I played under, without a shadow of a doubt. I just feel very lucky to have had that opportunity. He was a genius and he has still left his mark on the football club."

Keane admits his playing style did not lend itself to a future career in management, and chuckles when asked what Clough would have thought of the young midfielder from Cork returning to the City Ground as manager. "He would probably have thought I would be the last person to become a manager because my own off-the-field life wasn't exactly perfect. We were there a few weeks ago [for a pre-season friendly] and you still feel he is around the building," the 37-year-old said of Clough, who died in 2004. "I am sure he is, in spirit anyway."

"Cloughie and Alex Ferguson [Keane's manager at Manchester United, whom he joined from Forest in 1993] were very hard with me, but generally they were fair with me as well, and that's what I try to do with my own players. I had one or two incidents with him and I look back now to when he sent me back from Jersey for a drinking incident, and he was spot-on. He was just being fair with me. I was no angel."

Keane has been busy in the transfer market last week, bolstering his squad with the addition of strikers Djibril Cissé and David Healy, and will be looking to his players to improve on their showing in last season's second round, which saw Sunderland go down 3-0 at then League One Luton Town. Keane's side also departed the FA Cup at the first hurdle, losing 3-0 at home to Wigan.

"I won't be resting anybody," he revealed. "I made that mistake last year at Luton and I have not forgotten that. That is very much in my mind set. They were two big cup games that I haven't forgotten about."

The defender Pascal Chimbonda should return tonight after missing out on a return to former club Tottenham last weekend through disciplinary reasons. The striker Michael Chopra is suspended, but Healy and Cissé could make full debuts, with Kieran Richardson expected to recover from a rib injury. The Forest manager, Colin Calderwood, could benefit from the return of defender Kelvin Wilson [back], although midfielder Lewis McGugan [thigh] misses out.

Elsewhere, three other Premier League sides face home matches against lower league opposition. Paul Ince hopes to continue his unbeaten start as Blackburn manager against Grimsby, while Fulham welcome Leicester, looking for a repeat of their FA Cup victory over the Foxes two seasons ago. League Two Macclesfield travel to West Ham United.

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