'Unacceptable abuse' stirs talk of Keane exit

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The Independent Football

Roy Keane's future at Sunderland became the subject of surprisingly intense speculation yesterday following Keane's criticism of some of the club's supporters for their "abuse" during Tuesday night's unimpressive victory against Northampton Town in the Carling Cup. Keane is expected to sign a three-year contract in the coming weeks and the club are not suddenly fretting that their manager will walk out, but his annoyance was genuine.

In his two years on Wearside Keane has enjoyed an excellent relationship with 95 per cent of Sunderland fans for 95 per cent of the time and they have sold out the 3,000-seat away end at Aston Villa on Saturday.

But there have been a handful of vocal doubters. It is they who antagonised Keane on Tuesday as Sunderland were taken to a penalty shoot-out by Northampton. In the post-match press conference Keane voiced his displeasure at being shouted at and to local radio he added: "Some people were targeting me. I'm not going to go into it but that's something I've not come into the job to accept. I appreciate criticism, constructive criticism, which I'm going to receive. Trust me, my biggest critic is myself. Again, I got my team wrong, definitely. I should have gone with one or two younger players but I can do that in the next round. We got out of jail tonight. The abuse, I know it is part of football, but that is something I won't tolerate."

What Keane meant exactly by not tolerating abuse caused a stir of interpretation. He is in the final year of his current contract and at Manchester United Keane showed he was prepared to let contracts run close to their end date before signing an extension. That may happen again but Keane also knows that there are not many jobs where he would be as free and as well-backed financially as his present one.