It should be the kind of tame inquiry that allows a manager to relax into an interview, but Roy Keane had an unexpectedly terse reply when asked about the number of good luck messages he had received ahead of his Sunderland managerial debut today.
"Yeah. Zero," came the considered response, although it was not an immediate cue for all present to suddenly develop an interest in their shoe laces. Instead it allowed an exhibition of self-deprecating humour in an individual who despite his profile has never sought the limelight.
"My wife wished me well," he added, immediately lightening the mood. "That's because she's not seen me for two weeks, it's been hectic. Otherwise I've had none, so I'll be waiting by the fax."
A slight tone of embarrassment comes over Keane when it is intimated that he has hardly been off the phone to his Old Trafford mentor, Sir Alex Ferguson, since his arrival at the Stadium of Light. "I've not made that many calls," he insists. "Maybe one or two before the transfer deadline, but I've not spoken to him for a good few days now. Well, at least 24 hours."
While the advice has been invaluable, Keane has plenty of his own thoughts to implement in an effort to put an end to a losing mentality. As a player he had the devil in him, as a manager the devil is in the detail. From the canteen seating plans to away game travel arrangements to hanging pictures of past glories to breathe warmth into a "cold" training complex, Keane is bristling with ideas.
Brian Clough will be the subject of several of those photographs, Keane's former Nottingham Forest manager having forged his reputation at Roker Park. "I learned a lot about Sunderland from him," he said.
Keane's City Ground connections will ensure he receives a hostile reception at Derby today, although the presence of almost 5,000 travelling supporters will help soften the abuse. "You've got to plug into the fact that this club means a hell of a lot to its supporters," he said. "As a player driving home after a defeat I'd be thinking of the fans and that we'd spoiled their week. You have to realise your responsibility to them."
Keane has a simple message for his players. "As a player, when we bought somebody for my position I enjoyed it. I didn't for one moment think that's the end of me, I thought here we go, it's a challenge. The new lads have given us an edge."
If his reign proves a success, Keane expects to see a few new photographs hanging next to those he is planning to put up of Shackleton, Hurley and Montgomery. "We're at a new beginning, but you never forget the past. You recall the great players. I want the ones involved now to be remembered in the same way. I don't plan on staying at the bottom of the Championship for too long."Reuse content