Roy Keane stepped into the shoes of two of football's finest knights by delivering a vicious broadside aimed at some of his former team-mates yesterday. Previous Ipswich Town managers Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson were never like this.
Minus the beard but bristling nonetheless with fearsome intensity, Keane took charge at Portman Road yesterday, four months after quitting Sunderland under a cloud. Handed the keys to the Ipswich tractor, Keane immediately rode roughshod over the reputations of some of the biggest names in the game.
He immediately went for former Manchester United team-mates, claiming that Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Bryan Robson and Paul Ince have done nothing during their respective times in management.
Asked a simple question as to why the Manchester United side of 1994 has produced so many top managers, Keane replied: "Who are the good managers you are talking about? Sparky [Hughes] and Brucey have not won a trophy, have they? They have potential, but you have the potential to be top journalists. Steve Bruce has had a good season, but Steve Bruce has been manager how many years?
"Sparky did a brilliant job at Blackburn, but is facing different challenges at Manchester City. We all are. Until an ex-team-mate of mine from 1994 goes on and really achieves something, then I would not agree with what you are saying about being a successful manager. You need a bit more than some of those managers have achieved yet."
The former Manchester United captain also lashed out at the former Ireland striker-turned-media-pundit Tony Cascarino, who had suggested Keane's departure at Sunderland had made him unemployable.
"I am happy to comment on people's opinion in football I respect, but Tony Cascarino is a man I certainly do not respect, for a lot of reasons, and if I told you, you would be shocked," Keane said. "So the day I worry about Tony Cascarino will be a very sad day of my life. It is a very long story."
Keane, 37, said he had spent his time off skiing, relaxing, and walking the dogs. In fact, he has spent so long walking his beloved pets they will be glad of the rest. "If I wasn't up for the challenge here, I'd be out walking my dogs. My dogs need a break," he said.
Whatever else he has been up to, it has not dampened the fire that burns so fiercely within. Maybe he had been bottling it all up. His new employers must be wondering what they have let themselves in for.
Keane has signed a two-year deal, following the sacking of Jim Magilton, with the express task of taking the Suffolk side back to the Premier League. The buzzword was "challenge" – one he repeated over and over again. Keane accepted his task was huge. "But do you want me to set a low one?" he added.
The former Manchester United captain made it clear he will not accept any meddling by the Ipswich owner, Marcus Evans. He accused Sunderland's majority shareholder Ellis Short of doing just that, and claimed that was the cause of his departure from Sunderland in December.
"I must have said it when I met Niall and the owners of the club about 5,000 times that I would do it my way, particularly in team affairs," he said. "When people are telling you what you should be doing with the team, where you should be living, what days you should be in, it's awkward."
Keane has been guaranteed autonomy and a sizeable fund to spend on new players, said to be around £20m. In return, he has pledged to move his wife Theresa, their children and the famous dogs to the area. He was asked how much money he was planning to spend, to which Keane joked: "For a house?"
Plenty of others will be moving in the other direction. Ipswich have 13 players out of contract this summer, so there is sure to be a major overhaul. "We'll take stock over the next six weeks. It might suit me that a lot of contracts are up," Keane said.
"I'll ask of them what I always ask of them as a manager: that they'll be on time for training and that they give 100 per cent. If they do that, they'll enjoy working for me. If they don't, it'll be a very brief relationship."
Brief relationships are not part of the culture at Ipswich, where Sir Bobby spent 13 years at the helm, while Sir Alf managed nine. Given Keane's combustible character, it is inconceivable that he might remain in charge at Ipswich for anything like as long. It will certainly be entertaining while it lasts, if his first day is anything to go by.
Keane's form: What the Sunderland years tell us
1. "Just being Roy Keane"
This was Ricky Sbragia's answer yesterday and you could understand Keane's successor at Sunderland. There he lifted an entire club with his forceful personality and charismatic presence. Portman Road hospitality boxes that have been dormant will be pulsing; ticket sales, shirt sales, will increase. Keane will probably pay for himself and his bosses will love that.
Keane had 100 games as Sunderland manager but for Ipswich most important is that he has led a team out of the Championship. He inherited a side that was weak defensively so he changed the back four. Late goals became a feature. They won the Championship.
"I'm not here to go through the motions, I don't plan staying around the bottom of the Championship too long." So said Keane on arriving at Sunderland. Punctuality is an obsession – the "Barnsley Three" were dropped for missing the bus. Keane brings a change in tone throughout.
1. The "mood swings!"
So says Keane. He is aware his relationship with players at Ipswich needs to be better than at Sunderland. He can inspire fear and in the last seven games – six were lost – players had frozen. When dealing upwards Keane will be given leeway but possibly not the level of tolerance he had at Sunderland.
2. Geography and attendance
"I didn't come into work 'til the Friday." – Keane "stewing" after the 7-1 defeat at Everton in 2007. Some weeks Keane arrived on a Thursday. He lived in Manchester, with a rented house in Durham. When Sunderland's power, Ellis Short, questioned him, he quit.
Sunderland became known for their over-the-top fees. But getting players to Wearside was not easy; will it be different at Ipswich?
1. Volatility and unpredictability
Just which Roy Keane will turn up?
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