Keane turns to waiting game
Ipswich Town 1 Preston North End 1: Irishman tempers his fiery instinct as he strives to create an Ipswich team that is equal to the best of Bobby Robson's era. Tim Collings reports
Monday 31 August 2009
Without question, there are similarities. Just as Bobby Robson was always smartly turned-out, very often in a blazer, so Roy Keane is smart and stylish. On Saturday, he wore a single-vent, dark-grey suit, brown shoes, a blue shirt and a royal-blue tie. If he was not so clean-shaven, he might have been an Italian model.
Both, also, made Ipswich their second managerial appointments and found stirring up initial results in sleepy Suffolk no easy experience. If Preston had won, and not been held to a draw, thanks to a harshly awarded penalty against them, Ipswich would have equalled their worst start in 40 years since Robson's first season in charge in 1969. As it was, Preston remained unbeaten.
Like Robson, too, Keane is fighting his instincts as he learns to be patient with young players in a reshaped squad while local fans become restless and the media, experiencing a strained start with the new man, struggle to remain objective after five Championship games without a win. In the modern era, there is no time to build trust.
In his honesty, Keane also shares Robson's passionate, if sometimes abrasive, approach to the sight of notebooks and microphones. After defeat at Peterborough last midweek, he swore at a local reporter.
Here, Keane knew he and his team were under scrutiny. Local radio focused on how long the club should give their new manager and merely added to a feeling that hungry jackals were already pacing outside the gates of Portman Road.
Marcus Evans, the owner, and his chief executive, Simon Clegg, may yet prove that consistency and time are important in supporting Keane and his boys through their teething period. "Success seldom happens overnight," Clegg wrote in the match programme. "And that's one of the reasons why I have tried to dampen down a little the massive expectations that have surrounded the club."
On the pitch, it was easy to see why. Keane's team is so obviously a work in progress that it is no help at all to recall the gloriously fluid football of the later Robson era, when Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen graced a beautifully prepared pitch.
And it is of little use to point at frailties that Keane is keen to address after seeing his team struggle to prise open an opposition reduced to 10 men after Callum Davidson was sent off for handball – when Liam Trotter's shot hit him from close range – resulting in Jon Walters' spot-kick. This equalised a clever opening goal from Ross Wallace.
"We huffed and we puffed in the second half, but you have to put the ball in the back of the net," Keane said. "We used all three subs and I even wore a tie today... Frustration? Yes, you can throw that in the mix with a lot of other words. We are not at the stage where we can just turn up and win football matches. That's why we are desperately trying to add to the squad."
As to himself, he is prickly. "Of course!" he said. "You always ask more of yourself as a manager... Jesus! Every single day... Put it this way, when I was lucky enough to be in the position of winning matches at Sunderland, I never thought for one minute that I had it cracked and [was] going to be a top manager. I knew it was hard work – and round the back of a few poor results, I don't think I'm all of a sudden a bad manager. But, if you don't think I look at myself every day as a manager, you should come and live with me."
Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Wright; Bruce, McAurley, Balkestein, Smith; Walters, Trotter, Colback, Martin (Quinn, 60); Priskin (Wickham, 60), Counago (Stead, 60). Substitutes not used: Lee-Barrett (gk), Delaney, Healy, Ainsley.
Preston North End (4-4-2): Lonergan; Jones, Chilvers, St Ledger (Hart, 81), Davidson; Parry (Sedgwick, 57), Chaplow, Shumulikoski, Wallace; Parkin (Nolan, 45), Brown. Substitutes not used: Henderson (gk), Carter, Elliott, Mellor.
Referee: P Taylor (Hertfordshire).
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