Elder statesman Keane prepares for management

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Roy Keane has taken another step towards becoming a manager following the way he has conducted himself with the Republic of Ireland squad.

Roy Keane has taken another step towards becoming a manager following the way he has conducted himself with the Republic of Ireland squad. Brian Kerr, the Irish manager, revealed that Keane had expressed "an interest" in developing young players. "He thought he would have that influence," Kerr said as he spoke about the discussions he had with Keane before Ireland's most famous sportsman returned from international exile.

The Manchester United captain has played two friendly matches under Kerr but tonight, against Switzerland in a World Cup qualifier, will mark his first competitive appearance for almost three years. "In the last couple of days he has had an influence," Kerr said. "I have seen him talking. He might be talking about house prices in Cork but he seems to be taking on the role of the experienced player." Was it a sign of a mellower Keane? "I have never seen the unmellow side," was Kerr's smiling reply.

The manager certainly appeared more relaxed than when Ireland met the Swiss in the final qualifier for Euro 2004 when they capitulated 2-0.

"It's different circumstances," Kerr pointed out. "Same stadium, same city, different team." It most definitely is a different Irish side from 11 months again. Just five players survive and although Keane is the most notable inclusion, Kerr is also relieved to have his captain, Kenny Cunningham, who was suspended then, for what will be Kerr's 21st game in charge. Is his side coming of age? Kerr brushed that aside but added "There have been a lot of good changes and the team has progressed."

Nevertheless, and despite Keane's return, the Swiss are making their plans around Damien Duff. They took particular interest in discovering whether the Chelsea midfielder has recovered from a sore calf - he has - and will change their line-up accordingly and hope that Christoph Spycher, himself with an injury, plays.

There has been some talk of Kerr switching formations and playing 4-3-3. He simply said: "It's not a situation that in any way we are going to play for a draw. It is not in our mentality." Kerr also played down suggestions of a "grudge match" following the frayed tempers after the last fixture and Clinton Morrison's suggestions that he had been racially abused. "I'm not aware of any of that," he said. "There's no grudge. It has no bearing whatsoever on how the game is going to be played."

Both Ireland and the Swiss started Group Four with a win - against the weakest two sides - but both also know that Israel are now a dangerous force after drawing with France. Kerr, nevertheless, remained upbeat. He said: "You cannot change the past. I often say to players don't dwell on a mistake you made. Let it go because you can only improve the future." He was replying to another question about last season's meeting. But, of course, he could have been talking about Keane. And the proof of that philosophy starts, hopefully, tonight.

Switzerland (Probable 4-1-2-1-2): Zuberbuhler (Basle); Spycher (Grasshoppers), M Yakin (Basle), Muller (Mallorca), Magnin (Werder Bremen); Vogel (PSV Eindhoven), Cabanas (Grasshoppers), Wicky (Hamburg); H Yakin (Stuttgart); Rey (Neuchatel Xamax), Vonlanthen (PSV Eindhoven).

Republic of Ireland (Probable 4-4-2): Given; Carr, O'Brien (all Newcastle), Cunningham (Birmingham), Finnan (Liverpool); Reid (Nottingham Forest), Roy Keane (Manchester United), Kilbane (Everton), Duff (Chelsea); Robbie Keane (Tottenham Hotspur), Morrison (Birmingham).

Referee: K Vassos (Greece).

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