Roy Keane was yesterday included in the Republic of Ireland squad to face Poland next week but will not regain the captaincy. The announcement formally ends Keane's self-imposed international exile 23 months after he walked out of Ireland's World Cup squad.
It came as manager Brian Kerr insisted that no player will be allowed special privileges. "Roy told me he wants to make himself available and I have picked him," Kerr said. "He is available under the same terms as every other player." There had been speculation - bolstered by an unhappy Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson - that Keane would only play competitive matches. Kenny Cunningham will remain as captain but Keane is expected to take some part in the friendly match in the northern industrial town of Bydgoszcz for which Kerr has selected a full-strength squad.
Despite his insistence that he supports Keane's U-turn, Ferguson warned he will further limit the 32-year-old's appearances for United because of his insistence that he plays for his country again. Ahead of last night's Premiership match against Charlton, Ferguson said tersely: "Roy knows what is best" which has done little to dampen talk that Keane's career at United is coming to an end quicker than expected. There have also been suggestions in Ireland that one of Keane's main motivations for wanting to play again, after 58 caps, is because he hopes to eventually manage his country.
The present incumbent, Kerr, said that he understood if some fans "will not be happy". "I understand the hurt and disappointment they felt but I feel it is time to move on," he said. "I was not involved in any way in the events that took place prior to the last World Cup and, while I can understand why some fans are annoyed, we all need to be mature regarding Roy's return." He also explained how Keane's change of heart came about.
"It was Roy who took the initiative. Roy made the approach and it was up to him to sort out his problems with Manchester United." Ferguson had blocked Keane's return last year citing the player's damaged hip. Only weeks ago Ferguson said a return would come over "my dead body".
Keane's comeback is geared towards a World Cup qualifying campaign that starts on 4 September in a group which includes France although the fixture list, thought to have been compiled with Keane in mind, is kind. Ireland also have five friendlies before then although Keane will not figure in many and Kerr suggested there would be some "flexibility to players of a certain age". But he insisted this would not mean players choosing when they played.
Though he will not restore the captaincy, Kerr added: "Roy will be a good leader for the many young players we have. I have spoken to some of the squad about his return and I do not envisage any problems."
Stephen Carr withdrew yesterday with a back injury.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND squad v Poland (28 April): Given (Newcastle), Colgan (Hibernian), Kenny (Sheff Utd), Maybury (Hearts), Cunningham (Birmingham), Doherty (Tottenham), Harte (Leeds), Carr (Tottenham), O'Brien (Newcastle), Breen (Sunderland), O'Shea (Man Utd), Miller (Celtic), Roy Keane (Man Utd), Reid (Nottm For), Holland (Charlton), Delap (Southampton), McAteer (Sunderland), Kinsella (West Brom), Kilbane (Everton), Duff (Chelsea), Lee (Cardiff), Connolly (West Ham), Robbie Keane (Tottenham), Morrison (Birmingham).Reuse content