Cole enjoying same old Keane in 'strange' days at Sunderland

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The Independent Football

The Sunderland striker, Andy Cole, insists the manager, Roy Keane, has not changed one bit since the days when they stood shoulder to shoulder at Manchester United.

Keane has cultivated a much calmer approach to football since stepping into management at the Stadium of Light, although his joy at Anthony Stokes' injury-time winner against Derby on Saturday was there for all to see.

But while he may be a model of control in public, his 36-year-old former team-mate insists the passion and commitment which characterised his playing days still burn brightly.

Cole, who made his full Sunderland debut in the win over Derby, said: "The manager is the manager. What I know of him, he has not changed as a person.

"He is what he is and the way he manages is the way he played. You just have to get on with it, you get used to it in time. There are a lot of young players who may not be used to it, but I am used to how he was as a player, so I will just crack on with it.

"Some things never change. I played with him for seven years. I know what he is about, I know what winds him up. But all you can do is do your best by him. If you do that, he is more than happy with that."

Cole and Keane formed part of the central spine in the United side which dominated English football during the 1990s, but while the striker admits he always thought the Irishman would go into management, he never envisaged linking up with him again.

He said: "Everyone always knew he would be a manager, but to be actually playing for him as a manager, I would never have said that. But strange things happen in football and that is one of them, but I have enjoyed it," Cole added.

"It has opened my eyes to management, especially as a young manager. If I went on to do that, I would know what to expect.

"I have enjoyed watching what he tries to do. It is enjoyable to come in and see a young manager at work and see what it actually takes.

"It is not just about playing any more, it is about organising the whole football club, the players and the staff. I have enjoyed it and if I do decide to do it, I know what to expect."

Keane, of course, enjoys the support of the chairman, Niall Quinn, and his Drumaville consortium, and he has rewarded them to date by dragging the club back into the Premier League at the first attempt.

Life in the top flight has proved a little tougher, and Saturday's last-gasp heroics came as a huge relief as the Black Cats climbed out of the bottom three with their first league win in nine attempts.

However, while managerial casualties in the Premier League have already reached alarming proportions this season, Cole is confident there is a long-term plan in place on Wearside amid talk of a lucrative new contract for Keane.

He said: "Sunderland and the manager have a long-term plan. The position Sunderland were in at the start of last season, no one thought they would be promoted and be in the Premier League.

"For trigger-happy chairmen to be sacking their managers so early, I am very surprised. But it is a long-term plan here and I think the manager could have as long as he wants.

"Staying in the Premier League is the most important thing to the majority of the clubs. Especially when you do come up, you have to try to consolidate and try to stay in the Premier League."