Hughes and Keane take different path to same end

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The Independent Football

The Blackburn manager Mark Hughes is convinced Roy Keane's no-nonsense approach will stand him in good stead for life in the dugout as he prepares to come face to face with his former Manchester United team-mate today.

Hughes takes his side to Sunderland looking to get back on track in the Premier League after last week's defeat by Portsmouth, but all too aware of the drive and determination which will have been instilled in his opponents. Hughes, who played alongside Keane for two seasons at Old Trafford, said: "Roy was one of the top players of his generation and I am sure he can have the same sort of success as a manager.

"He always had an opinion and was very forthright, and maybe on occasions he spoke before he should have and that got him into trouble. But that's his character and he doesn't suffer fools. Sometimes those are the qualities you need to have as a manager, and I think the qualities Roy has shown in the past are the ones he is also going to show in the future if he is to succeed."

Hughes believes the real test of Keane's managerial credentials starts now, as he bids to build on last season's extraordinary success in the Championship and establish his team in the Premier League.

"It's always important when you come up in your first season to have a decent start and they have picked up a number of good points in recent games," Hughes added. "Last season was a fantastic achievement for Roy but when you come into a harder league it is about how you react to losing, how you get your players up for the next game and keep their confidence levels high."

Rovers' confidence will have been boosted by their midweek Carling Cup win over Birmingham, which followed two successive defeats against Larissa in the Uefa Cup and at home to Portsmouth last Sunday.

Two of the most combative players of their generations will take to the dug-outs at the Stadium of Light. Hughes, 43, collected two Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup during more than 12 years in two spells at Old Trafford, and was one of the most dangerous strikers of his day. Keane's United medal haul was even more impressive, amounting to seven league titles and four FA Cups.

They spent two seasons together working under Sir Alex Ferguson before Hughes was sold to Chelsea for £1.5m in July 1995. Keane said he believed the softly-spoken Hughes, who was transformed into a warrior when he walked on to the pitch, was not the leading candidate to make the step into management.

"You never knew with Sparky because he was fairly quiet until he crossed that white line," said Keane. "He got on the road through Wales and did a very good job there. I wouldn't say I was shocked that Sparky became a manager because you never know. Some lads are different.

"In that dressing room, we always talked about Bryan Robson becoming a manager and Steve Bruce. Sparky was always a quiet one, but always taking it in and it's no surprise that he is doing very, very well. He was a top player and I was grateful to have played with him. He is proving to be a top manager and I am sure that will continue."

Keane spent more than £35m this summer to rebuild for the challenge of life in the top flight. Having seen how difficult that was, he has admired how Hughes assembled his squad without spending what he calls "crazy money".

He said: "I saw them last year in the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea and they were unlucky not to get to the final, and there have been another one or two close shaves for them. Sparky has got that bit of experience and clearly that hunger to do as good a job as a manager as he did as a player. If that turns out to be, let me tell you, he will be a hell of a manager."