Keane: He's back and this time it's personal

Actually it's always personal with Roy Keane. As he returns to action tomorrow, playing for a new team for the first time in 12 years, Nick Harris and Matt Denver offer 20 dos and don'ts for friends and foes alike
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Just ask Andy Cole, Keane's former Manchester United team-mate. "He's the one footballer on earth who reckons that he never makes a mistake," Cole said. "The rest of us are mugs, continually messing up the team plan. Not Keano. He is just perfect, he is, or at least he believes he is, 10 out of 10 every week, in his dreams."

2. Don't take it easy in training. Ever

Dave Penney, now the manager of Doncaster, once went to visit his former Oxford and Derby club-mate, Steve McClaren, when he was a coach at Manchester United. "Roy Keane was bollocking everyone in training," Penney recalled. "I was having lunch with Macca afterwards and said, 'He got out the wrong side of bed this morning didn't he?' Macca said, 'Nah, he's like that every day'."

3. Remember: he's driven by the dark days when he had nothing to do but watch soaps

In his searingly frank autobiography he recalls failing to get a trial with Brighton as a teenager. He was, he wrote, "gutted. I slipped into a kind of half-life, drifting aimlessly through long, dull days. I got out of bed at one o'clock for the day's first treat: the latest episode of Neighbours, which was screened at 1.30 ... I'd nearly slipped under. I was never going to flirt with idleness again."

4. Don't expect him to go easy on you just because you are playing for a lesser club. He probably thinks you're rubbish

Writing about opponents who used to target United players, he said: "What really bugged us was the thought that these guys were out to make a name for themselves by sorting us out. Why the fuck didn't they put the effort in every week, then maybe they wouldn't be playing for fucking Norwich or Swindon."

5. Don't underestimate him. He is the perfect example of mind-body unity

Not just mind-body unity, but also "of physical movement and team orchestration", according to Professor Gerard T Wrixon, the president on the occasion of Dr Roy Keane being conferred with an honorary doctorate of laws at Cork University in 2002. There's more. "Beyond those capacities, also, he is the engine, the driving force that keeps those teams going," the prof went on. "For many admirers he is a one-man industrial revolution on the football field."

6. He's always right

David Beckham recalled making an early error for Manchester United. "I tried a long ball that didn't come off - a Hollywood pass, probably - and Roy Keane had a go at me about it; in fact he absolutely ripped me apart. He does it to his team-mates all the time. It doesn't matter to Roy if you've been playing for United for 10 years or just 10 games. If he thinks he needs to, he'll hammer you. It's all about wanting to win."

7. Clyde beware. He does everything he can to make a quick impression

"You've got to establish your credentials early on. You've got to let the opposition know that if it gets physical they'll lose. Bang, first tackle, is the most effective way to deliver the message."

8. He doesn't care who you are...

His respect has to be earned, whoever you are, even if you're his manager or captain At the end of a Republic of Ireland tour to America in 1992, on the morning the team were due to fly home, he went for drink and was late for the bus to the airport. His manager, Jack Charlton, said: "Where the fuckin' hell have you been?"

Keane replied: "Why didn't you go without us? I didn't ask you to wait."

Keane then heard his captain, Mick McCarthy, saying: "You're right out of order, you."

Keane replied: "Go and fuck yourself." Keane was 21.

9 Give him the ball. Always

Former Manchester United colleague Lee Sharpe, speaking yesterday from the ski slopes of Andorra, where he is on holiday: "Advice for Keano's new team-mates? Give him the ball at every opportunity. He won't waste it. " And Sharpe also had some advice for his opponents - "wear big shin pads, especially on his debut. He'll want to stamp his authority on the game early, and on you."

10 Don't upset him. Ever

Just before the 2002 World Cup, Mick McCarthy, then Ireland's manager, said: On the field he's a major asset. Off it he's quite unassuming, an ordinary lad. He'll say, 'What are you all doing tonight?' and he'll come to the pictures or whatever. What you see on the pitch is usually extravagant character but he's not like that off it."

Shortly after the "Saipan showdown" McCarthy said: "As he waded in with one expletive after another, I asked myself if this was my captain. Was this a man who could serve Ireland as a role model for our children? The answer was no."

11. He doesn't always write

His superb autobiography, while clearly the essence of the man, was actually ghost-written by Eamon Dunphy. And apparently, at one stage during Mick McCarthy's tenure as the Republic of Ireland manager, Keane was considered so unapproachable that no one wanted to ask him to autograph any shirts or footballs. Johnny Fallon, the kit man, luckily perfected Keane's signature.

12. His head isn't just for mind games

While his steely focus is taken for granted, his heading was described as the "best I've ever seen" by both Stuart Pearce and Brian Clough. A League Cup semi-final, second leg match at Tottenham in 1992 provided a perfect example of single-minded application, and ability with his nut. After a bomb scare and a delayed start, in a torrential downpour, on a quagmire of a pitch, he totally dominated, scoring the extra-time winner with a magnificent header.

13. Be careful on nights out with him (not that you'll be asked)

On the social front, he divides opinion like few others Two former Nottingham Forest players who went on to own Nottinghamshire pubs remember him very differently. Ian Storey-Moore, landlord of The Wheatsheaf, considered him "a great lad and never any bother". But Larry Lloyd banned him from The Stage Door, recalling that "he was horrible when he had a drink". Stan Collymore, a third man with a Forest connection, ignored pots and kettles to say Keane was a "fucking loon" who had "legendary rucks" in Nottingham clubs.

14. Don't be cheeky

After Keane's autobiography came out in 2002, his Irish international team-mate Jason McAteer said he wouldn't be buying a copy. "I'd rather buy a Bob the Builder CD for my two-year-old son." Within days Keane was sent off for elbowing the then Sunderland midfielder in the face. McAteer responded with a pen and paper gesture, as if to say, "Put that one in your book."

15. Don't start anything in the tunnel

Even if it is not with Keane himself. Patrick Vieira tried it at Highbury nearly a year ago, picking on Gary Neville, and look what happened. Recalling the incident, Keane said: "I'm usually first out in the tunnel, but I had a problem with my shorts and I was maybe fourth or fifth out and by the time I got down I saw Vieira getting right into Gary Neville again. I mean physically as well now. I don't mean verbally. I'd had enough of Vieira's behaviour and I would do what I did again tomorrow if I had to.

"It takes two to tango. Maybe Gary deserves to be chased up a tunnel every now and then - there would be a queue for him, probably. But you have to draw a line eventually. I just said, 'That's it, I'm not having this.' That sort of behaviour I won't tolerate."

16. If it all kicks off in the media, expect a shrug

It's always been that way. After an early game for Nottingham Forest against Tottenham, Keane told Ian Edwards of the Nottingham Evening Post how Paul Gascoigne had been "in my ear the whole game", making comments and winding him up. Edwards wrote a piece, which was picked up by every national tabloid and spun into hyperbolic "Gazza wound me up rotten" splashes. "Brian Clough went ballistic, banned Keane from talking to me," Edwards said. "Roy was totally nonplussed by the whole thing."

See also: Record fine for admission over Haaland tackle (attended a press conference for 50 seconds and said nothing); World Cup 2002 bust-up (walked the dog).

17. Don't try to be funny

At a Manchester United match at Old Trafford in October 2003 against Fulham, a stony-faced Keane, not playing that day, was seated next to Peter Kay in the directors' box. The Bolton comic, one of the funniest men in Britain, spent the afternoon becoming visibly more and more unsettled, not a joke or laugh in sight. United lost, which can't have helped the camaraderie.

18. He never forgets

"Few days passed when I didn't think about Alfie Haaland...I hadn't forgotten Alfie...What goes around comes around...Alfie had the ball on the far touchline. I was wound up. He'd been taking the piss. I lunged for the ball, but mistimed my tackle. I fucking hit him hard. He went down. Don't you ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries. And tell your pal Wetherall he can fuck off too."

19. If you want a friend, get a dog

It is clear from his book that Keane has few friends among his fellow players, whether they are team-mates for not. Dogs, on the other hand, get plenty of mentions, not least his teenage pet, Ben, a black mongrel who had replaced Lucky, "another mongrel so called because he was a stray who we figured was lucky to find R Keane." And then there is current mutt, Triggs, who was famously taken walkies after the World Cup 2002 affair. And Brian Clough's dog, Dell, gets several mentions. Keane observes: "Unlike people, dogs don't talk shite. They won't betray you or otherwise let you down. What you give you get back, and more."

20. He's always right

In the aftermath of the notorious - and unscreened - critique of his Manchester United team-mates on the club's own TV channel, when he gave unflattering views of Rio Ferdinand, Darren Fletcher, Alan Smith, John O'Shea and Kieran Richardson, the veracity of his claims went largely unanalysed. Yet even the subjects felt he had a point. As Ferdinand said: "Roy obviously said what he felt but what he said about me is nothing that I didn't think myself. He has every right to say what he did; he's the skipper. He was absolutely spot on with his comments. Nobody would argue with them."