Sport On TV: Keane sense of self-worth as important as money

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The Independent Online
GOAL CELEBRATIONS these days require the combined skills of Olga Korbut, Marcel Marceau and the Village People. But when Roy Keane thumped in Manchester United's first goal against those allegedly dangerous Valencians on Wednesday, all it needed was the suspicion of a smile. As one of the headlines put it the next day, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered".

The Republic of Ireland midfielder's face as he trotted away after his casual emphatic strike was almost expressionless, with just the faintest hint of pleasure. He clenched his fist - but gently - took a few more paces, then jumped up - but loosely - almost in slow motion. As his team- mates descended on him, finally Keane grinned.

You see, there's no need to perform a reverse pike with three-quarter turn when you've just signed a contract that means for the next four years you can buy a sports car a week and still have enough to spend 24 hours a day drowning in drink and drugs and high-class harlots (Sorry, journalists should keep their most private thoughts out of their work).

Modern footballers are generally perceived to be greedy and grasping, and money was obviously at the heart of Keane's negotiations. But I suspect that his sense of quiet satisfaction at knocking in the goal, rounding- off the day's business with a token of his value to the team, had something to do with his sense of self-esteem as well as the money in his pocket. His expression revealed the idea that the contract saga has been partly about what money means.

In a previous incarnation I worked in the Health Service, which even back then was somewhat optimistically named, though we did our best. Journalism came as a relatively lucrative escape, but it wasn't just about bank balances. It was the sense of being valued by society, rather than slaving away in some subterranean chamber for a few groats.

On The Big Match: Champions' League Live (ITV), Ron Atkinson remarked: "If that turns out to be the winner he should put in for a pay rise." For Keane the torrents of cash signify not just that the legendarily tight- fisted United want him to stay, but also that they love him very, very deeply. They love him so much they're prepared to do to their beloved pay structure what the hammer used to do to the peach in that old road safety advert.

Not only that, though there may be prettier, flashier, trickier players at Old Trafford, there is now none so well endowed in the wallet department. Keane is up there now within distance of the Vieris and - if you'll pardon the comparison - the McManamans. We were reminded this week that the inconsistent Liverpudlian earns pounds 68,000 a week at Real Madrid - surely a symptom of a decadent society, incontrovertible evidence that the human race has still got a lot of evolving to do.

For much of his career, the same might have been said - though not to his face - of Vinnie Jones, a player with some of Keane's hardness and precious little of his skill. As an actor he's probably making even more money than Keane, even if he's not yet the "Hollywood megastar" that the irritating Jeremy Clarkson described him as on his chat show (BBC2, Sunday).

To his credit, the ever-ebullient shock-haired host did ask a couple of questions that fainter souls might have shied away from. The former Wimbledon and Wales player has been acting with the likes of Nicolas Cage and Brad Pitt, and Clarkson was wondering about the United States' aversion of incomers who have criminal records. "How did you get in?" he ventured diplomatically.

Jones took it in his stride and launched into a slightly confusing explanation of that particular aspect of the American legal system. He was provoked, so that's okay. Whereas, "If you're Gary Glitter or something like that they won't let you in - that's immoral."

Clarkson pushed it. "So if I just went out and hit my neighbour for no good reason..." Jones stopped him. "I never did it for no good reason," he said. And fixed the camera with a brief stare. The night before, I'd finally got round to seeing the much-lauded horror-thriller The Blair Witch Project, but that little look from Jones was the scariest thing I saw all week.