Anything was always possible where his nemes is is concerned but the upshot of Mr Keane’s unlikely arrival at Ipswich Town – a club most late-70s/early-80s ‘Roy of the Rovers’ readers will have a soft spot for – is that Mick McCarthy will be Ireland’s sole managerial representative in the English Premier League next season.
Having led Wolves to automatic promotion and the Championship trophy, the Barnsley-born boss, whose late father Charlie left his native Tallow in west Waterford for Yorkshire in the early fifties, has every reason to feel a sense of vindication. McCarthy for all his faults, has now guided two clubs into the top flight with little or no money to spend. After being sacked by Sunderland for failing to keep them up on a shoestring, many were surprised he got the Wanderers’ job and after falling at the play-offs hurdle last season a sizeable, voluble minority of Moulineux supporters wanted rid of the former Republic manager.
However, the owners, having resisted an offer by a consortium involving Graeme Souness to sell up, stuck with McCarthy and their faith has been justified. Mick is back in the big league. Staying there is the next trick.
Two years ago the aforementioned other ex-Irish ‘captain fantastic’ achieved the same feat (albeit from a standing start, though with a lot more mulla at his disposal) having shaken hands with the man he so spectacularly fell out with in Saipan en route to the ‘promised land’.
The Black Cats got the cream, silver saucer and all, but it turned sour. Now with Ricky Sbragia feeling like he looks, Sunderland are in danger of slipping back down having been beaten 3-0 by rock-bottom West Brom on Saturday. The one glimmer of hope at the Stadium of Light is that their northeast rivals, Newcastle and Middlesboro (who have the worst and best chairman in the division respectively) both look doomed.
Keane’s initial press conference was standard issue: slightly smirky, borderline menacing, lobbing bouquets and brickbats in equal measure, sometimes aimed towards the same recipients. Aside from the predictable “proper football club”, “challenge” spiel, and the routine dog biscuits he feed the media (and we always swallow), his message was simple, the subtext complex. He has standards: meet them and it’s happy days, apparently; don’t and anything goes. Himself first, most probably.
Ipswich’s loaded but furtive owner, Marcus Evans, is obviously banking on Keane putting the club made semi-great by the Sirs, Alf Ramsey and Bobby Robson, back on the map. He should prove a short-term success, and may well trade trajectories with McCarthy in a year’s time. But chances are that, lovely and all as rural East Anglia might be for a man with four-legged friends, and however much some of us will be pulling for him, Keane won’t be with the so-called Tractor Boys for the long haul.
A Waterford rising star announced himself at Portman Road the same week as Keano introduced Triggs to the Sussex countryside. Villa AFC schoolboy Kenny McEvoy scored for Town’s U15s during a trial game at home against Manchester United youngsters in front of almost 2,300 people last Friday evening. The De La Salle College student, who was recently called up to the Irish Under-15 squad, forced the ball over the line after a corner after just seven minutes. His pace troubled United throughout and he also had a shot cleared off the line on the stroke of half-time.
Striker Alan Lee, 30, currently on loan, reluctantly, at neighbours Norwich, played for Bohs and Southend United schoolboys, helping Waterford to win the Kennedy Cup when his father Harry worked in the city as manager of Bank of Ireland on The Quay. One wonders might Keane make a move for Daryl Murphy, who was on the verge of joining Ipswich before signing for Sunderland in 2005.