Roy Maurice Keane (born 10 August 1971) is an Irish football pundit, manager and former professional player. He is the joint-most successful Irish footballer of all time, having won 19 major trophies, 17 of which came at Manchester United, in his club career. He served as the assistant manager of the Republic of Ireland national team from 2013 until 2018. Regarded as one of the best midfielders of his generation, in 2004 Keane was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list
of the world's greatest living players. In 2007, The Times placed him at number 11 in their list of the 50 "hardest" footballers in history.
In his 18-year playing career, Keane played for Cobh Ramblers, Nottingham Forest and Manchester United, before ending his career at Celtic. Keane was a dominating box-to-box midfielder, noted for his aggressive and highly competitive style of play, an attitude that helped him excel as captain of Manchester United from 1997 until his departure in 2005. Keane helped United achieve a sustained period of success during his 12 years at the club. He then signed for Celtic, where he won a domestic double before he retired as a player in 2006.
Keane played at international level for the Republic of Ireland over a period of 14 years, most of which he spent as captain. At the 1994 FIFA World Cup, he played in every Republic of Ireland game. He was sent home from the 2002 FIFA World Cup after a dispute with national coach Mick McCarthy over the team's training facilities.
Keane was appointed manager of Sunderland shortly after his retirement as a player and took the club from 23rd position in the Football League Championship, in late August, to win the division title and gain promotion to the Premier League. He resigned in December 2008, and from April 2009 to January 2011, he was manager of Championship club Ipswich Town. In November 2013, he was appointed assistant manager of the Republic of Ireland national team by manager Martin O'Neill. Keane has also worked as a studio analyst for British channel ITV's football coverage.
Keane was born into a working class family in Ballinderry Park, Mayfield, Cork. His father, Maurice, took work wherever he could find, which led to jobs at a local knitwear company and at Murphy's Irish Stout brewery, among others. His family were keen on sport, football especially, and many of his relatives had played for junior clubs in Cork, including Rockmount. Keane took up boxing at the age of nine and trained for a number of years, winning all of his four bouts in the novice league. During this period he was developing as a much more promising footballer at Rockmount, and his potential was highlighted when he was voted Player of the Year in his first season. Many of his teammates were offered trials abroad with English football teams, but Keane was not.
Keane supported Celtic and Tottenham Hotspur as a child, citing Liam Brady and Glenn Hoddle as his favourite players, but as time progressed, Manchester United's Bryan Robson became the footballer he most admired.
Initially, Keane was turned down from the Ireland schoolboys squad after a trial in Dublin; one explanation from former Ireland coach and scout Ronan Scally was that the 14-year-old Keane was "just too small" to make it at the required level. Undeterred, he began applying for trials with English clubs, but he was turned down by each one. As his childhood years passed, he took up temporary jobs involving manual work while waiting for a breakthrough in his football prospects. In 1989, he eventually signed for the semi-professional Irish club Cobh Ramblers after persuasion from Ramblers' youth team manager Eddie O'Rourke. Keane was one of two Ramblers representatives in the inaugural FAI/FAS scheme in Dublin, and it was through this initiative that he got his first taste of full-time training. His rapid progression into a promising footballer was reflected by the fact that he would regularly turn out for Ramblers' youth side as well as the actual first team, often playing twice in the same weekend as a result.
In an FAI Youth Cup match against Belvedere, Keane's performance attracted the attention of watching Nottingham Forest scout Noel McCabe, who asked him to travel over to England for a trial. Keane impressed Forest manager Brian Clough, and eventually a deal for Keane worth £47,000 was struck with Cobh Ramblers in the summer of 1990.
Keane initially found life in Nottingham difficult due to the long periods away from his family, and he would often ask the club for a few days' home leave in order to return to Cork. Keane expressed his gratitude at Clough's generosity when considering his requests, as it helped him get through his early days at the club. Keane's first games at Forest came in the Under-21s team during a pre-season tournament in the Netherlands. In the final against Haarlem, he scored the winning penalty in a shootout to decide the competition, and he was soon playing regularly for the reserve team. His professional league debut came against Liverpool at the start of the 1990–91 season, and the resulting performance encouraged Clough to use him more and more as the season progressed.
Brian Clough's advice to me before most games was: 'you get it, you pass it to another player in a red shirt'. That's really all I've tried to do at Forest and United — pass and move — and I've made a career out of it.
Keane eventually scored his first professional goal against Sheffield United, and by 1991 he was a regular starter in the side, displacing the England international Steve Hodge. Keane scored three goals during a run to the 1991 FA Cup final, which Forest ultimately lost to Tottenham Hotspur. In the third round, however, he made a costly error against Crystal Palace, gifting a goal to the opposition and allowing them to draw the game. On returning to the dressing room after the game, Clough punched Keane in the face in anger, knocking him to the floor. Despite this incident, Keane bore no hard feelings against his manager, later claiming that he sympathised with Clough due to the pressures of management and that he was too grateful to him for giving him his chance in English football. A year later, Keane returned to Wembley with Forest for the Football League Cup final, but again finished on the losing side as Manchester United secured a 1–0 win.
Keane was beginning to attract attention from the top clubs in the Premier League, and in 1992, Blackburn Rovers manager Kenny Dalglish spoke to Keane about the possibility of a move to the Lancashire club at the end of the season. With Forest struggling in the league and looking increasingly likely to be relegated, Keane negotiated a new contract with a relegation escape clause. The lengthy negotiations had been much talked about in public, not least by Brian Clough, who described Keane as a "greedy child" due to the high wages demanded by the Irishman. "Keane is the hottest prospect in football right now, but he is not going to bankrupt this club", Clough stated. Despite the extended contract negotiations, Forest fans voted him the club's Player of the Season. Despite his best efforts, Keane could not save Forest from relegation, and the clause in his contract became activated. Blackburn agreed a £4 million fee for Keane, who soon after agreed a contract with the club.
A mistake, however, prevented the move to the club: when the contract had been agreed, Dalglish realised they did not have the correct paperwork needed to complete the transfer. This was on a Friday afternoon, and the office had been locked up for the weekend. With a verbal agreement in place, they agreed to meet on Monday morning to complete the transfer officially. Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, hearing about the move, phoned Keane and asked whether he would like to join them instead of Blackburn. Ferguson ensured they had the paperwork ready and met up with Keane on the Saturday and signed for Manchester United for £3.75 million, a British transfer record at the time
Early years: 1993–97
Despite the then-record transfer fee, there was no guarantee that Keane would go straight into the first team. Paul Ince and Bryan Robson had established a formidable partnership in the centre of midfield, having just inspired Manchester United to their first league title since 1967. Robson, however, was 36 years old and in the final stages of his playing career, and a series of injuries kept him out of action for most of the 1992–93 season and into the 1993–94 season. As a result Keane had an extended run in the team, scoring twice on his home debut in a 3–0 win against Sheffield United, and grabbing the winner in the Manchester derby three months later when United overturned a 2–0 deficit at Maine Road to beat Manchester City 3–2.
Keane had soon established himself as a first choice selection, and by the end of the season he had won his first trophy as a professional as United retained their Premier League title. Two weeks later, Keane broke his Wembley losing streak by helping United to a 4–0 victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup Final, sealing the club's first ever "double".
The following season was less successful, as United were beaten to the league title by Blackburn Rovers and beaten 1–0 in the FA Cup final by Everton. He received his first red card as a Manchester United player in a 2–0 FA Cup semi-final replay win against Crystal Palace, after stamping on Gareth Southgate, and was suspended for three matches and fined £5,000. This incident was the first of 11 red cards Keane would accumulate in his United career, and one of the first signs of his indiscipline on the field.
The summer of 1995 saw a period of change at United, with Ince leaving for Internazionale, Mark Hughes moving to Chelsea and Andrei Kanchelskis being sold to Everton. Younger players such as David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes were brought into the team, which left Keane as the most experienced player in midfield. Despite a slow start to the 1995–96 campaign, United pegged back title challengers Newcastle United, who had built a commanding 12-point championship lead by Christmas, to secure another Premier League title. Keane's second double in three years was confirmed with a 1–0 win over Liverpool to win the FA Cup for a record ninth time.
The next season saw Keane in and out of the side due to a series of knee injuries and frequent suspensions. He picked up a costly yellow card in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Borussia Dortmund, which ruled him out of the return leg at Old Trafford. United lost both legs 1–0, but this was compensated for by winning another league title a few days later.