Roy Keane has insisted he is not an animal who needs taming after returning to the Republic of Ireland fold.
The 42-year-old former Ireland skipper yesterday conducted his first press conference since accepting the offer to become new Republic manager Martin O’Neill’s number two, and was quick to defend himself against the perception that he is a combustible character.
Keane admitted he might have to rein himself in at times but, asked about O’Neill’s determination to allow him to be his own man, he said: “There’s nothing to tame. I’m not some sort of animal, you know what I mean?
“I’m a footballing man, I like to work hard and push people, and sometimes I suppose I have got that slightly wrong on one or two occasions over the years.
“But, generally speaking, I look back and I think I have got a lot of it right.
“Yes, there are areas I need to look at, particularly as now I’m the assistant, when to step back, and, hopefully, I get that right as well. But I am also there to push the players and put demands on the players, like we did today in training. We have got some good players and sometimes the players themselves are the last to realise how good they are.
“We have got some really good young players and we have got to push them and put demands on them because, from my own experience, I used to like that. I used to like people pushing me.
“That’s the name of the game from when you’re a kid. My manager from when I was a kid at [boys’ club] Rockmount used to say: “Come on, you can do better’. I loved it, it was great.
“But, obviously, there’s a way of speaking to people, I understand that. There’s a way of getting that message across and how you put the demands on them. You have to treat people with respect and, hopefully, the players from the last few days will appreciate that.”
Keane’s return to the Ireland set-up – the scars of his exit from the Far East before the 2002 World Cup finals still run deep for some – has sparked a frenzy of interest and he was inevitably quizzed on the repercussions of events in Saipan. He accepts some supporters may never forgive him for his bust-up with then manager Mick McCarthy, but is not losing sleep over it.
Keane said: “I can’t really worry too much about that. It’s about the future and about today and working with the present group of players, and trying to help Martin and the rest of the staff and the team.
“If we can do our jobs properly, hopefully people will get behind the team and there are some good days ahead.
“It’s obviously going to be hard but I am not here to try to change anybody’s opinion about myself or decisions I have made in the past. I have spent years trying to please everybody and, trust me, it’s a waste of time and energy.”