THERE shouldn’t be too much for Roy Keane to mull over as he considers whether to become Celtic manager. That is the opinion of the man who brought him to the club as a player and is now one of his “team-mates” on television.
Gordon Strachan looks upon his relationship with Keane as going beyond the professional. The pair are scheduled to travel to Brazil as members of ITV’s analyst circle, but what the Scotland manager does not do, and would never do, in being asked to comment on the possibility of Keane taking over at the Glasgow club, is attempt to tell the Irishman how he should make up his mind.
Strachan managed Keane for the final six months of his career, when the then 34-year-old’s acrimonious departure from Manchester United in late 2005 brought him north to fulfil one of the items on his bucket list.
“I have no idea whether or not he will be a good fit,” said Strachan. “Personally, I think that it is a great job for anybody to take. Whoever the man is who is lucky enough to be offered it, then I think that they should take it.
“It’s a job where there is never a dull moment and, without doubt, it will make you a better manager. You’ll be working with great people as well. I’m not giving any specific individual advice – I just believe that it’s a terrific job.”
In the absence of a league challenge; in requiring to work within Celtic’s business strategy that demands the development of players for selling that have often been scouted and recruited by others; and in consistently being expected to remain in on and off-field profit, the job clearly now has the potential to be a peculiarly unrewarding and draining experience – to which Neil Lennon would surely testify.
Keane, though, is in a wholly different position from Lennon. He has had the other jobs that Lennon now covets. And, in respect of his spell with Ipswich Town from 2009 to 2011, if not his earlier stint leading Sunderland back to the top flight, ultimately failed to convince that his wondrous playing abilities were transferable to the coaching sphere.
It is obvious what Celtic’s major shareholder Dermot Desmond sees in Keane, with whom he enjoys a level of friendship. This brooding, beguiling, brutal figure is a fascination magnet. Among the highest-profile figures to grace British football, he would make Celtic talked about and reported upon beyond these borders. A UK-wide profile is important to Desmond as he still hankers for Celtic moving beyond its Scottish base.
Although many seem to think so, Keane would not be a great risk. It is impossible for a Celtic manager not to win the league, improbable that Celtic won’t do better in the domestic cups next season than last, and negotiating three qualifying rounds of the Champions League should not be as daunting as it is sometimes presented when two of these ties could quite easily be against part-time opponents.
Granted though, you can question the fit of Keane and Celtic beyond these elements. The club need a coach who, above all, can foster camaraderie and self-improvement among the squad. Lennon excelled on both. However, there are questions over whether, with a managerial style seen as blunt and sergeant-major like, Keane can do the same.
As was true of him as a player, if Keane was at the top of the management game he wouldn’t come within 100 miles of Celtic Park. He certainly has a feeling for the club, that is beyond argument, but he only washed up in Glasgow in January 2006 because he needed sanctuary at a time when his body was beginning to rebel against him and his mind was a state of flux.
In terms of the burning desire to prove himself in frontline management, that has been patently reignited courtesy of coming under the wing of Martin O’Neill with the Republic these past six months, Celtic presents him with certain possibilities that no other club would offer him.
Former Liverpool and Republic of Ireland midfielder Ronnie Whelan gives voice to the obvious lure that could outweigh any disincentives where the managerial position at Celtic is concerned. “You have to remember there’s not an awful lot to beat if you’re manager at Celtic,” he said. “They won the league this year again by a sackload of points. It’s the Champions League I’m sure he’d be looking at more than just managing Celtic day-to-day. But it’s Roy’s decision.”
Whelan thinks Keane does have a point to prove. “I think a lot of managers like that, when they have a bad experience at club level, they want to get back into it again, they don’t want to be scarred by the experience of being sacked at Ipswich or wherever. I think Roy wants to again get back into day-to-day management of a club side. Hopefully he waits with Ireland a little bit longer.”
That “longer” may well only be a couple of days.