Roy Keane was the most feared and respected player in the Premier League for more than 10 years. He was the captain and driving force of the Manchester United team that won trophy after trophy in the nineties. Famed for his aggression and will to win, there was never a dull moment with Keane on the pitch.
He was as likely to score the winner in a crucial game as he was to get red carded for a crunching tackle. There was even the time when he whacked his own team mate Phil Neville for not meeting his high standards.
Keane demanded that those in his team show the same commitment he did, and if he felt someone wasn’t giving their all, he would let them know in no uncertain terms.
From the Irish league to Nottingham Forest
Keane’s career began in the Irish League with semi-professional side Cobh Ramblers.
He impressed the staff and immediately got into the first team.
He also impressed a scout from Nottingham Forest who arranged for Keane to travel to England for a trial. Keane did enough to earn a contract with Forest and signed for the midlands club in 1990 for £47,000.
Brian Clough was the Forest manager and put Keane into the first team after seeing him perform for just 45 minutes in the reserves. He handed the youngster his debut at Anfield in a 2-0 defeat.
Keane instantly established himself as a key player for Forest. In his first full season they got to the FA Cup final, losing 2-1 to Tottenham after an extra time own goal from Des Walker.
In Keane’s second season Forest got to Wembley again as they reached the final of the League Cup, but were beaten 1-0 by Manchester United.
The following year the club finished bottom of the newly formed Premier League and Brian Clough retired as manager after 18 years in charge. Keane was voted the Fan’s Player of the Season, but was now the hottest young player in England and was being courted by the top clubs in the country.
Clough’s ‘Irishman’ takes a punch in the face
Keane was always grateful to Clough for giving him his chance in professional football although the two had a strained relationship at times.
Keane revealed in his autobiography that Clough never referred to him by his name but simply addressed him as ‘Irishman’.
Clough also once knocked Keane to the ground after punching him the face. Keane had underhit a backpass to his goalkeeper that resulted in Forest conceding a crucial goal in an FA Cup tie against Crystal Palace.
The game finished in a draw. Clough was so angry with Keane that he punched him after he left the pitch. Keane later revealed he was in such shock he just nodded in agreement as his boss stood over him shouting: “Don’t pass the ball back to the goalkeeper!”
Clough never apologised for the incident but Keane didn’t hold it against him, such was his respect for his manager.
British transfer record
Keane left Forest during the summer of 1993 for a British transfer record fee of £3.75m, joining champions Manchester United after turning down Kenny Dalglish at Blackburn.
Keane joined a team of top professionals at United but slotted straight into the first team due to club captain Bryan Robson’s injury problems.
He scored the winner in a 3-2 victory over rivals Manchester City and with his hard work and goals from midfield, Keane became a favourite with the United fans. United won the Premier League and FA Cup double to give Keane his first silverware in professional football.
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