Roy Keane is arguably one of the best players that Ireland has ever produced.
A brilliant intelligent footballer, he was one of the best midfielders that the Premier League has ever produced, with a fiercely competitive spirt, and an indominable will win. He also had notoriously high standards, expecting the best of himself and all round him, Even now, as a football pundit, he remains one of the most acerbic critics of modern players.
And it was those exacting standards that brought his international career to a dramatic end.
Ireland were riding high going into the 2002 World Cup, which was held jointly in South Korea and Japan that year, and were ranked as the 12th best team in the world, with a side league talent with the likes of Ray Houghton, Shay Given and Niall Quinn in their squad.
Keane though was their talisman and the player around which their country’s hopes centres.
Things though started o go wrong when they arrived in Saipan, an island off the coast of Japan, for a pre-tournament training camp.
Already disenchanted with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) over what he regarded as a lack of professionalism, and the way they treated certain players, what Keane found in Saipan dismayed him.
Used to the sort of preparation that he was used to at Manchester United, the Irish were expected to train on a pitch that he said was better suited as a car park, and facilities which were definitely second rate, and not suitable for a team preparing for a World Cup.
Keane decided to leave, but was persuaded to stay by his team-mates. However, the situation then escalated when an Irish newspaper published an interview with him that included many of his complaints.
The FAI took umbrage with Keane’s comments, and it led to a showdown between the captain and his manager, Mick McCarthy, that has gone down in Irish folklore.
In industrial terms Keane told McCarthy that he was a liar, that he didn’t rate him as a player, a manager and even as a person and that the only reason he had anything to do with him was because he had ended up as the manager of his country.
Teammate Niall Quin later described it as the “most surgical slaughtering I have ever heard”
That was it for Keane and Ireland. He was told to pack his bags and leave, and he turned up a few days later walking his dogs in Cork. The talk shows in Ireland went into overdrive, with the country split down the middle. For all those who were appalled by what he had done, there were as many believing he was right and demanding his reinstatement in the team.
Without him Ireland qualified from their group but were knocked out in the round of 16 by Spain on penalties.
Keane returned to United where he eventually fell out with Sir Alec Ferguson as well.
The pair had first clashed before the start of the 2005 season, when Keane had argued with his manager over the quality of the club’s summer recruits. And then he went too far, when he appeared on the club’s TV station, MUTV, and criticised the performances of John O’Shea, Kieran Richardson, Alan Smith, and Darren Ferguson.
His contract was cancelled by mutual consent soon afterwards and he joined Celtic.
Tags: Roy Keane, Mick McCarthy, Republic of Ireland, 2002 World Cup, Saipan, Manchester United, the Biggest Scandals in the History of Football.
Line: The day that Roy Keane walked away from the Republic of Ireland team after a bitter training ground row with his manager.
Andy is an exiled English football fan living in Cyprus. He loves all sports but football is his abiding passion, and he still has dreams every now and then about scoring the winning goal in a Wembley Cup Final, even though his playing days are long gone. He follows most major leagues, across Europe at least, and has a favoured team in each. When he’s not watching, listening, reading or downloading podcasts about football, he spend his time worrying about his beloved Arsenal.