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Can Roy Keane kickstart his career in Edinburgh?

Saturday 9th November 2019
Both sides are reportedly interested in good cop Martin O'Neill's bad partner.
Both sides are reportedly interested in good cop Martin O'Neill's bad partner.

There’s a black cloud flying over Edinburgh. With both of the city’s top-flight clubs having dispensed with their respective managers, speculation is raging on who could take either hot seat. One name bandied about in conjunction with both outfits is Roy Keane.

For Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian, Keane could be an appealing figure. Both clubs earned criticism in recent weeks for a perceived lack of drive and determination. If the fans are to be believed, the pair need a boot up the backside, and with country music agitator Toby Keith apparently not taking football jobs, the former Manchester United ballbuster could be the next best thing.

Keane could be well suited for a job in Scotland. After all, this is the nation where kicking (largely shins, rather than the ball) is king, and physicality, sometimes even brutality are the orders of the day. Keane could appeal to either Edinburgh club as the man to come striding in, smashing the old, useless furniture and raising a little hell. He spent time in Scotland before, his career winding down via half a season at Parkhead. But as fellow United alumni Paul Scholes and Gary Neville would testify, playing and managing are two entirely different ball games.

The former Ireland star does have managerial experience at a good level in the English pyramid, with stints at Sunderland and Ipswich under his belt, not to mention a spell as assistant to Martin O’Neil with the Republic of Ireland and at Nottingham Forest. While he hardly pulled up trees during his time in those various dugouts, he at least didn’t fail spectacularly.

There are downsides to employing Keano, though. The firebrand pundit isn’t exactly known for his rapport with modern footballers. Sunderland players celebrated the day he was sacked. And while a no-nonsense management style may be enough to help the Edinburgh outfits avoid relegation, the long-term prospects would be somewhat less rosy. Slowly but surely, Scottish football is modernising, the old style making way for more technical play. The likes of Angelo Alessio may be taking their time to make their mark in Scotland, but it will happen. When it does, Roy Keane can stand screaming all he likes, it won’t help him any.

Keane never exhibited the slightest awareness of what it takes to be a manager in modern football. Even as a pundit, he has shown he is arrogant, unempathetic and abrasive. Yes, he could get Hibs or Hearts kicking lumps out of opposition strikers with hitherto unseen savagery, but it’s hardly going to wash in two or three seasons when the club’s fans demand something more than staving off relegation.

There are other options for the Edinburgh duo, and while a high-profile name like Keane’s may seem appealing, they would perhaps do better to appoint a steadier pair of hands with less media pressure and a better understanding of modern footballers. Someone who knows the ins and outs of the league, not just in a tactical and personnel sense, but on an emotional level. It’s doubtful Keane could ever really be made to care about the emotional impact an Edinburgh club’s relegation would have and expecting him to build a connection with the clubs’ players or fans is laughable.

Keane will doubtless find employment somewhere. He’s got the connections and the reputation to land himself a good gig. But, for the time being at least, the imperilled big guns of the Scottish capital aren’t the right environment for him to come and strut his stuff.

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Jonny Keen

Glasgow based writer keen (geddit?) on the cultural elements of football. More interested in the fortunes of Cefn Druids or HJK Helsinki than the latest goings on at Manchester City or Real Madrid.

Once played 10 minutes of a game in the 17th tier of English football. He thinks the best food in football is to be found at Forest Green Rovers and Rayo Vallecano are the only club in Madrid. 

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