Roy Keane was a team-mate and captain to Gary Neville for many years at Manchester United – at the same time that Ferguson brought Keane to Old Trafford, the young crop of players that included Gary Neville were making their mark in the youth team.
So when Keane was asked to comment on Neville’s appointment to the England backroom staff, you would expect an informed opinion. And Roy Keane, being Keane, duly delivered. In fact, he may even have paid his successor as United captain a compliment (see if you can spot it).
Roy Keane on Neville’s influence behind the scenes:
“It’s important you are yourself. Listen, Gary can talk but don’t think for one minute he was as influential in the dressing room as people might think he was. Gary would say his piece but he wasn’t running the show. Far from it.
So don’t think for one minute he will be going into England and calling the shots. He will be learning his trade and being a link between the manager and the players, and I think he will be good at that.”
“I’m surprised he has kept his role with doing TV. That can be difficult. You can get your way around criticising players by saying: ‘I’d expect the player to do better.’ He probably won’t be as critical as me and speak in the terms I do. I know Gareth [Southgate] does it, but he’s not in the dressing room, he’s not on the training pitch, he’s not working with the players.”
On Neville’s potential impact on England’s fortunes:
“There’s a lot of thumbs-up, everyone says it is a good appointment, but I’d say let’s wait and see. We’ve got to give him a chance. He’s not done any coaching before. I know he has done his coaching qualifications but sitting in a studio talking about teams is very different.
What he has got is he’ll be working under Roy Hodgson. It is not as if he will be calling the shots. He can learn his trade. I’m pretty sure if they have a decent tournament, or a decent couple of years, Roy Hodgson and his staff will get praise. If they don’t, the manager will get criticism and people will start criticising Gary. Gary’s a decent guy and he’s played at a decent level, but that doesn’t guarantee you success.”
On Neville entering management:
“You have to look at these opportunities when they come. You can’t be too clever when you are outside of football and not involved in a team, and if an opportunity comes up.
He is going to be working with top players and a top manager so there is no surprise Gary jumped straight into it. There is only one way to find out if you can do it or not – let’s get into it. It’s no good just talking about it. It’s not a week-to-week job. He will still have a bit of time off and will be learning from a top manager.”
It may not sound like it, but this is high praise from Roy Keane. I imagine his kids must be very jealous.