‘Roy Keane was my assistant manager – this is what he was like to work with’

Roy Keane had to ‘suppress’ his managerial instincts while working under Martin O’Neill, who has lifted the lid on the fiery Manchester United icon and pundit.

Keane was assistant to O’Neill at both Nottingham Forest and Ireland. Those roles came after a mixed spell in management with Sunderland and Ipswich. Keane led the Black Cats to promotion to the Premier League but was sacked by Ipswich after less than two years in charge.

Keane is now a no-nonsense pundit with Sky Sports and ITV, where he is just as combative as during his playing days. O’Neill has seen another side of Keane, describing the Irishman as ‘terrific’ and a ‘joy to work with’.

“People always want to know what he's really like. For the younger generation, he's the one everyone wants to know about,” 'Martin O'Neill exclusively told Ladbrokes Fanzone.

READ MORE: Roy Keane's life away from Sky Sports – mega mansions, adoring wife and his 'only two passions'

“The answer about Roy is that, quite simply, he was terrific. He was terrific for me, he was terrific for the Republic of Ireland, and he was a big part of proceedings.

“He'd been a manager, himself, so there were times where he'd have to suppress. It's just in Roy's nature to always let you know what he's feeling, and that was fine; it's exactly what you want.

“But when the time came for me to pick my team, or make any decision, Roy would be absolutely fine with that, and if things didn't work out, he's not the type of person who would come back to me and tell me if he thought his ideas would've worked better.

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“Roy was a joy to work with. All of the things that you think you know about Roy, you'd probably be right in thinking them.”

O’Neill also critiqued Keane’s illustrious playing career, where his leadership and will to win was a key component of Sir Alex Ferguson’s success-filled reign.

He said: “To me, when you're a manager… take Sir Alex Ferguson, for example. He's working with a really talented group of players, day in, day out, for years at Manchester United. And while ultimately you're the one who makes all the decisions, you still need someone to drive your team on. Roy did that.

“Not for a game or two, not for six months, or a year… he did that for over a decade. He was that driving force, every week, wanting to win, pushing everyone.

“Obviously, Roy's got great enthusiasm for the game. He had little bits of everything. Was he as good a goalscorer as Paul Scholes? Not necessarily. Could he dribble as well as Ryan Giggs? I'm not so sure about that. Could he deliver a ball like David Beckham? No, he couldn't. But Roy had a bit of everything.

“I played against Bryan Robson quite a lot in my career, and he was just a terrific footballer. He could get up and down the pitch, all day long, he could score goals, he was as brave as a lion… and Roy had all of those attributes. Roy, vocally, drove all of his players on. Bryan might have been less vocal, but both led by example.

“You can't have success, as a manager, without someone like Roy on the pitch for you, driving the team on, week-in, week-out.”

O’Neill would like to see Keane return to management, insisting he still has a lot to offer.

“I was hoping we'd see him back in the dugout again,” added the former Celtic and Leicester boss. “I thought he did an excellent job with Sunderland, especially considering it was his first job. There was once a possibility of him returning there, maybe a couple of years ago, but I'm not sure what happened there.

“Maybe if you asked him, he'd let you know, but I was hoping he'd take that job again. Having done so well there, having been a fan favourite, I thought that might have happened.

“I haven't spoken to Roy now for some time, and he may still be keen on another step into management. But he's doing an excellent job with his punditry, and he's got so much more that he's doing at this moment in time. Maybe he's not that concerned about managing anymore. I just don't know.”

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