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Thursday, 23 May, 2002, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK

Keane blows his chance

By Stuart Roach
BBC Sport Online

In Japan, it is considered highly offensive to blow your nose in public.

So quite what the people of Saipan will make of Roy Keane's public criticism of their training facilities is anyone's guess.

When the Irish squad arrived on the tropical island in the Western Pacific, they were greeted by a local beauty queen who placed garlands of flowers on the head of every player.

The squad was then whisked to a luxury beachfront location and then to a training pitch specially laid for them by greenkeepers from the local golf club.

Saipan stopover

  • Republic on island for six days
  • Island measures 12.5 x 5.5 miles
  • Training pitch specially laid for Irish visit
  • Capital of Mariana Islands, a commonwealth whose residents are American citizens
  • That should have allowed Mick McCarthy and hs players to unwind from a strenuous 17-hour journey.

    Instead, it seemed to tip Roy Keane over the edge.

    "I'm banging my head against a brick wall regarding certain issues about this trip. From the training facilities to all sorts.

    "This trip is the tip of the iceberg," said Keane before being sent home from the Republic of Ireland squad and the World Cup.

    "I'm not being a prima donna. Training pitch, travel arrangements, getting through the bloody airport when we were leaving, it's the combination of things.

    "I would never say 'that's the reason or this is the reason', but enough is enough," Keane added.

    The father-of-four said he was missing his family, but he was also missing the high standards he has grown accustomed to as captain of Manchester United.

    Keane is used to the luxuries of life.

    As a United star, he is lavished; as a member of the Irish squad, he felt he was ridiculed.

    "The hotel is fine, but we've come here to work.

    Keane factfile

  • 1971: Born Cork, 10 August
  • 1987: Joins semi-pro League of Ireland club Cobh Ramblers.
  • 1990: Signed by Brian Clough for Nottingham Forest for 10,000.
  • 1991: Makes Republic of Ireland debut in 1-1 draw with Chile in Dublin.
  • 1993: Joins Manchester United for then British transfer record 3.75m after 154 matches and 33 goals for Forest.
  • 1996: Sent off for Republic against Russia in Mick McCarthy's first match as manager.
  • 2000: Named PFA and Football Writers' player of the year before lifting Premiership title for the sixth time in eight years.
  • "I can't imagine any other country in the world who are far worse off than us, playing on something like that.

    "But we're the Irish team, it's a laugh and a joke. We shouldn't expect too much."

    You will not find a harder competitor in a game than Keane, and he expected the same attitude from his team-mates, even in training.

    When the goalkeepers were told they need not take part in a training game because of tiredness earlier this week, Keane flipped his lid.

    "I did mention that they wouldn't be too tired to play golf the next day and, fair play, they dragged themselves out!"

    Playing on a pitch he described as "like a car park", Keane refused to add injury to insult.

    Keane's high standards

    He retired from international football with immediate effect, although a good night's sleep and a telephone call home at least persuaded him to defer his decision until after the World Cup.

    But that was before the Football Association of Ireland stepped in.

    The fact that no-one lives up to Keane's high standards is reflected in the fact that the captain roomed on his own with Ireland.

    But he did not sit in a leather armchair, sipping champagne and having grapes peeled and fed to him.

    Keane likes the simple things, explaining: "I prefer to be on my own as regards using the telephone, getting up, reading, using the bath, whatever you might want.

    Reflective time, if you like.

    Perhaps Keane may yet reflect on the folly of his ways costing him the last chance to perform on the world's greatest stage.

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