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'Basically, you're s**t' - ex-Sunderland defender recalls Roy Keane's 'bizarre' team talk

Danny Higginbotham also revealed that the Ireland assistant boss encouraged his players to be brutally honest in training

Danny Higginbotham has mixed memories of his time with Roy Keane at Sunderland.
Danny Higginbotham has mixed memories of his time with Roy Keane at Sunderland.

FORMER SUNDERLAND DEFENDER Danny Higginbotham has recalled a “bizarre team talk” once given by Roy Keane during his time as manager of the Black Cats.

With Sunderland struggling at the time, Keane decided to employ some reverse psychology, according to an extract from in The Independent from Higginbotham’s forthcoming autobiography:

“The Newcastle result [a 2-1 win] had been decent, but it was in a run of results that were far from it — six defeats in nine games before we played Aston Villa was enough to tell us that. That game was the scene of one of the most bizarre team talks I’ve ever experienced, and that’s saying something from someone who had a childhood acquaintance give one. It was bizarre at the time, but turned out to be a stroke of genius.

““Listen lads,” he said. “Basically, you’re shit. Try and enjoy the game. You’re probably going to get beat. But just enjoy being shit.””

“Then he just walked out. Those words have got to be insulting to any professional, no matter who they come from, and I’ll admit it served as the perfect motivation to get out there and prove him wrong. I scored after 10 minutes and we were leading at half-time. We ended up drawing.

“It was a decent result, Villa were doing okay and Roy’s reverse psychology had worked — on me, at least. He’s a far cleverer person than people realise or would like to acknowledge. He knew what he was doing when he said that, he knew the reaction he would get from some of us, and that was a trick right out of the Brian Clough handbook.”

Higginbotham also revealed that Keane, who is now Ireland assistant boss, encouraged his players to be brutally honest in training, in an attempt to alleviate tension.

“[He said] Lads, listen, if any of you have a problem with each other, don’t hold back, just get it out. I won’t fine youse or nothing, if someone has something to say, that’s just how it is. Say it.” No holds barred — just as he was as a player. I’ll be the first to admit that I did find that environment a little difficult as I’m not that kind of person, but then Roy is a very unique character in his own way and not many are like him, are they? That honest attitude summed up the winner he was.”

Read more extracts here>

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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