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Dublin: 9°C Wednesday 12 May 2021

Roy Keane faces stiff competition as other bruised managers make eyes at Celtic

Out of management for over five years, the Republic of Ireland assistant boss is still making shortlists.

Image: Lynne Cameron/EMPICS Sport

ROY KEANE COULD have taken over as Celtic boss in the summer of 2014. Over a cup of tea, the club’s majority shareholder – Dermot Desmond – offered him the chance to take over from Neil Lennon.

“At the end of the chat, he said ‘The job is yours’”, Keane outlined in The Second Half.

Ultimately, he had doubts. He wanted the job but was left irritated by the non-negotiable figure that was offered. He was irritated by the way the club wanted an answer so quickly. Perhaps he was irritated by the fact that Celtic were speaking to other potential coaches.

“Had Celtic shown enough in their negotiating, ‘we’ll move this, you can take that’ – a bit of give and take – I might have hesitated”, Keane continued.

“They just didn’t show me that they wanted me and I was happier staying in the Ireland job.”

Keane’s last spell in management came at Ipswich in 2011, where he failed to last two years. It was a scarring experience for him and he later admitted to having managed badly at Portman Road.

Soccer - npower Football League Championship - Ipswich Town v Nottingham Forest - Portman Road Source: Stephen Pond

“I spoke to some people like they were something on the bottom of my shoe”, Keane said.

The 44-year-old hasn’t managed in over five years yet he’s been continuously linked with the Celtic job – a side guaranteed Champions League football every year. Whatever people may think of the domestic Scottish product, Celtic remain a well-known, well-regarded and romantic European side. In many ways, given his managerial record, Keane shouldn’t even be considered as a possible Celtic boss. Yet, his profile and short stint as a player at Parkhead adds a layer of intrigue.

But if Keane was irritated when Celtic made an approach last time, he faces even stiffer competition this time around.

Paris Saint-Germain v Chelsea - UEFA Champions League - Round of 16 - First Leg - Parc des Princes Source: Empics Sports Photography Ltd.

And, it’s two managers in a relatively similar position to him that are in the mix.

Both David Moyes and Neil Lennon have a point to prove.

For the former Everton boss, he’s longing for some consistency. After eleven years at Goodison Park, he was sacked by Manchester United’s top brass after just ten months. He lasted at Real Sociedad for a year.

Having got a taste for the Champions League during his stint at Old Trafford, he’d like it on a regular basis. Having been a top-flight manager for a long time, he’s still not got much silverware to show for it all. In Glasgow, that would change.

And though he has also been linked with the vacant Aston Villa job, the backroom struggle and level of off-field difficulties there will certainly be off-putting. And the disjointed midlands club are a long way from both trophies and Europe too.

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Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group G - Celtic v Barcelona - Celtic Park Source: Mike Egerton

Lennon is an interesting proposition.

He won three titles during his stint in charge between 2010 and 2014 and oversaw a superb run to the knockout stages of the Champions League in 2012 – the iconic win over Barcelona surely one of the most memorable moments in the club’s recent history.

As a former captain, Lennon’s affinity to the club is undeniable but it remains to be seen how well the board and supporters would react to a potential return.

Lennon left to make it big elsewhere and walked into the perfect storm at Bolton. The eighteen months he spent there would’ve served him well – regardless of how chaotic it proved to be at the financially-stricken Championship club. Lennon also made no secret of his desire to return to Celtic in the future.

With Old Firm rivals Rangers back in the top-flight next term, Celtic could do with someone who has been there before and Lennon has already been quick with the PR.

Given that the experiment under Ronny Deila just never took off, it’s clear Celtic will prefer their next manager to have knowledge of the expectation and intensity that engulfs the club. Deila guided the side to a league and cup double in his debut season – not a bad feat for an outsider – but the style of play and the setbacks in Europe ensured constant murmurs about the Norwegian’s future.

Soccer - Bank of Scotland Premier Division - Rangers v Celtic - Ibrox Stadium Source: John Walton/EMPICS Sport

At Celtic, winning is not enough. More is expected all the time.

Would Keane fit snugly into that? During the final, dark days at Ipswich, he gestured angrily at supporters. He fell out with a litany of players. How would he handle the pressure at Celtic, even if he was winning games?

His next managerial move is a critical one but even though he’s ‘Roy Keane’, he may just be better advised to start again somewhere smaller.

Then again, he never quite does things by half.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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