During one of those team-building days many of us are routinely required to endure, the assembled group I was in was asked to name somebody who they considered embodied the qualities of a hero. Inevitably, there were many calls for Mandela, Churchill and Gandhi – those secular saints of our modern age. When it came to me, I let the words “Roy Keane” pass my lips which prompted an audible gasp amongst my colleagues. “But isn’t he the one who admitted to ending another player’s career? How can you say you admire somebody like that?” came one response to my flagrant disregard for the conventional perception of what makes a hero a hero.
This, after all, is a man who is admittedly brutal, thuggish and difficult to like. He has and always will be prone to horrendous acts of physical and verbal violence. The man who makes Adrian Chiles repeatedly shift nervously in his seat during punditry duties with that furrowed brow and glaring eyes. A triumph as a player but one capable of self-destruction and whose managerial career has failed to deliver on the promise of his initial success at Sunderland. “Bad cop and even badder cop,” Martin O’ Neill semi-jokingly put it after he was asked about the style of management he and Keane would bring to the Republic of Ireland job.