‘I am convinced the players will enjoy working with me. I have simple demands, be on time for training and give 100% then you will be fine. If they don’t, it will be a very brief relationship.’
Those were the words of the former Sunderland gaffer Roy Keane when he took over as manager of Ipswich Town at the end of last season. Keane, who had been out of football since leaving Sunderland last December, signed a two year contract with the Tractor Boys replacing former boss Jim Magilton who was sacked.
The Irishman took charge of Ipswich’s final two games at the end of last season, which both resulted in wins (3-0 vs. Cardiff, 2-1 vs. Coventry) as Ipswich managed to finished 9th in the Championship, well outside of the play-off places. The brief for the season ahead is very simple. Win promotion to the top tier of English football with The Blues, winners of the old First Divison in 1962, FA Cup winners in 1978 and UEFA Cup winners in 1981at the first attempt after an eight year absence.
If Ipswich’s form with managers is anything to go by, Keane could be in this job for the long run, as history shows the club not to be enthusiastic sackers. Bobby Robson spent 13 years in charge, Alf Ramsey 8 years, George Burley for 8 years also, and Magilton for nearly 3. Can Keane step up to the mark and etch his name into Ipswich’s history?
Just like at Sunderland, Keane has got the financial backing that he needs from reclusive owner Marcus Evans. Evans who has a 87.5% shareholding in the club, following his takeover in 2007 said ‘I believe he is the right man to take this club where we want it to be – the Premier League’ He has already shelled out £12million on players since taking over and has promised Keane all the funds he needs to complete the task at hand. Is this foolish to be giving Keane an open cheque book after his transfer dealings at Sunderland?
The former Manchester United skipper signed 36 players in his 27month spell at Sunderland a number of which were uninspiring. But, just how many of them will end up joining Keane at Ipswich? It looks like he has already missed out on a £5million deal, which would have saw Black Cats Dean Whitehead and Daryl Murphy join The Blues.
Keane has now turned his attention to defender Nyron Nosworthy, also of Sunderland to add to his squad. He has already signed Irish defender Damien Delaney from QPR, teenager Troy Brown from Fulham, and Lee Robert Martin from former club Manchester United. They have also added Colin Healy who hails from Keane’s native Cork.
When Keane took charge of Sunderland in August 2006, they lay second from bottom in the Championship. He made an instant impact guiding them straight to the top, and winning the Championship title. In terms of the Championship Keane has a proven track record, but still remains largely unproven in the Premiership. Is this what Ipswich need?
Keane will certainly feel the pressure more this time round after leaving Sunderland in the lurch – ‘There is no comparison between playing and management – nothing will ever come close to playing. Playing was a doddle.’
Pundit Andy Townsend has said that if Keane is to cut it, his attitude towards the game will have to change – ‘Brian Clough and Fergie had a huge influence on shaping Keane’s football philosophies, but the modern game has changed. He can’t rule the boardroom with an iron fist. The baseball bat approach won’t work’
Keane has already been putting his squad through their paces ahead of the new season, spending two days with the Colchester paratroopers to improve their fitness and endurance. The former Manchester United skipper has placed much emphasis on the importance of fitness at Ipswich, recruiting Antonio Gomez, the 32-year-old Spanish sports scientist with whom he worked at Sunderland, to help toughen up the regime.
Andy Townsend may have said the iron first approach won’t work, but it does show Keane is committed, and expects the best out of his players, in the quest for Promotion back to the top flight.
So as Keane prepares for season ahead that will bring many challenges, let’s hope he doesn’t walk out on yet another club. He’s still very much unproven as a manager, but that won’t stop Keane getting his hands dirty, in his pursuit to return the club to the Premiership. If a team like Burnley can do it, then why can’t Ipswich? They would certainly be my front runners for promotion.
Champions – Middlesborough
Runners Up – Ipswich
Play-offs – Swansea, Newcastle, West Brom and Sheffield United.
(Image taken from – Footyblog)