Roy Keane could start an argument in an empty room.
This time, he started one in a room full of journalists and cameras.
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On Tuesday the assistant manager of the Republic of Ireland responded to claims from Everton manager Ronald Koeman that Ireland had misused his midfielder James McCarthy who played against Georgia and Moldova last month.
McCarthy, 25, has hardly featured for Everton this season and has suffered a hamstring injury after Koeman’s complaints, as the Dutch manager said Ireland were “killing the player” after he played following a return from a groin injury.
Keane’s response to McCarthy withdrawing from the squad to face Austria (he stated he had a hamstring injury) for their crucial 2018 World Cup qualifier in Group D, and Koeman’s comments, was typically combative.
“Clubs are always going to be selfish and want to look after their own players. We are lucky with the Everton lads. We had a problem previously with Martinez. We felt he was over the top when the Everton players were turning up. It’s not a criticism of their players but more for Everton and their staff. They’re always carrying knocks. I always thought the Everton players were going to turn up on crutches or crawling in the hotel door. Now it looks like we are going to have that issue with Koeman.
“Everton, as a football club, I’m not sure when the last time they won a trophy. I think it was a good number of years ago. Maybe overloading players is a good thing. That means your club is being successful,” Keane said. “That’s a player playing week in, week out, playing midweek games. But Everton don’t play European football and they are out of the League Cup. I think Norwich beat them at Goodison so maybe Everton as a club, and it’s a brilliant football club, maybe their players need to toughen up a bit.”
He was then pushed on the matter, asked if Ireland should try their best to keep a good relationship with Everton moving forward?
The former Manchester United and Ireland captain isn’t around to make friends…
“Not really, no. Why do we need a good relationship with Everton? Listen, they are lucky to have the Irish lads they’ve got there. Everton have traditionally have had brilliant Irish players doing well for the football club. So they shouldn’t be so quick to stop Irish players coming to play for Ireland,” Keane said. “I’ve experienced that myself [trepidation as manager over international players being injured] and I can understand it a little bit. But if a player is fit to travel and feels he can play a game, especially in a qualifying game – there’s always more understanding with friendly games — then they should get their heads round that.”
“For example Seamus and James, particularly for Seamus Coleman, what a player he’s been for Everton. Why would they try and begrudge Ireland having these players available to us. Darren Gibson is Irish. Gibbo misses lots of games for Everton. A hell of a lot of games, and he seems to get injured at Everton. So maybe they need to look at their own training schedule. Koeman’s opinions, no issues with me. I couldn’t care less to be honest with you.”
Never change Roy, never change.
It will be intriguing to hear what Koeman says in response to Keane as the outspoken individual once again exhibited his undying passion to say what he thinks no matter the consequence. Part of him seems to do it to create headlines but by now it all seems very genuine.
There’s a message hidden in all of this for managers of Premier League teams: Ireland will call up whoever they want whenever they want as they aim to qualify for their first World Cup since 2002.