Roy Keane’s eventful soccer career took another unexpected twist yesterday when he was appointed the new manager of Championship club Ipswich.
The former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland midfielder has signed a two-year contract at the Suffolk club, who sacked former boss Jim Magilton on Wednesday after it became clear that Ipswich had no chance of securing promotion to the Premier League this season.
Keane, 37, has been out of work since leaving Sunderland in December but recently indicated that he was ready for a new challenge.
“I truly believe that I am joining a club that has the potential, ambition and infrastructure to once again be a Premier League side,” the Irishman said. “The club’s owner and chief executive impressed upon me their total focus on achieving this quest at the earliest opportunity and I can’t wait to get started.”
Having taken Sunderland from fourth from bottom of the Championship into the Premier League in 2006-2007, his first season in charge, Keane knows what it takes to get teams into the top flight of English soccer.
But the abrupt manner of his departure from Sunderland raised questions about whether his character — uncompromising to admirers; insular and volatile to his critics — is suited to the multi-faceted task of managing a soccer club.
After he left Sunderland, his old manager at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson, was among a number of figures who questioned whether he would ever return to management.
Keane subsequently explained that the decision to leave had been triggered by a breakdown in his relationship with Ellis Short, an US investor who had started to question the way the Irishman was running the club at a time when Sunderland were struggling on the pitch.
Whatever the truth of what went on at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, the way events were perceived meant Keane was unlikely to be offered the chance of managing a Premier League club.
In a recent interview with the Irish Times, however, he stressed that he was willing to take a step back down to the Championship and move from his home in the Manchester suburbs.
At Ipswich, he is expected to be backed with substantial funds with the owner, Marcus Evans, having already invested £12 million (US$17.4 million) on new players.
That investment did not produce the desired results under Magilton, who had been in charge since June 2006 and left with the club in ninth place in the table, 12 points adrift of the final play-off spot.
Evans said Keane had been approached because of his record of getting his teams to play passing soccer, in the tradition of a club which won the UEFA Cup in 1981 and, with the Dutch duo Arnold Muhren and Fransz Thijssen, were pioneers in importing foreign talent into the English game.
“Roy has extensive contacts in the game and is a proven winner who encourages his team to play the attractive football that Ipswich Town fans have come to expect,” Evans said. “He is the right man to take this club where we want to be — the Premier League.”