ROY KEANE returns to the North-East as a manager for the first time today, with Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate predicting that the Irishman will have learned the lessons from the final months of his first managerial role.
Without a win in his first five Championship matches at Ipswich Town, Keane heads for Teesside today when his players could be forgiven for expecting a blasting if they fail to end their winless run.
But having lost the dressing room when his two-and-a-halfyear reign as Sunderland boss reached its nadir at home to Bolton last December, Southgate expects the former Manchester United midfielder to have changed his ways – however slightly.
Southgate has. Three years of battling against relegation and encountering problems as he made the transition from player to manager has taught him many things.
And the Middlesbrough boss, who has made no secret of the fact that he has changed his approach following last season’s relegation from the Premier League, would not be surprised if Keane has too.
The pair stepped into management at similar times, albeit at different levels, and went through difficult times last season together. The difference, however, was that Southgate emerged through the storm, while Keane walked away to assess his options.
Southgate, though, is certain the break will have helped and that Ipswich’s commitment to the cause today will mirror Keane in his playing days.
“I’m not too surprised he’s back in management,” said Southgate, who was left with an imprint of Keane’s studs when the pair met in a Crystal Palace-Manchester United semi-final FA Cup tie in 1995.
“I don’t really know him. I respect his honesty – he’s always been totally driven – and his mindset is to win and we’re both similar in that respect.
Without getting to know each other closely we both know what each other is about as characters and what we want for our clubs.
“You assumed he’d become a manager because he was always a leader but he threw himself into it with Sunderland and once you’ve gone through the experience, like we have, it makes you more determined to prove people wrong.
“Any experience in life where it doesn’t go how you’d hope makes you stronger. He won’t enjoy where they are in the league at the moment and I’m sure he will be out to make sure they are not there for much longer.”
Two points from the visits of Leicester and Preston to Portman Road are all Keane has mustered for Ipswich so far this season, with pressure growing on him to get results.
He spent £4m on Sunderland pair Grant Leadbitter and Carlos Edwards on deadline day and both are expected to figure today.
Southgate, on the other hand, has had to be patient before adding to his squad, while he waited for Afonso Alves’ £7m move to Qatar Stars League outfit Al-Sadd to go through.
With that finalised, Sean St Ledger is close to completing a loan move to the Riverside, with a view to a permanent transfer, and Hull striker Caleb Folan should also arrive next week.
Talks with Preston officials remained ongoing last night, with the St Ledger dealing hinging on whether the two clubs can agree a fee for the Republic of Ireland international’s permanent transfer at the end of an initial loan deal.
“It’s been well documented that on the transfer-deadline day, we tried to bring in Sean St Ledger and Rob Hulse,”
said Boro chief executive Keith Lamb.
“Rob Hulse eventually decided that he didn’t want to join us, but we continued to pursue Sean St Ledger and hopefully at some time in the future we will complete that deal as a loan which then turns into a permanent transfer.”
Brad Jones’ return to fitness after an ankle problem sustained in pre-season has left Southgate with an intriguing decision to make.
Danny Coyne was drafted in during close-season as an understudy to Jones, but the Welsh international’s displays have earned him the respect of the fans.
“I brought Danny in to challenge Brad, we probably thought he’d be back up but due to injury Danny’s done everything we asked of him,”
said Southgate. “He’s kept four clean sheets he’s an excellent talker and he’s added a lot to the club, so I’ve got a tough decision to make. You don’t want to tinker too much when players are doing well.”