Keane began his footballing career with Cobh Ramblers before
Brian Clough took him to Nottingham Forest as an 18 year old.
His League debut with Nottingham Forest was a real baptism of
fire away to Liverpool, the then champions. At the end of his
first full season Keane made an appearance in the 1991 FA Cup
Final, collecting a runners up medal.
His performances, however, had
not gone unnoticed by the Republic of Ireland manager Jack Charlton,
who gave him his first full international cap in May 1991. A
season later he was again on the losing side again at Wembley,
with Nottingham Forest losing 1-0 to Manchester United in the
League Cup final. His luck with Nottingham Forest did not improve
any as Forest got relegated the following season. In the close
season the race for Roy Keane's signature began, with United
emerging the victors paying a then club and English record fee
of £3.75 million.
Whilst he has been at Manchester
United, his ball winning skills, drive, determination and late
runs into the box to score vital goals have made him an irreplaceable
figure in United's midfield, so much so that he is often compared
to the ex-United player Bryan Robson. He has helped United to
win six Premier League Championships, including two doubles
in 1994 and 1996 and is currently the team captain. He also
participated in the 1994 World Cup Finals and is a regular international
for the Republic of Ireland.
At the end of the 1996/97 season,
when Eric Cantona retired from professional football, Keane
took over the role of team captain. However less than two months
into the season Keane injured his knee and spent a frustrating
season on the sidelines.
Many pundits felt that towards
the end of that season when United were faltering, it was his
presence and determination which the team sorely missed, and
in the end was a crucial factor in the championship ending up
at Highbury. Fortunately for Manchester United, Keane fought
his way back to full fitness to lead the team out, at Wembley,
in the 1998 pre season Charity Shield.
If Keane's presence and quality
was missed by all at United in the 1997/98 season, then it was
surely missed by Ireland too. A full international, Keane participated
in the 1994 World Cup finals in the USA and has played at International
level for almost eight years. His injury in September 1997 coincided
with Irelands Word Cup qualifying campaign. As United failed
to win any silverware in his absence, Ireland failed to qualify
for the 1998 World Cup finals in France.
The 1998/99 season saw Roy Keane
fully restored to fitness. As the Club reached the climax of
that unprecedented pursuit, Roy enjoyed mixed fortunes. A sending-off
in the FA Cup semi-final replay was followed by a yellow card
in the Champions League semi-final second leg against Juventus,
forcing him to miss the memorable final in Barcelona. He recovered
from an ankle injury to play in the last League match versus
Tottenham and collected the Premiership Trophy. The following
week at Wembley, however, he sustained another ankle injury
and was forced to give way to Teddy Sheringham in the early
stages of the game, knowing that his season had ended there
In Barcelona, despite Keane taking
no active part in the match, the fans finally got their way
during the post-match celebrations when they insisted on Roy
taking his deserved bow with the Champions League trophy in
front of the massed ranks.
Roy's contract negotiations fell
under the media microscope midway through the 1999/2000 season,
when it was revealed that the Club captain had turned down the
Club's initial offer.
At the home Champions League match
against Valencia, however, it was announced that Keane had signed
a new deal. After that, Keane seemed to play with a weight lifted
off his shoulders, and the captain led by example, as ever.
Over the course of the season Keane found the net a remarkable
twelve times, with half of those coming in Europe. A superb
season from the skipper was recognised by both the Football
Writers and the Professional Footballers Association, who both
voted him Player of the Year.
Keane was arguably even more influential
during season 2000/2001, leading the team to a seventh Championship
title. On the international front he was also an inspiration,
winning his 50th cap in the Republic's 4-0 win over Cyprus.
Roy's form helped the Republic
qualify for the 2002 World Cup finals, despite being in a group
containing both Portugal and Holland. Once out in the Far East,
though, Roy caused the biggest story of the tournament before
it had even begun. Following a row with manager Mick McCarthy,
Keano was sent home in disgrace.
Newspapers were full of speculation
as to what had happened, and reporters camped outside Roy's
house. The media storm quickly passed, however, as Ireland progressed
in the tournament.
After months of speculation Roy
finally retired from international football on medical grounds.
His autobiography - in which he explained what had happened
in Saipan - caused problems as he also intimated he'd injured
Manchester City's Alf Inge Haaland on purpose. A five-match
ban and a large fine later, Roy checked into hospital for an
operation on his hip that kept him out for the first five and
a half months of the season.
Roy pledged to calm down on the
pitch following his latest op, and his first few appearances
after recovering had everyone questioning whether he was finished
or not. A barn-storming end to the season, when he led United
to the top of the League against all the odds, answered everyone's
questions. "I've got two or three good years left in me
yet," Roy reassured all his fans.