The Keane Years, Part One: The one big thing Roy and I had in common
PUBLISHED: 12:00 02 April 2020
Football writer Carl Marston had the good fortune, or bad luck, to cover the Roy Keane era at Ipswich Town. In the first of a new series, he takes a look back at those heady days
Roy Keane had I had one big thing in common.
I didn’t have the same footballing talent, I had no Irish blood, I was never a combative midfielder, I was never a leader, I don’t really have a temper, I couldn’t really tackle, and I have never evoked fear in anyone, at any time.
And yet, like Keane, I had a love for dogs.
It was always rather heart-warming for me to know that, however fierce or confrontational Keane could be, at a post-match press conference, on the touchline during a game, or in the weekly gathering of press from up-and-down the land on a Thursday morning, Keane would always go home and walk his dog.
It just so happened that I, at the time of Keane’s appointment as the new Town boss in April, 2009, was still trying to get to grips with my own family pet, an Italian Spinone who oozed personality and was to end up playing a starring role in my weekly ‘Behind Blue Lines’ column for the ‘East Anglian Daily Times’ and ‘Ipswich Star’ newspapers.
Not that I didn’t have enough copy to fill the column inches, following every move that Keane made, while also recording just about every word that Keane muttered, mumbled or blasted out to the hungry press.
I had more than enough copy to fill a weekly column – a daily column if need be.
And yet my ‘Hair of the Dog’ segment, in each column, did prove a hit with many readers, and also my followers on Twitter.
In fact, I used to get more e-mails and queries regarding the antics and general well-being of Oscar, my mischievous three-year-old Italian Spinone, than it did Mr Keane himself.
Perhaps that had something to do with the poor fare being served up by Keane’s Ipswich side on the pitch, during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons.
These were dark days, indeed – though not as dark as Town’s current residence down in the third tier – but I’d also like to think that Oscar’s weekly pranks lightened the mood, and captured the imagination.
Keane used to relax, away from the footballing world, by taking his beloved dog Triggs, a Labrador Retriever, for a walk along the beach near Aldeburgh.
And of course he was also well known for being a patron of the Irish Guide Dogs charity.
I used to relax, after a day plotting the latest twists and turns at Portman Road, by going home to extract various objects out of my dog’s mouth!
In fact, during the first few months of Keane’s era, up until the end of 2010, I recall returning home to learn of Oscar consuming a whole apple crumble (made for myself and intended for 12 helpings), a giant Swiss roll, six bread rolls and even 12 herbal remedy tablets – though not all of these at once, I hasten to add!
Over time, back in the Marston household we did learn to keep food out of Oscar’s reach.
But, as I rather harshly wrote (on reflection) in one of my ‘Hair of the Dog’ segments for my weekly ‘Behind Blue Lines’ columns:
‘Oscar’s ability to stretch high is more impressive than ex-Town loanee keeper Asmir Begovic’s capacity for catching crosses.’
I do hope Begovic never read that, although it is no disgrace to have a shorter reach than Oscar.
For the record, more than 10 years on and Keane is still continuing to cause a stir, usually as a football pundit on TV; Begovic is currently on loan at Milan from Bournemouth; and Oscar, although now nearly aged 13, is still keeping us on our toes.
He still has the odd success story.
I feel that Keane would approve.