London, Aug 2 (IANS) Sunderland manager Roy Keane is used to getting his own way over the course of his glorious career, so the last six weeks have come as something of a culture shock.
Promotion to the Premiership and the cash windfall it brings should be the ideal platform for a novice manager to show he has some pulling power to attract the biggest names in the game, yet having tried and, more often than not, failed to bolster his squad, Keane is starting to grow tired of the transfer battle, writes Nick Bidwell on Soccernet.
After striker David Nugent turned Sunderland down in favour of a move to Portsmouth and Wigan defender Leighton Baines said no to the former Manchester United captain without even offering a good reason, Keane is hoping the squad he has with him on the pre-season trip to Ireland are good enough to make their mark against the game’s elite this season.
And such is the level of frustration he has endured that he has taken a vow to lock his cheque book away next summer if his Irish-dominated squad keep Sunderland in the top flight in the months ahead.
“The last few weeks have been a big learning curve for me and there’s no doubt that if we can do well this season, I won’t bother doing any transfer deals next summer,” states Keane, whose five-million pound capture of Michael Chopra is his biggest success of the summer.
“If I can do a deal before the season ends, fantastic, but I’ve wasted hour upon hour on the phone this year and it has been very frustrating. Hopefully there is still time to pick up a couple more players and if I do that, I’ll be satisfied with the squad we have at the club.
“Sometimes you think you’re making headway, then someone’s away on holiday and you can’t speak to the player anyway. I suppose the experienced managers are in a different boat, so I will have to learn.
“Obviously Manchester United were able to buy three players at the end of the season, but it is a bit easier for the big clubs. You see lots of other managers trying to plant a few seeds and then doing the deal when they come back from the summer break, but it’s a tough to get the right people in.
“I’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks and I won’t be wasting anybody’s time next summer. I’ll try to just have a holiday if I’m still in the job.”
They could be viewed as the words of a naÃ¯ve manager who has not got his own way in the cut-throat world of Premiership management as for the first time in his magnificent career, Roy Keane has found himself cast in the role of small fish in a vast and choppy ocean.
The likes of Harry Redknapp at Portsmouth, West Ham’s Alan Curbishley and Sven Goran Eriksson at Manchester City have navigated such dangerous seas with success for many years, yet Keane is displaying all the signs of a novice swimming without armbands among the sharks.
“The transfer window will pass Aug 31 and calmness will set in because we’ll know what we have and we’ll just have to get on with it,” he says, clearly relishing the prospect. “It has been hectic for the last few months but pre-season’s are always going to be like that.
“What you have to do as manager is take a step back sometimes and give yourself some time off, which is not easy. There are still mobile phones around and people will find a way of getting in touch with you.
“Every day is a fresh challenge, especially when you’ve only been a manager for two minutes. The beauty of the job is that I go in every morning and you just don’t know what’s going to come your way. Still, I enjoy the uncertainty of it.
“You have to expect the unexpected. As a player you get in for training at 10 a.m., you’re home by 1 p.m. and you’re just looking after yourself, whereas when you’re the manager of a club like Sunderland you’re always dealing with something. Still, you can’t live in the job 24/7. Maybe lots of managers make that mistake, but I certainly won’t.”
Keane clearly misses the solitude he enjoyed when away from the cameras during his playing career, but once the competitive juices start flowing and he gets his chance to be a Premiership manager as Tottenham visit the Stadium of Light Saturday, this complex character will be reminded of the pleasure he can get from this job.
And while the last month has been a less than enjoyable experience for Keane, his mood changes for the better as he discusses an area of the job he clearly relishes more than any other – man management.
“I made a promise when I got the job to remember what kind of manager I wanted to be that was someone who focuses on the players,” he says.
“The coaching is the responsibility of the manager, but it’s important not to get bogged down by it because the man management side of things is a massive part of this job.
“You need to know what players need and what they don’t need – who needs a kick up the backside and who needs an arm around him. That’s the beauty of the job, and I’d like to think I’m good at that part of it because of the experience I picked up as a player in dressing-rooms, working out what different characters needed.
“Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you get it wrong, but I’m learning about the players all the time. It’s a new challenge, of course, when you bring in five or six new players. You have to suss them out very quickly and you have to realise that they’ll be trying to suss you out too. That’s the beauty of it and I find it very interesting.”
Targets for the season are hard to quantify until Keane’s final squad is established yet his indelible confidence means he is aiming high.
“I know managers going up who’ve said that if we finish 17th from bottom it’s been a good season, but we’re certainly not going with that attitude,” he adds.
“Come the end of the season, we might have had injuries and we might be happy just to stay up, but we’re going into this season with the aim of doing as well as we can.”
Roy Keane will have to learn from his mistakes in the transfer market if he is to reach the heights in management, but he remains a figure who commands total respect from those around him.
That’s a quality transfer funds simply cannot buy.