KEANE EXCLUSIVE: Boss turns up the heat

Video: Ipswich Town players have been worked as hard as they have ever been over the past few days during an intensive pre-season training trip to Portugal.

Stuart Watson

Ipswich Town players have been worked as hard as they have ever been over the past few days during an intensive pre-season training trip to Portugal.

STUART WATSON travelled over to the club's Algarve base to speak exclusively to Roy Keane about his training methods.

IT should be one of the softer of questions to pose to a football manager.

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But when it comes to talking about training facilities to Roy Keane, particularly those on foreign soil, there is an element of treading on eggshells.

Ever since the notorious Saipan incident - in which Keane stormed home from the 2002 World Cup over, among other things, his perceived lack of facilities for the Republic of Ireland squad - the Ipswich manager has become somewhat obsessed when it comes to professionalism.

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So it comes as no surprise that he called upon one of his old Manchester United contacts to set-up a five-day training camp at the Ria Park Hotel - an Algarve resort which has played host to the German and Portuguese national sides as well as Ajax, Celtic and Manchester United to name but a few in recent years.

“This was always going to be the most important part of pre-season,” said Keane.

“I'm delighted with how these few days have gone. We came over here to get the good facilities, the good food and the good weather, but obviously the main reason was to come over here and work hard.

“The players have been showing a great attitude to working hard and getting their fitness back because they know that as soon as they are back they are straight into games.”

Since Keane arrived at the club in April - less than three months ago - he has demanded a complete culture change. Already the club's Playford Road training base is undergoing a complete overhaul, with the dressing room, showers, treatment room and even entry system all being upgraded.

Keane's theory is a simple one - top class facilities breed a top class working attitude and that, in turn, helps breeds top class players. It's not rocket science but Keane, as he has frustratingly found out at times during his own personal career, has not always found everyone to share his ethos.

Thankfully his current set of players - be it through ambition or fear - are buying into the 'Keane Machine' model for success.

“Tony (Loughlan, first team coach) and Antonio (Gomez, fitness coach), as well as myself, have all been trying to get our ideas across and the players have picked up very quickly that we are very demanding,” said Keane.

“We are going to put a demand on them and the players respect that. I think the top players enjoy having those demands put on them on a day-to-day basis.”

In Portugal, Ipswich's 22 travelling players trained twice a day - once in the early morning and once in the early evening in order to avoid peak temperatures of 30 degrees plus.

By the morning session of day five, work with gym balls and pumping iron was the order of the day. Afterwards the players took on the second of their three scheduled three course meals per day and headed off for a swim or a sleep before a torturous evening running session on the beach.

Tonight Ipswich take on Brentford in their second pre-season clash and then it's off to Ireland again for matches against Waterford and Cork.

This particular reporter made the mistake of asking Mr Keane whether he was looking forward to the matches - particularly the fixture in his home town.

“I am looking forward to Ireland in the sense that I'm getting the chance to see my players. Don't think that I'm off to Ireland thinking it's great to be home. I'll have my working head on trust me. I'm there to work and the players are there to work.”

That clears that up then. There is no room for ambiguity with Roy Keane, no place for grey areas. It's black or white, Keane's way or the highway.

It wasn't all hard work in Portugal though - the players did all take part in a quiz night during their rest evening on Saturday.

New recruit Lee Martin was asked whether he had been fortunate enough to have been on the winning side. “No,” said Martin, before a cheeky grin spread across his face, “The gaffer was though.”

No surprises there then.

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