Video: No manager has divided Town fans like Roy
Roy Keane’s departure signals the end of a turbulent 18-month spell which was characterised by disappointing results and dull performances. Here, we look at the Keane era.
When Roy Keane swept into Ipswich Town back in April 2009, fans were bowled over. Surely this footballing icon was the answer to our prayers? In his first Press conference, he told us as much – he virtually promised a speedy return to the Premier League.
And what a start he made – two straight victories in the remaining games of the 2008-2009 season.
The summer was spent in feverish anticipation of what would surely be a season to remember as Town would sweep all opposition aside to march back to football’s version of the promised land.
A raft of new signings, including the highly-rated young winger Lee Martin, from Keane’s old stamping-ground, Manchester United, only served to whip up the excitement still further. There was a big boost in season-ticket sales.
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Then came the big kick-off – and grim reality. Instead of an all-conquering Town team, fans watched in horror as their favourites couldn’t conjure a win for love nor money. Ipswich slumped to the very bottom of the Championship, amid very real fears that they would drop to the third tier of English football for the first time in more than half a century.
After the first win finally arrived – on Hallowe’en night – results improved, but Keane’s constant chopping and changing of the side, and some baffling tactics, raised the first murmurs of dissent among supporters.
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When this season began, it looked as though he had found the magic formula. An unbeaten start to the campaign saw Town in the play-off places, but then a shocking run of six straight defeats saw them spiral down towards the relegation zone.
Once again, every game saw three, four, even five changes to the line-up as Keane desperately searched for the right formula.
A convincing win over Leicester City at a blizzard-hit Portman Road revived hopes briefly, but a dull draw against ten-man Coventry was followed by a desperate defeat at home to Nottingham Forest on Monday, leaving Town in 19th place and hovering dangerously close to the relegation zone.
Another telling factor has been the drop-off in crowds as Ipswich fans – brought up on a tradition of free-flowing football – have turned their backs on the turgid fare all too often being served up by the team.
The atmosphere in the ground has also been grim, with long silences being punctuated by booing.
Here have also been reports of “bust-ups’’ with players including Spanish striker Pablo Counago and former club skipper Jon Walters, both of whom are now playing elsewhere.
Eyebrows were also raised when he let favourites like Owen Garvan – Town’s only midfield play-maker – and full-back David Wright leave the club, without being replaced.
No Ipswich manager has divided opinion among the fans like Keane.
Although his reign has largely been unsuccessful, despite millions of pounds being splashed out on players, there are still many fans to this day who will defend the manager and blame the players for the poor displays.
Certainly, Keane has put Ipswich Town back in the spotlight.
His weekly pre-match Press conferences are always attended by journalists from national newspapers and Sky TV, who lap up his every word – whether it be about Wayne Rooney’s recent difficulties, or Keane’s forthright opinions on the Republic of Ireland.
He even once appeared during the “bongs’’ at the beginning of ITV’s News at Ten – that shows how much weight his opinions still carry, as an icon of modern British football.
But despite his iconic status as a player, it looks like Roy Keane will be remembered by Ipswich Town fans as a manager who promised much but, ultimately, failed to deliver.
In terms of results, his record is poor, with only 28 wins in 81 games.
And it looks as though his tenure, at little more than a year and a half, will be the shortest apart from that of the hapless Jackie Milburn back in the 1960s.
If Keane’s departure is announced later today, then it is highly likely that his successor will be named within hours – just as Keane’s appointment came just one day after the departure of Jim Magilton.
The names in the frame to replace him supposedly include the sacked Newcastle manager Chris Hughton, former Derby, Sheffield Wednesday and Bradford boss Paul Jewell, and the current Doncaster manager Sean O’Driscoll.
Without Keane, life will probably be a little less colourful.
But ultimately it might be more successful.