On this week in Town’s history: the return of Roy Keane’s beard
- Credit: PA
Football writer Carl Marston looks back on ‘This week in Town’s history’ from 10 years ago, when Roy Keane’s beard magically returned to coincide with a sombre mood
You always knew things were not right, with Roy Keane, if he started growing a beard.
And the Irishman does tend to do that quite often, perhaps a legacy of his troubled days at Portman Road - although he sometimes used to also sport the unshaven look at his previous club, Sunderland.
I mention this because on this exact week, 10 years ago, the beard was back on the face of the Ipswich Town boss!
Town had just lost 1-0 at Championship basement dwellers Preston North End, on December 11, 2010, making it six defeats on the spin.
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Certainly, Keane cut a subdued and forlorn figure at the end of yet another depressing defeat, this time at a Preston side who remained bottom even after this surprise win.
Iain Hume’s clinical finish on 50 minutes was all it took to condemn Town to their ninth defeat in their last 11 league games, therefore further confirming the stark reality that Keane’s job was on the line.
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Indeed, it could have been at any moment that owner Marcus Evans decided to bring Keane’s 19-month reign to an end, Town having nose-dived from a play-off berth in sixth spot down to 18th and just three points clear of the drop zone in the space of just six weeks.
No wonder the beard was back!
Often, that facial hair told us journalists more than any words ever could, as regards the state of Keane’s mind.
“It is hurting, unbelievably,” admitted Keane during his post-match press conference at Deepdale that sad Saturday evening.
I, for one, felt sorry for him.
“You wouldn’t believe how much it’s hurting, but you can try and guess. I’m a proud man and I don’t like getting beaten.”
The return of the beard coincided with a brooding, sombre mood, not the bullish approach that often characterised his clean-shaven days.
Even so, Keane with the beard was still far from throwing in the towel, 10 years ago - although he was to be axed as Town manager just 27 days after the defeat at Preston, on January 7, 2011, to be precise.
I remember the Irishman telling me, in that Deepdale press lounge: “I’m still absolutely determined to turn it around.
“But whether I will be given the time, that’s out of my control. I agree that it’s getting harder and harder.
“Nine defeats in 11, at any level, in any league, in any country, that is not good enough.”
I did ask him, rather bravely, whether he wanted to see the job through, after the Preston defeat.
There was a long pause after that question, and I thought I was going to be the victim of one of his steely stares, but instead he replied, in almost a whisper: “Yep.”
About the match that day, I couldn’t find many positive things to say about the performance, let alone the result, especially as Preston won at a canter despite the slender 1-0 advantage.
I did try to list a few plus marks, but to be honest I wasn’t even convincing myself, let alone the readers!
I suggested that Rory Fallon ‘led the front-line impressively on his full debut, on loan from Plymouth,’ and I mentioned the fact that ‘Mark Kennedy made a welcome return at left back after recent hamstring injury.’
I also tried to sound upbeat by adding that ‘young Troy Brown can be happy with his performance in the heart of defence.’
But I wasn’t really kidding anyone.
Keane, with the beard starting to appear again, was on the way out, that’s for sure.
Of course the Keane beard has enjoyed cult status during the last decade, since his departure from Portman Road, especially on his numerous outings as a football pundit on the TV.
The beard has at times grown to great lengths, while also being thick and two-toned, with the grey dominating the black.
In short, he was the master of ‘lockdown beards’ long before this year’s enforced lockdown.
There wasn’t so much grey, back in late 2010. But the beard was back, for a while at least.