Carl Marston’s Travels with Town: Waiting half the night for Roy Keane to appear
Football writer Carl Marston has visited 124 Football League grounds, many of them reporting on Ipswich Town. Here he recalls waiting half the night for Roy Keane to appear at Watford
There’s nothing more frustrating for a football writer trying to stick to a strict deadline, when the manager opts to lock his team in the dressing room for an hour after a particularly miserable defeat.
It’s bad enough having to write about the actual defeat, blow-by-blow, in your match report, let alone then trying to extract some meaningful quotes out of a disgruntled boss, within the demands of the deadline.
It makes matters worse when it’s a midweek match, away from home. And it’s doubly difficult when your targeted manager is none other than Roy Keane – never the easiest customer to track down.
The deadlines are always much tighter on a Tuesday or Wednesday or Friday night, with no luxury of a whole Saturday evening or even a full Sunday to write up some managerial gems from the scripts of post-match interviews.
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Instead, you need to get some quotes in the bag as soon as possible, to fill that back page, usually achieved via a blast or a rocket from an angry Keane, after an Ipswich Town defeat. At least this always assured some good copy, if a little late in the day.
Usually, these nightmarish evenings also took place on the road, when you had to wait outside the away dressing room, waiting for the door to open while wondering what time of night, or at what hour the following morning, you would finally get home to sink into your bed.
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And more often than not, the venue would by Vicarage Road, the home of Watford FC, or so it seemed in my eyes.
As the popular phrases goes – ‘if walls could speak’ – suggesting many interesting things happen behind closed doors, out-of-ear-shot, did not really apply to the Watford’s away dressing room on the night of March 16, 2010.
And that’s because you could hear what was going on behind the walls, and the locked doors. You didn’t need the walls to tell you.
Keane, in short, was not a happy man, and he was letting his beleaguered team know about it!
All we journalists could do was sit tight, or rather stand around trying to look busy, while Keane delivered his choice words to his crestfallen and no doubt shell-shocked players, and just hope that the Irishman would appear before midnight.
A misfiring Wi-Fi had also put me well behind schedule after the final whistle had sounded, which put extra pressure on me to fill the pages in hasty fashion. It was a night for pulling out hair and mumbling expletives under your breath.
In fact, it was a miserable evening all-round for Ipswich, as well as me, Keane watching his Championship strugglers Town fluff their lines in a dismal first-half showing.
It was painful to watch, just as it was painful having to wait for Keane in the cold dead of night.
Town were lucky to only be trailing to a seventh minute free-kick by Arsenal loanee Henri Lansbury at half-time.
The Hornets struck the woodwork twice, and although Jack Colback threatened to rescue a point for the visitors with a 68th minute equaliser, striker Will Hoskins lashed home the winner with 13 minutes remaining.
Keane locked the dressing room for an hour (I know this, because I was checking my watch every five minutes), after the final whistle – or at least the door never opened – leaving me to consider what to do about the back page of the newspaper, if he was a no-show.
I was on the point of penning a comment piece, about Town’s current plight, when Keane finally emerged, at around 11pm, still seething.
Without much prompting, Keane began firing off his views to the small gathering of press.
“We were shocking, and I’d have taken four or five players off, if the rules had allowed,” blasted Keane. “It was rubbish, to start playing an hour late.”
He might have been late himself, addressing the assorted bunch of newspaper hacks, but as usual his words did not disappoint, more than enough to fill that gaping hole on the back page.
Gathering momentum, Keane continued: “They’ll be changes for Saturday, you can bet on that. It just shows what a big, big job I have ahead of me.
“Watford wanted to win more than us, and that’s very difficult for me to swallow. I’m not happy.”
I had become used to Keane spending extra time with his players in the dressing room. It came with the territory. It had happened at Crystal Palace after a 3-1 loss the previous Boxing Day, and also at Peterborough’s London Road and Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road following defeats, but he set a record at Vicarage Road that night, for the longest gap between the final whistle and his appearance for the press conference.