Martin O’Neill gives Roy Keane his backing after his latest outburst
Martin O’Neill has given Roy Keane his backing after the latest outburst from his Republic of Ireland assistant at the weekend.
Keane’s name was mentioned in connection with an alleged altercation involving a fan at the Ireland team hotel last week.
The 43-year-old then took a scatter-gun approach when he spoke to the media on Sunday following Ireland’s 1-0 European Qualifier defeat in Scotland.
Keane criticised Everton for their handling of injuries to Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy, urged teenage Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish to make up his mind over which country he wants to represent and rounded on reporters for suggesting he has become a distraction.
The comments prompted a swift and withering response from Everton chairman Bill Kenwright, who accused him of saying "some stupid things sometimes."
However, O’Neill said ahead of Tuesday night’s friendly with the United States: "Every single time that you mention Roy, it either seems to be a distraction or another issue. Let me tell you straight: I’m delighted to have him.
"I chose in the first place to bring him in here, he’s been terrific, he’s really been terrific. He has been terrific around the lads, he has been great. He has been everything that I wanted him to be.
"All the distractions – some things have materialized that actually aren’t of his doing to begin with, so I haven’t a problem.
"He’s got a mind of his own, he can say what he wants. Again, unless it’s absolutely and utterly in contradiction with what I am saying to you, then I do not have a problem with it. It is not an issue all the time."
O’Neill’s defense was backed wholeheartedly by Ireland defender John O’Shea, a former Manchester United team-mate of Keane’s.
O’Shea said: "As the manager says, it’s brilliant having him on board and I’d definitely echo those sentiments, without a doubt. "
Derby full-back Cyrus Christie and Ipswich striker David McGoldrick will both be handed first senior caps at the Aviva Stadium against Jurgen Klinsmann’s side, but there will be no place for 19-year-old Grealish, who works with Keane at club level with Aston Villa, as he continues to keep his options open with England also on his trail.
O’Neill said: "I’ve spoken to Jack Grealish’s father, I spoke to him at the time a way back some time ago. I spoke to the two of them and Jack’s father and Jack were not in any great hurry at that particular time to make their minds up – fine, absolutely. I left it entirely up to them.
"Now at the end of it all, if Jack pulls out of the Under-21s and wants to concentrate on his club football, good luck to him, good luck to him.
"I can understand, Roy is not going to be running around there asking Jack Grealish’s father every single day ‘has he made his mind up?’ Let them decide themselves.
"If you are asking about young Grealish, it would be nice to have someone like that on board. I have said to you – and I don’t need Roy Keane for this, I don’t need Roy Keane to tell me – but I’m not going to go and chase him, I am not chasing him."