Keane: Divide and conquer at Celtic ?

IT'S the Keanest divide.

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Roy Keane has become the bookies' favourite for the post
Roy Keane has become the bookies' favourite for the post

The split among the family. On one side, the Celtic fans convinced shoot-from-the-hip, take no prisoners, my-way-or-the-highway, Irish hero, Roy Keane is exactly the man required to replace Neil Lennon.

On the other side, the faction who believe it is precisely those defining characteristics and his thus-far unimpressive track record in management which make him a man they would rather kept his time at Parkhead in the past.

But then, Keane and dividing opinion have always gone hand in hand.

The bookies will have us believe the man from Cork is about to be given the opportunity to return to the club where he saw out the final five months of his playing career.

His short spell under Gordon Strachan gave Keane not only the chance to add a Scottish League championship and League Cup medal to a collection which was already reflective of a hugely-successful career with Nottingham Forest and Manchster United, it also gave him an insight into what makes the Hoops tick.

Eight years on, it appears Keane may be on his way back to Paradise.

And while the fans might not all agree that is what they want to see, they will be united in acknowledging his arrival would certainly make life in the humdrum SPFL Premiership very interesting.

Keane has shown in the few months he has been working as Martin O'Neill's assistant as they attempt to rebuild the Republic of Ireland national team that he has much to contribute.

However, it is when he swaps the tracksuit for the sharp suit and moves over into his other gig, as a TV pundit, that the old Keane comes out to play.

His fearless, often controversial, occasionally caustic, but always honest, assessments of incidents and individuals in the game make him must-watch TV.

It's one of the reasons ITV believe they will win the ratings war at this summer's World Cup finals, a stage Keane infamously failed to strut after a bust-up with then Republic boss Mick McCarthy when literally en route to Japan and South Korea back in 2002.

That's one of the black marks many still consider stains his reputation, though clearly not the FAI who now employ the poacher-turned-gamekeeper.

Do they consider him a reformed character? Or would they just rather have him peeping inside the tent out?

Certainly, O'Neill is more than happy to have him working alongside him, which is an endorsement of huge note.

And, when Dermot Desmond asked him for permission to approach Keane about the Celtic job O'Neill himself filled with such distinction between 2000 and 2005, you can be sure his opinion on his suitability to follow in his footsteps was also solicited.

The fact the conversation then took place between Desmond and Keane confirms O'Neill did not refuse to give a glowing reference.

So, if the former Old Trafford hero is good enough for the man still referred to by many as Saint Martin, surely that should put his critics back in their corner?

Well, no, because, as ever, they are entitled to their opinion when it concerns a club they have in their heart, not just their mind.

They will point to the fact it is such an important appointment, coming as it does at a time when the club's very ambitions are being questioned, fuelled by the departure of Lennon who, despite wide-held suspicions, did not have another job to walk into.

He may have brought the thunder back to a club which was under a cloud following Tony Mowbray's 10 months in charge, but they will question whether there is really any need to expose the club to one of Keane's lightning bolts.

Certainly, if he does become the successor to Lennon, players and fans alike will be bracing themselves for what happens next.

His record at Sunderland, where he cut his teeth as a boss soon after hanging up his boots, was patchy.

Keane led them to the Barclays Premier League, but fell out with a lot of people on the way, most significantly major shareholder, Ellis Short, before resigning.

Ipswich enticed him back after a few months out. But, again, it was no great success and he was eventually removed.

Now it is Celtic who appear ready to give him his biggest managerial position yet, where his first games in charge will be the season-defining Champions League qualifiers, uncharted waters for a man who has actually held the trophy aloft, albeit he missed the final through suspension.

How will it all end? No-one will know unless it starts.

Football

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