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Football: O'Neill expects Keane to shine in assistant role

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill insists there is no risk that his decision to appoint the out-spoken Roy Keane as his assistant will back-fire.

O'Neill, 61, was formally unveiled as the Republic's new boss at a press conference in Dublin on Saturday and he was quick to defend his surprise move to hire the notoriously volatile former Manchester United and Ireland captain to become his number two.

Keane infamously walked out on the Ireland squad just days before the 2002 World Cup finals after criticising his country's preparations for the tournament and, in the process, falling out with then boss Mick McCarthy.

The 42-year-old also had a difficult departure from Old Trafford, with Alex Ferguson selling him after the midfielder criticised the United boss in front of the rest of the squad and lambasted several of his team-mates in an interview with the club's own television channel.

But O'Neill has no qualms about employing Keane, who was reported to have been interested in the Ireland manager's job before accepting the assistant role.

"I am absolutely delighted he is on board," O'Neill said.

"He is an iconic figure, a great, great player, one of the best players to have played in the Premier League since its inception, a great, great player, so I haven't a problem with that there.

"He went into management - I see Sir Alex Ferguson's points there that he said that perhaps Roy might have gone into management too soon. I don't really know that.

"All I do know is that from working with him over the last couple of years doing some television work on the Champions League games, I have found him very, very engaging.

"I have found his thirst for knowledge amazing. I see him at football matches when there's no need for him to be at games. He loves football.

"I think like all of us in the game, he has points to prove. I know how brilliant he was and I know how sometimes how polarised opinions can be with Roy, but I don't have a problem with that."

O'Neill, who has replaced Giovanni Trapattoni after Ireland's failure to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, joked that he could ask Ferguson for advice on how to handle Keane if he causes any trouble.

But the former Aston Villa and Celtic manager is expecting Keane to be on his best behaviour.

"If you are asking about overshadowing, one of the greatest managers in the game finally decided that Roy was no longer wanted because he (Ferguson) felt he was going to be overshadowed," O'Neill said.

"If he decides on the same thing, I might call Alex Ferguson up and see how he dealt with it.

"But all told, I think he will be great. I think he will be great for me for a start - I would like that - but more importantly, I think he will be brilliant for the Republic of Ireland."

smg/nr

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131109/football-oneill-expects-keane-shine-assistant-role