On this week's episode of the Football Show, we spoke to Irish international Darren O'Dea about his remarkable career. His is one of the most remarkable careers in Irish football history. It has been quite the journey, and from being held at gunpoint during the Russian invasion of Ukraine to working under Nicolas Anelka in India, O'Dea covered it all and more in a feature-length interview.
Along with playing in such far-flung locations as Toronto, Donetsk, Mumbai, and Leeds, O'Dea spent a while at Ipswich Town. He joined them on loan from Celtic in August 2010, signed by Roy Keane. O'Dea's time at Portman road coincided with Keane's most difficult spell as manager, with the Irishman eventually replaced with Paul Jewell in January.
Keane's next gig was to be the Irish assistant manager's job.
There have been plenty of theories as to why Keane has struggled as a manager (the exception, of course, being that triumphant first season at Sunderland), with many of them returning to the idea that Keane struggled to relate to players of a lower quality than those he was used to playing alongside.
Keane's success as a player had many derivations, but one of those was his extraordinary will to win, and what he extracted from his teammates in order to satiate that desire. While that may have worked with players of such calibre and conviction as were good enough for United, there is a belief that Keane became frustrated with the limits of the players at his disposal as a manager; that is a skill in being able to relate to players of lesser quality.
Consider this, as relayed by Danny Higginbotham in his autobiography:
'"Danny, all I'm fucking hearing from you when I'm watching that game yesterday is fucking encouragement. That's all I'm hearing." I thought, well, that's not so bad. "I don't fucking want that. I want you to tell some of them they're being cunt. Tell them.
O'Dea has a very different opinion on Roy Keane's management style, however. He believes Keane was well aware of what he had at his disposal:
He was very good. He was pragmatic, it shouldn't really surprise me, but it did. He knew the players he was working with, he knew the league he was working in. He was realistic in what he expected from his players. He had high standards, of course, but no more so than any other manager. He was good to work under. Ipswich, if you look now, they change over managers all the time. He did a decent job at Ipswich, you see Mick McCarthy now, who is a fantastic manager, he has gone in there and he is not having the greatest time there.
I think if Roy Keane was managing at Man United, he would demand more than he did at Ipswich. What he demanded as a manager, and I only read what he was like as a player as I didn't play with him, although I did see him at Celtic for a little while, he demands the simple things to be done right. Whether that is living right, training right, preparing right. But any manager should be holding those high standards. On the pitch, he understood players made mistakes, he understood how difficult the Championship, and he understood football, basically.
There is a cloud over him as if he didn't do very well at Ipswich, but listen, Mick McCarthy, who is a fantastic manager, he hasn't done any better. So there is no shame in not getting promoted from the Championship, which is what he was expected to do.
You can listen to the full interview on the podcast.