TV Review - Is Roy Keane A Bad Pundit?

TV Review - Is Roy Keane A Bad Pundit?
By Gavin Cooney Updated

When Caligula was the Emperor of Rome, he tried to appoint his favourite horse, Incitatus, as a consul to the Senate.

Opponents of Caligula used this as evidence that he had fully descended to insanity, while those more sympathetic to him said that Caligula was actually subverting and satirising the Senate, telling them 'Pah, even a horse you could do your jobs'.

When Roy Keane left his most recent job in management, he accepted an invitation to be part of the ITV panel and ended up jogging with Adrian Chiles.

The question we must ask of Keane is, given what we came to know of him from his career to that point, has he gone mad? Or is there something else going on?

Keane has always had less an allergy than a pathological, combust-upon-contact-with-air aversion to punditry and bullshit, so to see him spending Wednesday nights in foreign lands being used as an instrument for Adrian Chiles' folksy humour was a....surprise.

In 2008 he said he'd "rather go to the dentist" than do punditry, slating pundits and "people like Richard Keys trying to sell something that's not there", adding that "I wouldn't trust them to walk my dog" and that "there are ex-players and ex-referees being given air-time who I wouldn't listen to in a pub".

Three years later, he was on ITV for the Champions League final. Seven years on, he is still there.



One theory. Keane, like all men of taste, is a Bob Dylan fan, and ever since retiring as a player, has emulated Dylan in doing exactly the opposite of what is expected of him. Hence it is tempting to see his bantering with Giggsy, Wrighty, and Chilesy and Dixon(y?) on television in this paradigm, along with his working for Niall Quinn, his working for the FAI and his signing of Djibril Cisse.

Perhaps even odder than the frequency of his appearances, however, has been the quality of them.


Keane's punditry often isn't very....good. He is invariably entertaining and therefore ideal fodder for Reputable Sports Websites, but he rarely provides an insight that would otherwise elude viewers.

Granted, the ITV policy of having four pundits and twice as many ad breaks doesn't lend itself to deep analysis, but a self-effacing Keane has said in the past that "the more I speak, the more rubbish I talk. The hours that they get to speak on Sky and RTE would kill me".

On ITV, Keane often comes across as an actor trying to play a character called Roy Keane, sitting erect, phlegmatic and vaguely disgusted dutifully spouting the things you might expect him to say. "Every time I see Jack Wilshere he is getting treatment or he is carrying a knock"; "When Kieran Gibbs is your captain, you're in big trouble"; "We've said it before, though. Lack of leaders, lack of characters, hunger, desire". (We promise he has commented on teams other than Arsenal).


Keane's analysis reveals more about Keane than it does about the game in question.

Tonight, he was no different. With Carlos Queiroz the Iran manager, Keane gave ITV the soundbite they wanted.

His second spell when he came back... for some reason, towards the end of my time there, I found him really disrespectful towards me, so we had a bit of a fall-out.

He questioned my loyalty, and I told him where to go. And one of my big regrets really, I probably should have ripped his head off.

But and excellent coach, and he's doing an excellent job, it has to be said, it has to be said.

Earlier, he was the man to reduce praise of Cristiano Ronaldo - a guy he played with - to its most banal and infuriating cliché: a comparison with Leo Messi.


There's been a great debate over the last few years between him and Messi, but I think over the last six months, I think he's gone up to another level.

At half-time he raged at Iran's diving and exaggeration of injury.

Keane's ITV appearances are hugely entertaining but rarely enlightening: it's rarely analysis but often it's (to quote his estranged biographer) "showbiz, baby".


This column never stops being surprised that Keane is this kind of pundit, but perhaps there is something deeper at work. Is it all just...ironic?

Does Keane hold the whole thing in such contempt that he is showing just how easy it can be? What better way to show that punditry is all about saying nothing than doing it and saying nothing?

Perhaps it is all an act of satire and subversion.

There is a telling line in his autobiography.

When I heard, 'I liked your commentary last night' I knew: I was only talking bullshit, like the rest of them. Hopefully my bullshit was a bit better.

Keane is filled with contradictions, even when his punditry is free of them.

Stray Observations

  • Keane raising Messi's name led ITV to dedicate a third of the build-up to Spain/Iran arguing about Ronaldo and Messi. Ian Wright's closing remark that "we are lucky to be able to enjoy both at the same time" rings hollow when so much of this time has been dedicated to dreary debates as to who is better.
  • Eamon Dunphy referring to Russia as the Soviet Union feels instructive of a few things.
  • Anyway, there is no debate: Messi's better.
  • Watching so much live World Cup football means this column is seeing a hitherto unprecedented number of TV ads, and it's fair to say we are sick of those Shirley Bassey ads on RTE. And as for the Maroon 5/Hyundai ad...
  • But surely you can't ignore Ronaldo's goal record? And the fact he has won more European Cups?
  • Rio Ferdinand is very good on the BBC, and gave a decent insight into facing Luis Suarez as a defender, saying that Suarez preferred it when defenders were aggressive with him rather than when they stood off.
  • Yeah, but Messi can literally do more things with a football.
  • Given the hysteria in the English media about the potential for racist incidents in Russia during the World Cup, the most significant racist incident came from an English Lord.
  • Could Messi execute Ronaldo's overhead kick against Juventus? Has Messi ever done it so consistently in the biggest games?
  • An interesting development on Channel One, a state broadcaster in Russia. Erstwhile Russia manager Leonid Slutsky has been doing commentary on the channel, but broke a taboo four days ago by naming Putin critic Alexei Navalny on air and today it was announced that he would be leaving the role. 
  • Of course Messi has done it in the big games.
  • Apres Match rating - 4/10.
  • Ronaldo has done it more often.
  • RTE (well Eamon Dunphy) went down a delightful blind alley after the Spain game, which began with players' disrespect to referees, went via Alex Ferguson's poor attitude to referees and ended as most of his stories do: in a room with John Giles. Dunphy recently did a live podcast with Giles, and a straw poll among United fans who wanted Mourinho to stay at the club yielded zero hands in the air. Eamo's point was that British football holds referees in more contempt than Europeans do, with the caveat that Mourinho is a "special case...not The Special One".
  • No, Messi has!
  • Phil Neville Gaffe Corner: "Uruguay fans only care about progressing further than they ever have before". That'll be the two-time winners, Uruguay.
  • Let's just agree that we're lucky to be able to enjoy them at the same time.

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See Also: TV Review - The BBC Struggle Not To Get Completely Carried Away With England

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