It may seem like an alternate reality to say Roy Keane Celtic manager but make no mistake about it – this was so close to being reality Peter Lawwell was about to dig up his heated driveway and run for cover.
Keane and O’Neill were sacked as the Republic of Ireland manager and assistant after a summit with the Irish FA and O’Neill on Tuesday night after a poor run of results.
There is no doubt Roy is a winner, especially as a player but his temperament has always got him into trouble. Rumours of publicly dressing down Irish players and bullying dogged some of the latter stages of his Irish coaching stint.
Keane does not suffer fools but he also does not communicate well with many of his players – as a lot of them have testified to over the years. When things aren’t going well, Keane can be very destructive.
However, when Neil Lennon’s reign came to an end there was only one man in majority shareholder Dermot Desmond’s eyes and that was the man he personally bankrolled in order to land him for six months during his playing career – it was Roy Keane all the way.
Keane confirmed this in his Autobiography.
The Irishman basically saying, Desmond was the man to make the move but Lawwell was more reserved and did not want to see the
“Celtic wanted me but they weren’t showing how much they wanted me,”
“I got a call: would I go and have a chat with Dermot Desmond? I’d met him once before, in 2005, when I was signing to play for Celtic.
“I met him for a cup of tea. It was in the middle of an international week, in Dublin.
“It was all pretty straightforward. There would be one or two restrictions, about staff. They had already picked the man who would be my assistant and they were insisting on him.
“It didn’t scare me off but it did get me thinking. It wasn’t an ideal start. Were they doubting me already?
“I was in a predicament …and my gut feeling was saying: ‘You’re on your own with this one’.
“I asked Paul Gilroy, the League Managers’ Association lawyer, to speak to Celtic to discuss terms. Money hadn’t been mentioned yet.
“I got in touch with Celtic’s chief executive, Peter Lawwell and asked him to give me a ballpark figure before negotiations got going.
“He mentioned a figure and he said: ‘But that’s it’. Paul told me there were a lot of clauses in the contract that he wasn’t happy with. And the figures were non-negotiable.
“I got my head around that. But it felt a bit too familiar. I had been down this road before when I signed for Celtic as a player.
“I felt they wanted me but they weren’t showing how much they wanted me.
“I thought about the Celtic offer. It wasn’t rocking my boat.
“They weren’t convincing me: ‘Listen, you’re the man for us’.
“I rang Dermot Desmond on the Monday and said: ‘I’m really honoured you offered me the job but I want to stay with Martin’.”
In the end, Celtic went with Ronny Deila – a man who had won the Norweigan League with a club who had no right to win it. It was a gamble and depending on where you sit, it was a success at points and not such a success at others.
This path though eventually made its way down to Brendan Rodgers. An appointment Desmond would have had a big hand in and the right one.
Things happen for a reason and I can’t help but think Desmond made the wrong call and it was up to a nervous Peter Lawwell to scupper the deal at the time.