Roy Keane and Psychology. The man and the myth. What’s he really like? From a psychological perspective he is a man of deep intrigue. He’s the guy who took a punch in the face off his first professional manager Brian Clough. Although he claims he owes him everything for giving him his chance in football. The kid who when asked by his first international captain , Mick McCarthy, if he called his behaviour professional, replied by asking if McCarthy called what he had a first touch!
The guy who supposedly set out to inflict serious injury to a fellow professional, Alfe Inge Haaland in a two footed lunging tackle is the same guy who turns up unannounced at Dublin’s children’s hospitals. The Keane who ran a vendetta against Patrick Viera is the same Roy who toils away consistently on behalf of the Irish guide dogs for the blind association.
One thing is clearly apparent, when Keane is confronted with a threatening situation he will always fight. This is the very aspect of his personality that makes him who he is.The fight or flight response evolved in humans, fight was manifested in aggressive, combative behaviour and flight was manifested by fleeing potentially threatening situations. In all personalities these responses persist today. By keanes own admission in his most recent book, “I never got a red card when the team was 3-0 up!” The fight response has been clearly described in numerous examples he himself has identified, head butting Peter Schmeichel, verbally attacking Alex Ferguson and Carlos Queiroz in front of the Manchester United players, slating his teammates on MUTV after a 4-1 loss, injuring Haaland, resigning from Sunderland, the list goes on. Would you rather have a volatile character such as Keane in your dressing room? A man who fights in every threatening situation, regardless of the consequences? Or would you rather have a flyer, a person who shy’s from confrontation? One who prefers to leave the dust settle.
Athletes need a situational awareness to know when is the right time to fight and when to leave a volatile situation settle. This comes with experience and situational awareness and also with some sound self-control techniques. Deep breadths and an intake of oxygen can work wonders. Sport Psychology is not rocket science and is often the teaching of a wise sage in a common place. In Keanes latest book he identifies many moments where he could of took a deep breadth and diffused a situation. Keane has a growth mindset, believing that he can learn from every situation. This is what marks him out as a man whose career in football will continue to evolve. He has visibly become less volatile as he has aged. Keane used sport psychologist Bill Beswick in his career and during his time as Sunderland manager. His refreshing outlook on psychology is uplifting for any consultant working with athletes.