Roy Keane, as portrayed by Owen Lennox

Roy Keane, as portrayed by Sunderland artist Owen Lennox

Elections are a time for presenting old policies as new, re-announcing expenditure plans as if part of a bold, vote-winning new programme. Salut! Sunderland gets in on the act by re-announcing Pete Sixsmith‘s farewell series as the site winds down after very nearly 13 years.

Sixer came up with the idea of describing each of the 13 managers seen at Sunderland since the site first appeared at the beginning of 2007. For the first instalment, he recalled the towering ups and ultimate down of the Roy Keane era.

One of those annoying technical issues that have become so prevalent restricted readership of a typically fine Sixer read. Hence the reproduction of the piece today ahead of the second episode, which will look at Ricky Sbragia’s short spell in charge.

At the time, we longed for better. Keano’s pulsating promotion season was followed by tough struggles in the lower regions of the Premier League fixture. But we survived. And viewed from the closing months of 2019, when the team staggers from bad to worse and manages to exit three cup competitions before a new manager has his feet properly under the table, they were positively golden times.

As we lick our wounds after the latest abysmal performance, beaten 1-0 in the FA Cup first round replay at Gillingham (see Phil Parkinson’s reaction here), let Pete take up the story …

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THIRTEEN YEARS, THIRTEEN MANAGERS

In the years that I have been writing for Salut Sunderland, we have had a number of managers, 13 full time ones and four caretakers. Which is not good.

So, in an increasingly idle moment, I selected the following team of those who have occupied the “hot seat” at the Stadium of Light during that time. As there was no goalkeeper available, I put Steve Bruce in between the sticks; he’s not very agile, but he’s big enough to keep the ball out…..

Steve Bruce;

Jack Ross, David Moyes, Sam Allardyce, Simon Grayson;

Chris Coleman;

Dick Advocaat, Roy Keane;

Gus Poyet, Martin O’Neill;

Paolo Di Canio

Subs: Ricky Sbragia, Phil Parkinson, Robbie Stockdale, Eric Black, Kevin Ball, James Fowler

And you wonder why we are in the clarts.

ROY KEANE – AUGUST 2006 – DECEMBER 2009

The Magic Carpet Ride!!! Remember that? It was the best of times compared with the worst of times we are experiencing now. After a disastrous relegation and a miserable start under St Niall Quinn, we appointed Roy Keane. We had Irish owners who came in with a refreshing outlook on football: “Hey, it’s a laugh.” We had a local man in the boardroom in John Hays And we had a renaissance.

It was under Roy that Salut! Sunderland started. I contributed a seven-word summary of games as we strode to the top of the Championship, having been becalmed at Christmas – the 0-1 defeat at Selhurst Park was what I thought of as an all-time low.

Promotion was gained while I was at The Riverside watching cricket. My late and much missed chum, Bob Blake, told me that Derby had lost and that we were up which was the least we deserved after that wonderful win over Burnley when Carlos Edwards wrote himself into Sunderland folklore with that extraordinary goal.

 

Left:

A good Keano acquisition, Kenwyne Jones.

 

Right

Some were not so good:  Greg Halford

It looked like we were on the way to a top six place as Keane bought good players in – Craig Gordon, Kenwyne Jones, Kieran Richardson – and some not so good in Greg Halford, Rada Prica, Roy O’Donovan, but the magic carpet was still flying as we stayed up after a last gasp win over Middlesbrough in the penultimate home game. We looked forward to the next season.

And that was when it all went wrong. The financial collapse in the West, something entirely due to the banks handing out mortgages as readily as Willy Wonka handed out chocolate, hit the members of the Drumaville consortium hard. The public face of it, Charlie Chawke, had more money than M Salut and myself (not difficult) but the real money was from property developers and financiers who took a real hit when it all went wrong.

Enter Lone Star Investments, run by Ellis Short, a Texas based financier who had a history of making serious money. He became more and more involved and liked less and less the way that the steely eyed Keane ran the club.

El Hadj Diouf: not fondly remembered by Sixer

Keane had made errors. He brought in Djibril Cisse, a good player, but one who upset Kenwyne Jones and this appeared to have a knock-on effect. He made a catastrophic error in signing El Hadj Diouf, a thoroughly unpleasant man whose arrogance was in direct contrast to the effort that he put into playing for Sunderland. He is probably the player I have most disliked in my time as a Sunderland supporter. Keane thought he could tame him as Allardyce had at Bolton; the fastidious Short must have found Diouf hard work.

The first season back under Roy had been a good one with some fine wins, none better than a 1-0 win at Villa Park, where every player gave their best and the visiting support roared – not sang, clapped, waved plastic things and flags but ROARED – the team home. Michael Chopra’s goal near the end was greeted with the same adulation as the Carlos Edwards thunderbolt 12 months earlier.

 

The second season saw him leave just before Christmas. The team looked jaded as if the Keane Effect had worn off and that they needed an arm around them rather than a contemptuous glare every time they did something wrong. His relationship with Short had collapsed as Short sought to stop him haemorrhaging the clubs money on the likes of Pascal Chimbonda, Teemu Tainio and the aforementioned Diouf. For every Steed Malbranque there was a David Healy and it was clear that Keane was struggling.

When the end came, it was a wretched home defeat by a struggling Bolton Wanderers team that pushed the Cork man over the edge. To lose to a team managed by Gary Megson, the antithesis of all that Keane believed in, was too much and he probably blamed Megson for selling him Diouf four months earlier and wrecking the collegiate atmosphere in the dressing room.

Friendly former foes: St Niall with Keano

So he resigned having led the club from August 2006 to November 2009, a veritable marathon stint compared to his successors who are here today, gone in 18 months.

He played a huge part in picking the club up from what we thought was the lowest possible point (how little we know, how little!!!) and many of us still dream of those days when we were seen as a potential challenger club rather than the washed out organisation that we are now.

He had his faults; he could be aggressive, unpleasant and rude but equally he was single minded and determined to succeed. He laid the base for a 10-year stint in the Premier League which we subsequently wasted and he must be a tad disappointed to see the state we are in now, with owners, management and players who seem to blunder from one crisis to another.

Can anyone see the light now?

Under Keane, we had seen the light at the end of the tunnel. We hoped it wasn’t an onrushing train.

Malcolm Dawson adds this postscript. A couple of days before Keane left, I drove up to Dronfield to watch the rezzies, including El Hadj, play one of the Sheffield clubs. Keano was there, prowling the touchline until some blokes doing some repairs to the rail track by the ground shouted something. Obviously he didn’t take kindly to that and was threatening to fight them, daring them to come into the ground. I thought at the time he was suffering from severe stress and was in need of a break, though in truth he’s probably like that all the time. But I wasn’t surprised he was gone a couple of days later.

Coming soon to a screen near you: Part 2, the Sbragia Months…..

Comments are still not being processed, which must put a dampener on participation but we did have this from Wrinkly Pete:

What a fitting way for the website to close – a Sixer Series. Fascinating too that he should choose the managers to focus on…. “the ones what always gets the blame”. I look forward to episode 2.

Video clip of the Carlos Edwards goal posted on YouTube by IFG April 2015. Fans at Villa posted on YouTube by sunderlandGal March 2008. Sir Niall interview posted on YouTube by ChronicleLive December 2008. If there is any copyright claim, not answered by “fair use”, on the video clips or images used in this report please let us know and we will acknowledge or remove as requested

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Salut! Sunderland is written, illustrated and edited by - and principally for - supporters of Sunderland AFC. The site aims to be sufficiently literate and entertaining to appeal to people who do not follow SAFC but enjoy good football writing.

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