As people well know here in Cork, we hold our sporting heroes dear, and for many people, Roy
Keane is an icon. The joint most successful Irish soccer player of all time. Making 366 Premier League
appearances for Manchester United, scoring 39 goals and winning 7 Premier League titles, it is no
wonder that ‘Keano’ is held in such high regard. In his day he was one of the most feared players in
soccer. Although Roy has been involved in his fair share of drama over the years, including the
infamous incident in Saipan, and the run in with Patrick Viera, he has remained ever-popular in his
home place. He is well known for speaking his mind and not holding back his opinion. In a recent
interview with ‘Off The Ball’, ‘Keano’ made a series of comments about former Irish International,
Jonathan Walters, which many have believe were way below the belt. Not only did Keane belittle his
former player’s career as a professional footballer but also spoke callously about his personal life.
Straight talking is not a bad thing, but remarks about somebody’s family situation can be one step
too far and you have to wonder, has it gone too far for even his own Corkonians to defend?
As an avid Irish football fan, Jon Walters has provided the country with some unbelievable memories
on the pitch, particularly his half volley against Austria to gain a 1-1 draw, and his brace against
Bosnia and Herzegovina to send us to Euro 2016. Walters also made a great club career for himself
making 233 appearances for Bolton Wanderers, Stoke City and Burnley. What is less documented
about Jonathan Walters though is the pain and suffering he has endured in his private life. In an
interview on The Late Late Show last May, Walters opened up about his private life for one of the
first times in his career. Jon lost his mother to bowel cancer when he was only 11. Last year when he
was in Cork for a friendly with Cobh Ramblers, he received a phone call from his brother to tell him
that his other brother, James, had passed away aged 35. Only the day after hearing this news, Jon
found out that his wife had a miscarriage. Absolutely heart-breaking news to receive, but on top of
this, his other daughter was diagnosed with scoliosis, unimaginable heartache for all of Jon’s family.
The former Premier League veteran said on The Late Late Show, “I’m okay with it but it’s when I
speak about it, that’s when I struggle with it”. In a time where everybody, and particularly men are
asked to speak about their feelings, Walters is an inspiration to young men. As we have seen in the
last number of weeks, Jon Walters has come under fire from Roy Keane. Keane said Walters was “On
TV, crying about his family situation”. It certainly is not a matter that should be taken lightly, and it
was insensitive of Keane to criticise Walters for telling the public how he felt. Like Conor McGregor,
despite the bad publicity they receive, Roy Keane maintains solid support. Roy is one of the country’s
biggest sporting idols, and his dedication to make it to the pinnacle of Premier League football was
an incredible achievement.
At this stage in Roy’s career, from a personal point of view, it is sad to see him losing fans because of
these hurtful comments. The older generation of Cork people will remember Roy’s heroics in both
the red and green jersey, but the younger generation will only know him for his callous statements.
A lot of the older people know what Roy is like and take little notice of his harsh words. Keane and
Walters’ feud dates back to 2010, when Jon Walters played for Keane’s Ipswich. Walters was eager
to leave Ipswich but Keane was reluctant to sell. After an argument in Roy’s office, there was tension
between the two. The pair reportedly had another altercation in the Ireland camp prior to their
friendly against France in May of last year. Despite Keane’s evident grudge against Jon, Walters
remains positive. Speaking on BBC’s Football Focus, Walters said “Honestly, I don’t know why people
listen to what he has to say…. obviously, I bother him, but he doesn’t bother me one bit”. Seeing
Walters defiance and patience over the whole issue is commendable. Nobody deserves to be
attacked over their feelings, especially surrounding a topic of this nature.
Over the past few years, many great players have gone down the route of being known for their
controversial opinions and abrupt nature. This has often come to overshadow their playing career. It
would be an awful pity for this to happen to a gifted player such as Roy. There is a very fine line
between being straight talking and being rude. Walters is a much loved Irish footballer, and remarks
made about an idolised player such as him can have detrimental affects for reputation.