Smith: Keane overrated? That's so disrespectful!

Tuesday 08 September 2020 07:00

Former United player Alan Smith claims that Roy Keane’s fearsome reputation as a leader has overshadowed his superb abilities as a central midfielder.

Smith is the featured guest in the latest episode of UTD Podcast, and was asked whether Keane was overrated, as some critics have suggested.

The Yorkshireman responded forcefully, explaining that Keane’s performances in a struggling Nottingham Forest side and during his golden years at United place him firmly within the highest class of central midfield players.
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“I’d say watch Roy Keane at Nottingham Forest and when he first came to Manchester United and make your decision based on that,” explained Smith. “Because a lot of people forget and they don’t have a broad spectrum on actually the development of Roy as a player and how he evolved as a player through necessity, through injuries et cetera. 
“For me, I don’t even have to answer that question [about Keane being overrated] because, like you said, you only have to look at how good Roy Keane was as a box-to-box midfielder when he was a younger player and how good he was as a defensive midfielder towards the end of his career.”
Smith, who left his boyhood club Leeds United to join the Reds in the summer of 2004, says that Keane’s famous drive and determination mean his footballing class is sometimes overlooked – though not by fellow professionals.
“You could ask any player that’s played with him or against him and I’d say 99 per cent of them would all have the same answer for you,” assessed the 39-year-old.
“For me, it’s not just a case of Roy being a leader. That’s so disrespectful to him as a footballer as well. You don’t play for Manchester United and captain them based on just being a leader. That’s such an unfair criticism of someone who’s probably been one of the Premier League’s greatest central midfield players.”
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Smith primarily played as a striker during his early career at Elland Road, but often deputised in midfield after moving to Old Trafford, and it was there that he felt the pressure of trying to fill Keane’s boots.
“Roy Keane is probably impossible to replace as a player and as a character, especially at Manchester United,” he added
“I still don’t think it’s been done now, and it’s been crying out for someone like Roy Keane to be in the dressing room and on the field as Roy was. No-one could ever replicate it, so it was [about me] trying to do as good a job in a similar position. It wasn’t like, ‘you’re going to be a Roy Keane’. I could never do that job.
“I wouldn’t have had to do it as much as I did if Roy would have been as fit as normal,” he continued. “It would probably have been a longer process, rather than being thrown in through necessity. Ability-wise, I was probably put in there because I could tackle and I was brave enough to do it and physical enough to try and do it, not because my actual ability warranted going into that position. I had a great relationship with Roy and it was sad how he ended because he went to Celtic and I couldn’t learn anymore.”

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Smith admits that he still reflects on his time in M16 with a sense of wonder, and revealed that Keane’s thirst for success was only the tip of the iceberg in a squad full of elite competitors. 
“I look back and think, ‘What drove those lads to make sure that they got over the line every time?’ For me, that was the biggest difference: the experienced players just asked that much more of each other. 
“And [they were] all different personalities. Keane, Giggs, Scholes, the Nevilles – all totally different personalities, but all with an inner desire to be the best. Getting a group together like that, there have only been a few teams over the years, even over the history of football as I know it… a few teams who have managed to get to that level. Everyone is still searching to find that again.”