MARTIN O’Neill and Sunderland star John O’Shea have leapt to the defence of Roy Keane after he found himself at the centre of another storm.
The outspoken 43-year-old, who hit the headlines last week after an alleged incident at the Republic of Ireland’s team hotel, took a scatter-gun approach when he spoke to the media on Sunday.
Keane criticised Everton for their handling of injuries to Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy, urged teenage Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish to make up his mind over which country he wants to represent and rounded on reporters for suggesting he is a distraction.
Read the FULL transcript from Keane’s outburst against reporters by clicking here
The comments prompted a swift and withering response from Everton chairman Bill Kenwright, who accused him of saying “some stupid things sometimes”.
However, manager O’Neill, who asked the younger man to join him in the Ireland set-up following his appointment in November last year, insists he has no regrets about doing so despite the attention Keane attracts.
The former Sunderland boss said: “Every single time that you mention Roy, it either seems to be a distraction or another issue. Let me tell you straight: I’m delighted to have him.
“I chose in the first place to bring him in here, he’s really been terrific. He has been terrific around the lads. He has been everything that I wanted him to be.
“All the distractions – some things have materialised that actually aren’t of his doing to begin with, so I haven’t a problem.
“He’s got a mind of his own, he can say what he wants. Again, unless it’s absolutely and utterly in contradiction with what I am saying to you, then I do not have a problem with it. It is not an issue all the time.”
O’Neill’s defence was backed wholeheartedly by defender John O’Shea, a former Manchester United team-mate of Keane’s.
O’Shea said: “As the manager says, it’s brilliant having him on board and I’d definitely echo those sentiments, without a doubt. “
Asked what he brings to the Republic, O’Shea added: “Well obviously, along with the rest of Martin’s coaching team, Roy’s experience playing at such a high level, just his passion for the job – all those factors combined are very helpful.”