We take a look at the potential pros and cons of the Manchester United and Republic of Ireland legend pitching up at Easter Road...
He’s had success
"His time at Sunderland was magical,” says James Copley of the Sunderland Echo. “He managed to get Sunderland promoted as champions which, from where they were at the start of the season, was an amazing achievement. He then kept them up in the Premier League.”
The club had just been relegated from the top flight and were at the bottom of the Championship table with four losses from their first four games when Keane arrived. As evidenced by Sunderland themselves over recent seasons, it’s difficult to turn around a sinking ship but Keane did so almost immediately. And while his time would come to an end only a season-and-a-half after promotion, he still managed to keep the Black Cats in the top tier and they weren’t in a bad position the following campaign when he left the club amid a falling out with owner Ellis Short.
His time at Ipswich Town certainly wasn’t “magical”, but a 50 per cent success record for an experienced manager isn’t something to be sniffed at.
There’d be no ‘soft touch’
When Neil Lennon first arrived at Hibs he made it clear he no longer wanted the Easter Road side to be associated with terms like “Hibsed it” and Keane will be the same. He’ll want to instil a winning mentality and will place stringent demands on the players in order to make that happen. Unprofessionalism will not be tolerated.
"He was pretty feisty,” says Copley of the Irishman’s approach at the Stadium of Light. “Maybe not as straight-talking as he is these days but you could see it bubbling under the surface and there'd be occasions where he'd put his foot down. There was an instance where two players were late for the bus for an away game and Roy instructed the bus to go without them.”
Supporters would buy in very quickly
Whether we like it or not, a successful modern-day football manager typically requires a bit of charisma and/or personality. Jack Ross suffered at Hibs and ultimately lost his job in part because he failed to emotionally connect with the club’s support. Keane is certainly someone who would get a longer leash with the fans as long as results were decent enough. His no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is style would really resonate and he’d get a fair amount of patience as a result.
This will appeal to owner Ron Gordon. The American-based businessman is all about growing Hibs as a brand on both a domestic and, if possible, international scale. Hiring someone of Keane’s stature would get a lot of people talking about the Easter Road club who would have barely heard of them before.
He wants to attack
"He wanted us to play on the front foot. He wanted players who could get the ball forward quickly, with enough pace and power up front to have the opposition worrying about us, rather than the other way around,” says When Saturday Comes writer and Ipswich fan Gavin Barber. “He wanted to improve his players, and he was willing to give young players a chance.”
He may no longer have “it”
Keane hasn’t been the manager of a team since leaving Ipswich in 2011. Not only is that a long time out of management in a sport which is ever-changing, his status as a highly meme-able and combustible football curmudgeon may have chipped away at his former aura.
"It would be interesting to see how his reputation has advanced given his falling outs with Ireland, with Jon Walters, with Harry Arter, to see how players view him now,” says Copley. “Because when he first came in at Sunderland it was very much a case of players wanting to play for Roy Keane because he was a legend coming down to the Championship. I wonder if his reputation now might precede him a bit.”
His spiky character
Keane left Sunderland in part due to his falling out with Short. And why did it not work out at Ipswich?
“Fundamentally, because all relationships broke down,” says Barber. “Relationships between Keane and the players, relationships between Keane and supporters. The players didn't respond well to his approach and demands; Keane couldn't seem to adapt his style. A spectacular falling-out with Jon Walters was symptomatic: Walters described the atmosphere at the club as "walking on eggshells". In the end, the players clearly didn't want to play for him, and of course, once supporters started to grumble about results, he reacted spikily, and there was never going to be any coming back from that.”
Little knowledge of Scottish game
Recruitment is a huge part of football. It’s ultimately why Keane was a success at Sunderland and a failure at Ipswich. He’ll need to recruit some good, experienced players for Hibs next term. He’ll have an advantage in terms of his stature potentially luring players to Easter Road who might not otherwise agree to join, but he’s still shopping in an unfamiliar market.
He may not fit Hibs
Managers have to be a good fit for the clubs they’re joining, whether it be demands from the support, the attitude of the players or the structure behind the scenes.
Keane almost rejoined Sunderland in January, ultimately walking away from the deal, Copley believes, due to “the director of football model and questions of ownership”. Hibs don’t have a director of football but there are currently plenty of questions regarding the current stewards. How would he react to advice from head of recruitment and son-of-the-owner Ian Gordon?
Furthermore, Keane prefers, or certainly did, a direct style of football which may clash with what Hibs supporters typically want to see from their favourites.