Opinion

Euro 2024: Roy Keane on screen is more watchable than the football

Keane knows that success is not measured in money, but in how friends and family enrich your life

Roy Keane punditry during ITV's Euros 2024 coverage has brought out his warmth and humour. Image: Harry Page/ITV

The Euros have not been great so far. Quite a number of average matches, no breakout players and an insistence on high-pressing football as the ONLY way to address the modern game has meant it’s not been a classic.

So far, it’s the sublime beauty of England’s creative flair that has, alone, moved the dial. Only kidding! If you support them, I commiserate with you. It must be frustrating to be promised so much and to see so little so timidly delivered. And yes, that’s a very obvious bald political analogy – thank you, thankyouverymuch. 

In truth, only the freewheeling, frantic chaos of Türkiye has offered genuine never-know-what-to-expect-next excitement. 

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One benefit of Euro 2024 is the increase in Roy Keane on screen. I loved Keane as a player, as a manager and now as a pundit. The essential Roy Keane-ness has always been at his core. Relatively small, wiry,
taciturn, tough, brilliant, terrifying.

In later years he introduced a beard that, during his period as second in command of the Republic of Ireland team, was so grey, wild and insistent that it seemed to inhabit its own even deeper realm of Roy Keane-ness. If you were a player subbed for an under-par performance, and The Beard moved towards you, even Martin O’Neill, the boss, with his lifebuoy of bonhomie, could not save you.

One thing that punditry has brought out in Keane, that wasn’t always clear, is a sly humour. And also, despite it all, a warmth. And this warmth has resulted in a genuine affection for him by those around him. 

This was particularly obvious last week when he was recording a podcast with Gary Neville, Ian Wright and Jill Scott. They were admonishing Neville for being constantly on the go, for having huge success but not really taking time to be in the moment. Keane was clear. The measure of success in life was not millions in the bank but how much time you made for your friends and family. “If you can’t do that,” said Keane, “forget about it.”

Recently, in Big Issue, Sarah Cunningham, boss of the World Wellbeing Movement, wrote about the deficit in focus on national wellbeing during the election campaign. Wellbeing, she said, was not a luxury but a basic human right. She saw it in every aspect of how we live, tied, for example, to housing provision and added that it also included things as varied as “encouraging grassroots sports, to designing housing and transport systems that facilitate social connection, creating affordable housing close to green spaces (known to be good for our mental health)”.

At its core, though, as Keane was getting at, it’s about connections. Recently, my family went through a period that was very challenging. It was the connection with family and friends, and sometimes those a little less known, that carried us through. People made time. They didn’t have to, but they sent out connective threads that began to lace together and make an impossible-to-break safety net. It was moving and remarkable.

Frequently at Big Issue we are clear that a great thing you can do with one of our vendor colleagues is to simply stop and chat. Even if you don’t buy a magazine at that moment (though, why wouldn’t you?!) being there makes a difference. In a period when time is a luxury, making time is a proper gift.

Time is limited. You can never be sure that a second chance to make a connection will come. So, listen to Roy Keane. It’s the way forward.

Paul McNamee is editor of the Big IssueRead more of his columns here. Follow him on Twitter.

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