Roy Keane told John Barnes to ‘f*** off’ on Nottingham Forest debut – the night after drinking ‘six or seven pints’

At 19 years of age Roy Keane made his bow for one of the biggest clubs in England in the unfamiliar position of right wing – but that doesn’t even begin to hammer home the extraordinary circumstances behind it.

The Cork native never expected to be thrown in at the deep end for Nottingham Forest’s clash with league champions Liverpool.

But that didn’t stop legendary manager Brian Clough from informing him that he was starting opposite none other than reigning Footballer of the Year John Barnes – and doing so in Clough’s own inimitable style.

Read more: Roy Keane offered invitation as Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp fumes

Former Forest right-back Brian Laws revealed that hilarious bit of man-management which came in front of the entire senior team.

Keane was brought along on the team bus for their trip to Anfield seemingly just to make up the numbers and get a taste of First Division matchdays having only joined from Cobh Ramblers weeks beforehand.

His main responsibility as a youngster brought up from the reserves was to carry the kit bags into the dressing room.

But Laws takes up the story from there…

Brian Laws playing for Nottingham Forest

He said: “The gaffer would regularly get one of the young lads to put a tracksuit on and come on the team bus with us. It was a way to give them a taste of things.

“Nobody knew who he was. I had never spoken to Roy. He had not even trained with the first-team. He was very shy, very quiet.

“But he pushed the skips [of kit and other gear] into Anfield, he helped to lay the shirts out and I remember being in the dressing room.

“It was maybe 80 minutes before kick-off and the gaffer says, ‘Roy, put that No.7 shirt on. I want to see what it looks like on you’.

“The rest of us are all laughing, thinking that the gaffer is just pulling his leg.

“Roy puts it on and Clough says to him, ‘You look a million dollars. In fact, do you know what? You look so good, you are playing’.

Although Keane is now known for being the ultimate football hardman, even he wasn’t immune to being overwhelmed by self-doubt after being thrust such a terrifying assignment.

Roy Keane playing for Nottingham Forest

The reaction of his senior teammates could hardly have helped.

Laws continued: “We are laughing even more. But Clough isn’t. He’s deadly serious. You could see the colour drain out of Roy’s cheeks.

“‘You will be playing right wing’, says Clough, before looking over to me and adding, ‘You, look after him’.

In the dog-eat-dog world of top-level football, Laws was understandably worried he’d been hung out to dry having to keep an eye on an unknown teen as well as worrying about England legend Barnes.

He remarked: “I’m thinking, ‘Look after who? F*** me, I am up against John Barnes and I have to look after this young kid as well? My god…’.

But sure enough, his anxiety was quickly eased after kick-off when he saw a snippet of what would become Keane’s signature competitive nature come out.

“Within five minutes of the game, Roy had trampled on Barnes; he had stood on him.

“He booted him and then simply told him, ‘F*** off’ when he tried to complain.

“I had no reason to worry, he was fantastic. He wasn’t a winger, you could see that, but he had so much energy and was completely fearless.

“He would throw himself into tackles and he did not give a s*** who the opposition were.

“I did not have to look after him. He looked after me.

“All the Liverpool players were looking at him as if to say, ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’. He would just snarl.”

Now while that account is impressive enough on its own when you consider that Barnes was at the peak of his powers having scored 22 goals the previous season as The Reds claimed yet another title, it gets even more remarkable when you factor in Keane’s own testimony when asked to recall how his debut came about.

During an appearance on Monday Night Football he casually revealed he had been out drinking the night before with his fellow youth team players indicating he didn’t have much expectation that he would be called upon to make his debut against such daunting opposition.

He remembered: “I got on for the last ten minutes [of the reserves match] and the first team were playing Liverpool on the Tuesday night.

“Went out that night with the players, as you do after a reserve match, I didn’t drink too much – maybe six, seven pints after the game.

“Came in on the Tuesday and was told ‘get dressed up’.”

“What Brian Clough did a lot of the time, for the younger players, bring you with the first-team just as an experience.

“Carry the skips, help the kitman, so I went up [and] met some of the players in the hotel.

“[I] was putting the gear out with the kitman and Brian Clough says ‘what are you doing’ and I said I was putting the gear out – he says ‘no no, put that top on’.”

Liverpool may have won 2-0 on the day but little did anyone know that that ‘shy’ teenager would go on to lead their bitter rivals Manchester United to the most glorious spell in their history – knocking Liverpool off their perch in the process.

Get the latest sports headlines straight to your inbox by signing up for free email alerts

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.