Roy Keane’s Sunderland: The cult of personality

Martin Jol called his teams display match against Sunderland “boring.” The critique does not augur well for the potentially explosive Spurs attack that managed just three shots on goal. But then again this is a Sunderland team whose most famous personality happens to be their manager.
It is said that soccer is the one sport that a coach exerts the least influence. Once the game begins it is all up to the players. No time outs. No hand holding. But maybe, just maybe the force or the cult of personality is so strong that it permeates the team. Which is true for Roy Keane. It almost seemed like Keane pushed Chopra’s leg forward when the striker got the match winner in stoppage time. A draw against a Spurs team would have been creditable enough. But Keane was never known for just rubbing your nose in the mud.
Sunderland did not make too many big signings apart from Michael Chopra and Kieran Richardson in the off season. Sunderland clawed its way back from Championship relegation to Premiership contention under Keane. Most of the players reflect Keane’s low key hard nosed blue collar ethos, a combination of journeymen and Sunderland stalwarts, typified by Dean Whitehead, Nyron Nosworthy, Graham Kavanaugh, and Carlos Edwards.
I certainly think that he would not have much in common with present day Man Utd, nor would he have much tolerance. And today’s display against Reading would have affirmed his belief that costly talent in itself is no substitute for the hard work necessary to win. This well maybe the reason why Kieran Richardson and Liam Miller who were reported to be in Keane’s doghouse when at Man Utd joined Sunderland.
Sunderland will win a few, draw a lot more, and not lose too many, but it will do enough to be a thorn in the big clubs sides as it supplants Bolton in the fear factor as a spoiler. Sunderland has the most optimistic fans and their winning start against a club that is favoured to break into the top four will have done little to dampen the optimism. But the reason for optimism is entirely because of the present manager’s cult of personality. Slackers beware.

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