At 51 years old, Roy Keane has this physical status:
Initially, Keane was turned down from the Ireland schoolboys squad after a trial in Dublin; one explanation from former Ireland coach and scout Ronan Scally was that the 14-year-old Keane was "just too small" to make it at the required level. Undeterred, he began applying for trials with English clubs, but he was turned down by each one. As his childhood years passed, he took up temporary jobs involving manual work while waiting for a breakthrough in his football prospects. In 1989, he eventually signed for the semi-professional Irish club Cobh Ramblers after persuasion from Ramblers' youth team manager Eddie O'Rourke. Keane was one of two Ramblers representatives in the inaugural FAI/FAS scheme in Dublin, and it was through this initiative that he got his first taste of full-time training. His rapid progression into a promising footballer was reflected by the fact that he would regularly turn out for Ramblers' youth side as well as the actual first team, often playing twice in the same weekend as a result.
In an FAI Youth Cup match against Belvedere, Keane's performance attracted the attention of watching Nottingham Forest scout Noel McCabe, who asked him to travel over to England for a trial. Keane impressed Forest manager Brian Clough, and eventually, a deal for Keane worth £47,000 was struck with Cobh Ramblers in the summer of 1990.
Keane initially found life in Nottingham difficult due to the long periods away from his family, and he would often ask the club for a few days' home leave to return to Cork. Keane expressed his gratitude at Clough's generosity when considering his requests, as it helped him get through his early days at the club. Keane's first games at Forest came in the Under-21s team during a pre-season tournament in the Netherlands. In the final against Haarlem, he scored the winning penalty in a shootout to decide the competition, and he was soon playing regularly for the reserve team. His professional league debut came against Liverpool at the start of the 1990–91 season, and the resulting performance encouraged Clough to use him more and more as the season progressed.
Keane eventually scored his first professional goal against Sheffield United, and by 1991 he was a regular starter in the side, displacing the England international Steve Hodge. Keane scored three goals during a run to the 1991 FA Cup Final, which Forest ultimately lost to Tottenham Hotspur. In the third round, however, he made a costly error against Crystal Palace, gifting a goal to the opposition and allowing them to draw the game. On returning to the dressing room after the game, Clough punched Keane in the chest in anger, knocking him to the floor. Despite this incident, Keane bore no hard feelings against his manager, later claiming that he sympathized with Clough due to the pressures of management and that he was too grateful to him for giving him his chance in English football. A year later, Keane returned to Wembley with Forest for the Football League Cup final but again finished on the losing side as Manchester United secured a 1–0 win.
Keane was beginning to attract attention from the top clubs in the Premier League, and in 1992, Blackburn Rovers manager Kenny Dalglish spoke to Keane about the possibility of a move to the Lancashire club at the end of the season. With Forest struggling in the league and looking increasingly likely to be relegated, Keane negotiated a new contract with a relegation escape clause. The lengthy negotiations had been much talked about in public, not least by Brian Clough, who described Keane as a "greedy child" due to the high wages demanded by the Irishman. "Keane is the hottest prospect in football right now, but he is not going to bankrupt this club", Clough stated. Despite the extended contract negotiations, Forest fans voted him the club's Player of the Season. Despite his best efforts, Keane could not save Forest from relegation, and the clause in his contract became activated. Blackburn agreed a £4 million fee for Keane, who soon after agreed to a contract with the club.
A mistake, however, prevented the move to the club: when the contract had been agreed upon, Dalglish realized they did not have the correct paperwork needed to complete the transfer. This was on a Friday afternoon, and the office had been locked up for the weekend. With a verbal agreement in place, they agreed to meet on Monday morning to complete the transfer officially. Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, hearing about the move, phoned Keane and asked whether he would like to join them instead of Blackburn. Ferguson ensured they had the paperwork ready and met up with Keane on Saturday and signed him for Manchester United for £3.75 million, a British transfer record at the time.
Despite the then-record transfer fee, there was no guarantee that Keane would go straight into the first team. Paul Ince and Bryan Robson had established a formidable partnership in the center of midfield, having just inspired Manchester United to their first league title since 1967. Robson, however, was 36 years old and in the final stages of his playing career, and a series of injuries kept him out of action for most of the 1992–93 season and into the 1993–94 season. As a result Keane had an extended run in the team, scoring twice on his home debut in a 3–0 win against Sheffield United, and grabbing the winner in the Manchester derby three months later when United overturned a 2–0 deficit at Maine Road to beat Manchester City 3–2.
Keane had soon established himself as a first-choice selection, and by the end of the season, he had won his first trophy as a professional as United retained their Premier League title. Two weeks later, Keane broke his Wembley losing streak by helping United to a 4–0 victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup Final, sealing the club's first-ever "double".
The following season was less successful, as United were beaten to the league title by Blackburn Rovers and beaten 1–0 in the FA Cup final by Everton. Keane received his first red card as a Manchester United player in a 2–0 FA Cup semi-final replay win against Crystal Palace, after stamping on Gareth Southgate, and was suspended for three matches and fined £5,000. This incident was the first of 11 red cards Keane would accumulate in his United career, and one of the first signs of his indiscipline on the field.
The summer of 1995 saw a period of change at United, with Ince leaving for Internazionale, Mark Hughes moving to Chelsea and Andrei Kanchelskis being sold to Everton. Younger players such as David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes were brought into the team, which left Keane as the most experienced player in midfield. Despite a slow start to the 1995–96 campaign, United pegged back title challengers Newcastle United, who had built a commanding 12-point championship lead by Christmas, to secure another Premier League title. Keane's second double in three years was confirmed with a 1–0 win over Liverpool to win the FA Cup for a record ninth time.
The next season saw Keane in and out of the side due to a series of knee injuries and frequent suspensions. He picked up a costly yellow card in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Borussia Dortmund, which ruled him out of the return leg at Old Trafford. United lost both legs 1–0, but this was compensated for by winning another league title a few days later.
After Eric Cantona's unexpected retirement, Keane took over as club captain, although he missed most of the 1997–98 season because of a cruciate ligament injury caused by an attempt to tackle Leeds United player Alfie Haaland in the ninth Premier League game of the season. As Keane lay prone on the ground, Haaland stood over Keane, accusing the injured United captain of having tried to hurt him and of feigning injury to escape punishment, an allegation which would lead to an infamous incident between the two players four years later.
Keane did not return to competitive football that campaign, and could only watch from the sidelines as United squandered an 11-point lead over Arsenal to miss out on the Premier League title. Many pundits cited Keane's absence as a crucial factor in the team's surrender of the league trophy.
Keane returned to captain the side the following season, and guided them to a treble of the FA Premier League, FA Cup, and UEFA Champions League. In an inspirational display against Juventus in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final, he helped haul his team back from two goals down to win 3–2, scoring the first United goal. His performance in this game has been described as his finest hour as a footballer. Keane, however, received a yellow card after a trip on Zinedine Zidane that ruled him out of the final. United defeated Bayern Munich 2–1 in the final, but Keane had mixed emotions about the victory due to his suspension. Recalling his thoughts before the game, Keane said, "Although I was putting a brave face on it, this was just about the worst experience I'd had in football." Keane sustained an ankle injury during the 1999 FA Cup Final, four days before the Champions League Final, which ruled him out until the following season. Later that year, Keane scored the only goal in the final of the Intercontinental Cup, as United defeated Palmeiras in Tokyo.
The following season saw prolonged contract negotiations between Keane and Manchester United, with Keane turning down an initial £2 million-a-year offer amid rumors of a move to Italy. His higher demands were eventually met midway through the 1999–2000 season, committing him to United until 2004. Keane was angered when club officials explained an increase in season ticket prices was a result of his improved contract and asked for an apology from the club. Days after the contract was signed, Keane celebrated by scoring the winning goal against Valencia in the Champions League, although United's defence of the Champions League was ended by Real Madrid in the quarter-finals, partly due to an unfortunate Keane own goal in the second leg. He was voted PFA Players' Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year at the end of the season after leading United to their sixth Premier League title in eight years.
Keane caused controversy in November 2000, when he criticised sections of United supporters after the Champions League victory over Dynamo Kyiv at Old Trafford. He complained about the lack of vocal support given by some fans when Dynamo was dominating the game, stating, "Away from home our fans are fantastic, I'd call them the hardcore fans. But at home, they have a few drinks and probably the prawn sandwiches, and they don't realise what's going on out on the pitch. I don't think some of the people who come to Old Trafford can spell 'football', never mind understand it." Keane's comments started a debate in England about the changing atmosphere in football grounds, and the term "prawn sandwich brigade" is now part of the English football vocabulary, referring to people who attend football games or claim to be fans of football because it is fashionable rather than due to any genuine interest in the game.
Keane made headlines again in the 2001 Manchester derby, when five minutes from the final whistle, he was sent off for a knee-high foul on Alfie Haaland in what was seen by many as an act of revenge. He initially received a three-match suspension and a £5,000 fine from The Football Association (FA), but further punishment was to follow after the release of Keane's autobiography in August 2002, in which he stated that he intended "to hurt" Haaland. Keane's account of the incident was as follows:
His admission that the tackle was a premeditated assault led the FA to charge him with bringing the game into disrepute. He was banned for a further five matches and fined £150,000 in the ensuing investigation. Despite widespread condemnation, he later maintained in an interview that he had no regrets about the incident: "My attitude was, fuck him. What goes around comes around. He got his just rewards. He fucked me over and my attitude is an eye for an eye", and said he would probably do the same thing again.
Haaland never played a full game afterwards. However, Haaland did complete the match and played 68 minutes of the following game. He also played a friendly for Norway in between both matches. It was, in fact, a long-standing injury to his left knee rather than his right, that ended his career.
United finished the 2001–02 season trophyless for the first time in four years. Domestically, they were eliminated from the FA Cup by Middlesbrough in the fourth round and finished third in the Premier League, their lowest final position in the league since 1991. Progress was made in Europe, however, as United reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, their furthest advance since their successful campaign of 1999. They were eventually knocked out on away goals after a 3–3 aggregate draw with Bayer Leverkusen, despite Keane putting United 3–2 up.
After the defeat, Keane blamed United's loss of form on some of his teammates' fixation with wealth, claiming that they had "forgot about the game, lost the hunger that got you the Rolex, the cars, the mansion". Earlier in the season, Keane had publicly advocated the breakup of the treble-winning team as he believed the team-mates who had played in United's victorious 1999 Champions League final no longer had the motivation to work as hard.
In August 2002, Keane was fined £150,000 by Sir Alex Ferguson and suspended for three matches for elbowing Sunderland's Jason McAteer, and this was compounded by an added five-match suspension for the controversial comments about Haaland. Keane used the break to undergo an operation on his hip, which had caused him to take painkillers for a year beforehand. Despite early fears that the injury was career-threatening, and suggestions of a future hip-replacement from his surgeon, he was back in the United team by December.
During his period of rest after the operation, Keane reflected on the cause of his frequent injuries and suspensions. He decided that the cause of these problems was his reckless challenges and angry outbursts which had increasingly blighted his career. As a result, he became more restrained on the field and tended to avoid the disputes and confrontations with other players. Some observers felt that the "new" Keane had become less influential in midfield as a consequence of the change in his style of play, possibly brought about by decreased mobility after his hip operation. After his return, however, Keane displayed the tenacity of old, leading the team to another league title in May 2003.
Throughout the 2000s, Keane maintained a fierce rivalry with Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira. The most notable incident between the two took place at Highbury in 2005 at the height of an extreme period of bad blood between United and Arsenal. Vieira was seen confronting United defender Gary Neville in the tunnel before the game over his fouling of José Antonio Reyes in the previous encounter between the two sides, prompting Keane to verbally confront the Arsenal captain.
The incident was broadcast live on Sky Sports, with Keane heard telling match referee Graham Poll to, "Tell him [Vieira] to shut his fucking mouth!" After the game, which United won 4–2, Keane controversially criticised Vieira's decision to play internationally for France instead of his country of birth, Senegal. Vieira, however, later suggested that having walked out on his national team in the FIFA World Cup finals, Keane was not in a good position to comment on such matters. Referee Poll later revealed that he should have sent off both players before the match had begun, though was under pressure not to do so.
Overall, Keane led United to nine major honours, making him the most successful captain in the club's history. Keane scored his 50th goal for Manchester United on 5 February 2005 in a league game against Birmingham City. His appearance in the 2005 FA Cup final, which United lost to Arsenal in a penalty shoot-out, was his seventh such game, a record in English football at the time.
Keane also jointly holds the record for the most red cards received in English football, being dismissed a total of 13 times in his career. He was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2004 in recognition of his impact on the English game and became the only Irish player to be selected into the FIFA 100, a list of the greatest living footballers picked by Pelé.
Keane unexpectedly left Manchester United by mutual consent on 18 November 2005, during a protracted absence from the team due to an injury sustained in his last competitive game for the club, caused by a robust challenge from Luis García against Liverpool. His departure marked the climax of increasing tensions between Keane and the United management and players since the club's pre-season training camp in Portugal when he argued with Ferguson over the quality of the set-up at the resort. Ferguson was angered further by Keane's admission during an MUTV phone-in that he would be "prepared to play elsewhere" after the expiration of his current contract with United at the end of the season.
Another of Keane's appearances on MUTV provoked more controversy, when, after a 4–1 defeat at the hands of Middlesbrough in early November, he criticised the performances of John O'Shea, Alan Smith, Kieran Richardson and Darren Fletcher. Of the club's record signing Rio Ferdinand, he said, "Just because you are paid £120,000-a-week and play well for 20 minutes against Tottenham, you think you are a superstar." The outburst was deemed too damning by the United management and was subsequently pulled from transmission by the club's TV station. Keane's opinions were described by those present at the interview as "explosive even by his standards".
Keane scored 33 league goals for Manchester United and a total of 51 in all competitions. The first two of his goals for the club came in the 3–0 home win over Sheffield United in the Premier League on 18 August 1993, the last on 12 March 2005 in a 4–0 away win over Southampton in the FA Cup.
Two weeks later, after another row with Ferguson, Keane reached an agreement with Manchester United allowing him to leave the club immediately to sign a long-term deal with another club. He was offered a testimonial in recognition of his 12-and-a-half years at Old Trafford, with both Ferguson and United chief executive David Gill wishing him well for the future.
Keane, in an interview with the Irish media company, Off the Ball, in September 2019, stated that Manchester United were pushing to get him out of the club because he was getting old and his strained relationship with then assistant manager Carlos Queiroz and later on with Sir Alex Ferguson, rather than the mere MUTV incident.
Keane's testimonial took place at Old Trafford on 9 May 2006 between United and Celtic. The home side won the game 1–0, with Keane playing the first half for Celtic and the second half in his former role as Manchester United captain. The capacity crowd of 69,591 remains the largest crowd ever for a testimonial match in England. All of the revenue generated from the match was given to Keane's favourite charity, Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.
On 15 December 2005, Keane was announced as a Celtic player, the team he had supported as a child. Initial reports suggested Keane was offered a contract of around £40,000 per week; however, this was rejected by the player himself in his second autobiography, in which he claimed he was only paid £15,000 per week while a Celtic player. Keane's Celtic career began in January 2006, when the Glasgow giants crashed to a 2–1 defeat to Scottish First Division side Clyde in the third round of the Scottish Cup. His abrasive style had not dwindled, as he was seen criticising some of his new team-mates during the match. Keane scored what turned out to be his only Celtic goal a month later, a shot from 20 yards in a 2–1 Scottish Premier League victory over Falkirk. He retained his place the following Sunday in his first Old Firm derby against Rangers, leading Celtic to victory. Celtic went on to complete a double of the Scottish Premier League title and Scottish League Cup, his last honour as a player.
On 12 June 2006, Keane announced his retirement from professional football on medical advice, only six months after joining Celtic. His announcement prompted glowing praise from many of his former colleagues and managers, not least from Sir Alex Ferguson, who opined, "Over the years when they start picking the best teams of all time, he will be in there."
Keane was part of the squad that participated in the 1988 UEFA European Under-16 Football Championship although he did not play. He was man of the match for the Republic of Ireland national under-19 team when they beat hosts Hungary in the 1990 UEFA European Under-18 Football Championship to qualify for the 1991 FIFA World Youth Championship.
When called up for his first game at the international level, an under-21s match against Turkey in 1991, Keane took an immediate dislike to the organisation and preparation surrounding the Irish team, later describing the set-up as "a bit of a joke". He would continue to hold this view throughout the remainder of his time spent with the national team, which led to numerous confrontations with the Irish management. Keane declared his unavailability to travel with the Irish squad to Algeria, but was surprised when manager Jack Charlton told him that he would never play for Ireland again if he refused to join up with his compatriots. Despite this threat, Keane chose to stay at home on the insistence of Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough, and was pleased when a year later he was called up to the Irish squad for a friendly at Lansdowne Road. After more appearances, he grew to disapprove of Charlton's style of football, which relied less on the players' skill and more on continuous pressing and direct play. Tensions between the two men peaked during a pre-season tournament in the United States when Charlton berated Keane for returning home late after a drinking session with Steve Staunton.
Keane was included in the Republic of Ireland senior squad for the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the U.S. and played in every game, including a famous 1–0 victory over tournament favourites and eventual runners-up Italy. Despite a second-round exit at the hands of the Netherlands, the tournament was considered a success for the Irish team, and Keane was named the best player of Ireland's campaign. Keane, however, was reluctant to join the post-tournament celebrations, later claiming that, as far as he was concerned, Ireland's World Cup was a disappointment: "There was nothing to celebrate. We achieved little."
Keane missed crucial matches during the 1998 World Cup qualification matches due to a severe knee injury but came back to captain the team to within a whisker of qualification for UEFA Euro 2000, losing to Turkey in a play-off. Ireland secured qualification for the 2002 World Cup under new manager Mick McCarthy, greatly assisted by several match-winning performances from Keane. In the process of qualification, Ireland went undefeated, both home and away, against international football heavyweights Portugal and the Netherlands, famously beating the latter 1–0 at Lansdowne Road.
The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) selected the training base intended for use during Ireland's World Cup campaign. During the first training session, Keane expressed serious misgivings about the adequacy of the training facilities and the standard of preparation for the Irish team. He was angered by the late arrival of the squad's training equipment, which had disrupted the first training session on a pitch that he described as "like a car park".
After a row with goalkeeping coach Packie Bonner and Alan Kelly Jr. on the second day of training, Keane announced that he was quitting the squad and that he wished to return home to Manchester due to his dissatisfaction with Ireland's preparation. The FAI was unable to get Keane an immediate flight home at such short notice, meaning that he remained in Saipan for another night, but they called up Colin Healy as a replacement for him. The following day, however, McCarthy approached Keane and asked him to return to the training camp, and Keane was eventually persuaded to stay.
Despite a temporary cooling of tensions in the Irish camp after Keane's change of heart, things soon took a turn for the worse. Keane immediately gave an interview to leading sports journalist Tom Humphries, of the Irish Times newspaper, where he expressed his unhappiness with the facilities in Saipan and listed the events and concerns which had led him to leave the team temporarily. McCarthy took offence at Keane's interview and decided to confront Keane over the article in front of the entire squad and coaching staff. Keane refused to relent, saying that he had told the newspaper what he considered to be the truth and that the Irish fans deserved to know what was going on inside the camp. He then unleashed a stinging verbal tirade against McCarthy: "Mick, you're a liar... you're a fucking wanker. I didn't rate you as a player, I don't rate you as a manager, and I don't rate you as a person. You're a fucking wanker and you can stick your World Cup up your arse. The only reason I have any dealings with you is that somehow you are the manager of my country! You can stick it up your bollocks." Niall Quinn observed in his autobiography that "Roy Keane's 10-minute oration [against Mick McCarthy, above] ... was clinical, fierce, earth-shattering to the person on the end of it and it ultimately caused a huge controversy in Irish society." But at the same time, he was also critical of Keane's stance, saying that, "[He] left us in Saipan, not the other way round. And he punished himself more than any of us by not coming back."
None of Keane's teammates voiced support for him during the meeting, although some supported him in private afterwards. Veterans Niall Quinn and Steve Staunton backed McCarthy in a press conference after the event. It was here that McCarthy announced that he had dismissed Keane from the squad and sent him home. By this time, the FIFA deadline for naming the World Cup squads had passed, meaning that Colin Healy was unable to be named as Keane's replacement and could not play in the tournament.
Mick McCarthy resigned as Ireland manager in November 2002 after defeats to Russia and Switzerland in qualification for Euro 2004. The possibility of Keane returning to the squad for future qualifiers was raised, as Keane had not yet fully retired from international football, insisting that McCarthy's presence was the main incentive for staying away from the Irish squad. McCarthy's replacement, Brian Kerr, discussed with Keane the possibility of a recall, and in April 2004 he was brought back into the Irish team to face Romania on 27 May. Keane was not reinstated as captain, however, as Kerr decided to keep the armband with Kenny Cunningham. After the team's failure to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, he announced his retirement from international football to help prolong his club career.
Keane has reiterated his displeasure with the attitude and selection policy of the FAI. In March 2007, Keane claimed that several Republic of Ireland players get picked solely based on their media exposure and that the organisation was biased towards players originating from Dublin or other regions of Leinster: "Once you keep playing them on the reputation they've built up through the media or because they do lots of interviews, then it's wrong. There's a fine line between loyalty and stupidity." Keane claimed that Sunderland player Liam Miller was not picked because he was from Cork and that players with significant potential were failing to get picked for the national team. He also alleged that the FAI were incompetent in the running of their affairs.
Keane was involved in further controversy in the wake of Ireland's defeat by France in the qualification 2010 World Cup play-off. During an Ipswich Town press conference on 20 November 2009, Keane was critical of the Irish reaction to the Thierry Henry handball incident. His response included criticisms of the Irish team's defence and the FAI authorities.
Keane's former manager Sir Alex Ferguson had previously said that he wanted Keane to succeed him as Manchester United coach when he retired. In the wake of Keane's acrimonious departure from the club, however, Ferguson became evasive regarding Keane's prospects as a manager: "Young managers come along and people say this one will be England manager or boss of this club, but two years later they're not there. It's not an easy environment to come into, I wouldn't forecast anything."
During his time at Celtic, Keane was suggested as a potential managerial successor to Gordon Strachan by former Celtic player Charlie Nicholas. However, it was Championship club Sunderland where Keane chose to launch his managerial career, reuniting him with the club's chairman and outgoing manager, Niall Quinn. The two men, publicly at least, were on opposing sides during the fall-out from the Saipan incident, but they were on good terms at the time of the managerial appointment, with Quinn urging Sunderland fans to "support and enjoy one of football's true greats".
Keane signed a three-year deal immediately after Sunderland's victory over West Bromwich Albion on 28 August, the Mackems' first win of the 2006–07 season after a dreadful run of four consecutive defeats under Quinn's temporary management. With his new club sitting in the relegation zone already, second bottom of the Championship table, Keane chose to enforce changes quickly. His first actions as manager were deciding to keep the existing assistant manager, Bobby Saxton, and to appoint his former Nottingham Forest colleague Tony Loughlan as head coach. He wasted no time in bringing in new additions to the squad, with a total of six players signing on the final day of the August transfer window. The most notable signings were Keane's former Manchester United teammates Dwight Yorke and Liam Miller, supported by former Celtic colleagues Ross Wallace and Stanislav Varga, as well as Wigan Athletic pair Graham Kavanagh and David Connolly.
Keane's first two games as manager could not have gone much better; first coming from behind to beat Derby County 2–1, followed by an easy 3–0 victory over Leeds United. Sunderland began to steadily creep up the league standings under Keane's management, and by the turn of the year, they had escaped the bottom half of the league. Five further players were signed during the January 2007 transfer window, three (Anthony Stokes, Carlos Edwards and Stern John) on permanent contracts and two (Jonny Evans and Danny Simpson) on loan from Manchester United, Keane's old club. Results continued to improve, and Keane was rewarded with the February and March Manager of the Month awards, while his team began to challenge for the automatic promotion places. Meanwhile, Keane tackled his players' non-professional approach with a firm hand. When three players were late for the team coach to a trip to Barnsley, in March 2007, he simply left them behind.
Sunderland secured promotion to the Premier League – along with Birmingham City – on 29 April when rivals Derby were beaten by Crystal Palace. A week later, the Championship title was sealed, and Sunderland's revival under Keane was complete. His achievements also earned him the Championship Manager of the Year award.
The lowest point of their next season came at Goodison Park, where they were beaten 7–1 by Everton, which Keane described as "one of the lowest points" of his career. In the second half of the season, however, the team's form was much improved (especially at home) and survival in the division was guaranteed with two games to go with a home win against Middlesbrough. Meanwhile, Keane carried on his trend of buying ex-Manchester United players with the addition of Kieran Richardson, Paul McShane, Danny Higginbotham and Phil Bardsley. He has also continued his strict disciplinary policy by putting Liam Miller (one of Sunderland's more consistent players) on the transfer list for being regularly late for training and other team meetings.
The beginning of the 2008–09 season would prove to be tumultuous. In September 2008 Keane became embroiled in a row with FIFA Vice-President Jack Warner over the withdrawal of Dwight Yorke from the Trinidad and Tobago national team. Warner accused Keane of being disrespectful towards small countries. Keane responded by calling Warner "a clown" and insisted that Yorke was retired from international football. That same month Keane experienced "one of the worst and longest nights" of his career when Sunderland had to come from 2–0 down at home in a League Cup tie against Northampton Town. The game ended 2–2, with Sunderland progressing narrowly on penalties.
Despite some positive performances, including the historic 2–1 home victory against local rivals Newcastle United on 25 October (the first time the club had accomplished this in 28 years), as well as good showings by recent signings like Djibril Cissé and Anton Ferdinand, the team's general form, remained inconsistent. By the end of November, Sunderland was 18th in the Premier League, having lost five of their six previous games. Keane stood down as manager on 4 December after bringing doubt on his future with comments made in the wake of the 4–1 home defeat by Bolton Wanderers the previous weekend. Keane's harsh management style was not appreciated by the Sunderland players, who were reported to have celebrated when they heard he had resigned.
In an interview with The Irish Times on 21 February 2009, Keane cited differences with Sunderland 30% shareholder Ellis Short and strains with club chairman Niall Quinn as the factors in his decision to resign as Sunderland manager.
On 23 April 2009, Keane was appointed as the new manager of Ipswich Town on a two-year contract, the day after the club had dismissed Jim Magilton. His first game in charge came the following Saturday with a 3–0 away win over Cardiff City, the final league match to be played at Ninian Park. The following week, Ipswich rounded off the season with a 2–1 win over Coventry City. In the 2009–10 season, Keane started to sign some players, some of them from his former club Sunderland. He signed goalkeeper Márton Fülöp, midfielders Carlos Edwards and Grant Leadbitter and brought in Jack Colback, David Healy and Daryl Murphy on loan to the club. Ipswich started without a win in their first 14 matches, making them the last team to record their first win in the whole league, finally winning on 31 October against Derby County and recording their first away win of the season on 29 November against Cardiff City. Their form gradually improved throughout the season, but Ipswich drew far too many games to come anywhere near the promotion race and they finished the season in 15th place. Many inconsistencies in the 2009–10 and the 2010–11 season meant that Keane's Ipswich side never really challenged for promotions and as a result of a poor run of form, ending up with his side dropping to as low as 21st in the Championship. Keane was dismissed as Ipswich manager on 7 January 2011.
On 5 November 2013, the FAI announced that Martin O'Neill had been made the Republic of Ireland manager and that Keane had been made the assistant manager. Their first match was against Latvia at the Aviva Stadium in a 3–0 victory on 15 November 2013. After Neil Lennon left Celtic at the end of the 2013–14 season, Keane looked set to become the new manager of the Hoops. Martin O'Neill admitted he won't stand in his way of taking over the reins at Celtic Park. Keane, however, remained as assistant manager of Ireland and asked not to be considered for the job. Keane later stated that he was on the verge of taking the Celtic job and had met with the Celtic owner Dermot Desmond but felt "they didn't make him feel wanted enough" and rejected the offer. Keane later became the new assistant manager of Aston Villa, combining his role with Villa and Ireland.
In October 2014, Keane caused controversy after his book was released before crucial Euro 2016 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Germany. Martin O'Neill, however, rejected the claims that it was a distraction.
A month later, before Ireland's crucial qualifier against Scotland, Keane was involved in an incident with a fan in the team hotel. An ambulance for the fan was called as well as the Garda Síochána, but no arrests or complaints were made. The FAI and Martin O'Neill came out in support of Keane after the incident. It later emerged that CCTV footage exonerated Keane of any wrongdoing. The man involved in the incident is Brendan Grace's son-in-law Frank Gillespie, who is believed to have asked Keane to sign a copy of Keane's autobiography The Second Half. Keane refused to do so, and Gillespie confronted Keane but then collapsed and an ambulance was called to the hotel. Grace stated that Gillespie and Keane were "old buddies".
After the Scotland game, Keane claimed that Everton were putting pressure on the Irish players like Séamus Coleman and James McCarthy (who missed the Scotland match through injury) to pull out of international squads; Everton chairman Bill Kenwright refuted this claim, saying Keane says "stupid things". Then-Everton manager Roberto Martínez also dismissed Keane's comments.
Again Keane was in the headlines after a heated press conference with journalists before the United States match. Keane got in a row with a journalist after he was questioned if he was becoming a distraction from the Republic of Ireland cause. Eamon Dunphy has called on the FAI and Martin O'Neill to stop Keane from giving interviews to end the circus of media attention around him.
In November 2018, Keane and O'Neill left their jobs by "mutual agreement".
On 1 July 2014, Keane was confirmed as Aston Villa's new assistant manager, working alongside manager Paul Lambert. He combined this role with his assistant manager's role with the Republic of Ireland. On 28 November 2014, however, Keane quit his role as assistant manager at Aston Villa to concentrate on his assistant manager role with Ireland.
In January 2019 he became assistant manager at Nottingham Forest, leaving the role in June 2019.