Ireland’s pre-World Cup training camp, Saipan, May 2002
Jason McAteer answered a knock on his bedroom door and found Roy Keane waiting there. The skipper had called to borrow a blue movie. As the squad’s ‘head of ‘entertainment’ Jason was usually the person the players turned to in times of such need.
“Because it was Roy I had to hand over my best bluey,” Jason told me later on. “I didn’t want to be giving him any old rubbish.” The following day it all kicked off and Roy was on his way home – without returning what he’d borrowed. I think that was why they clashed in the Sunderland versus Manchester United game at the Stadium of Light later that year... because Jason wanted the video back.
Apart from loaning out videos, Jason’s role as one of the senior players meant he usually tried to keep team spirits up. Looking at what happened, though, it’s obvious there wasn’t much harmony in the Irish squad during the build-up to the World Cup in Japan and Korea.
There were always bust-ups in every group of players I was part of. It’s up to the manager and his staff to sort it out. I thought it was handled badly in 2002 and what went on should never have reached the media. If Jack Charlton had been in charge everything would have been kept in-house. It wasn’t, it leaked out. Some people say Mick McCarthy let it out deliberately because he wanted to put pressure on Roy. Roy can be impetuous and could fly off the wall. That’s what he did.
It was a very sad event. The biggest loser wasn’t Mick or Roy; it was Irish football. I still believe we could have got to the semi-finals of that competition at least.
Had we knocked out Spain, which we nearly did, that side of the draw was wide open and the lads could have made it to the last four. I think later in life Roy will regret the fact that he didn’t get to play in that tournament.
The most successful teams usually need to have a great spirit and sense of camaraderie. It’s not always easy to build. Whereever I played, our usual method of creating such an atmosphere involved going for a few drinks. ENDS
Taken from Alright Aldo: Sound as a Pound. Available now in all good bookshops or at http://tinyurl.com/3y8k9lg