Ex-Premier League referee admits Man Utd legend Roy Keane was “scary” during games


Since the Premier League was born in 1992, there have been few characters who have captured the imagination quite like Roy Keane.

Keane was Sir Alex Ferguson’s trusted lieutenant during a sustained period of success for Manchester United in the late nineties and beyond.

The fiery Irishman was one of the most controversial characters around and his iconic tussles with the likes of Patrick Vieira from in and around the Millennium are still relayed to this day.

But how on earth do you go about dealing with someone like Keane in the heat of battle?

Former Premier League referee Graham Poll has lifted the lid on how he tried to control the “scary” midfielder during his days officiating in the top flight – and his approach might surprise you.



Ex-Premier League referee Graham Poll has recalled his experiences of trying to manage Roy Keane during the Irishman's time at Manchester United
Ex-Premier League referee Graham Poll has recalled his experiences of trying to manage Roy Keane during the Irishman’s time at Manchester United

“Roy Keane was a strong, strong player,” Poll previously told BT Sport. “He would dominate his own team as well as the opposition and therefore the referee as well, by his sheer will.

“I don’t think he would ever try to con you or cheat you, but there was just something about him, an almost immovable force about Roy that you just thought, bloody hell. And he was scary.

“I tried to get on his wavelength, and I tried to make Roy smile when I could see some anger rising in him.

“I refereed Manchester United 57 times, so you’ve got the chance to establish some kind of rapport and relationship and that is what I tried to achieve.”



Keane was often embroiled in controversy during his time at Old Trafford
Keane was often embroiled in controversy during his time at Old Trafford

Poll oversaw over 300 games in the top flight, but few would have compared to a particularly feisty clash between Arsenal and United at Highbury. Poll was the man in the middle as tempers boiled over in north London.

Chelsea may have clinched the title that year, but back then, Arsenal and United were the undisputed juggernauts of the English game – clashes between the two were always a box office event.

And the drama almost spilled over before a ball had even been kicked.

The players weren’t even on the pitch when Keane had his first flare-up of the night with Vieira.



Poll had an unusual method to try and keep Keane calm on the pitch
Poll had an unusual method to try and keep Keane calm on the pitch

It’s since been revealed that Vieira was still stewing from the clash earlier in the season that had seen United end Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ run.

He felt that Gary Neville had been too aggressive in his approach that day, and the Gunners enforcer wasn’t shy in letting Neville know about it.

Unsurprisingly, once Keane got wind of that, he put himself right into the mix.

He was infamously captured by the Sky cameras raving and swearing at Vieira before ominously telling him “I’ll see you out there,” while being held back by Poll in the tunnel.



Keane's clashes with Patrick Vieira were iconic
Keane’s clashes with Patrick Vieira were iconic

A lesser man would maybe have buckled under that threat, but for Keane and Vieira, this was par for the course; by their standards, it was a fairly mild exchange.

That clash would prove to be one of their last as both players left the Premier League later that year.

Ironically, Keane’s ruthless character ended up being his downfall and played a huge part in his Old Trafford career ending prematurely after his infamous fallout with Ferguson.



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Since then, after a few stints in management, Keane has taken to icy stares and vicious verdicts to the television studio as a pundit.

While there’s no doubt that Keane has provided us all with some blockbuster moments from his short stint on the airways, they pale in comparison to the box office moments he served on a regular basis at the heart of the Manchester United team back in the Premier League’s glory days.

Sadly, they don’t make them like Keane anymore.





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