“Part funny, part unnecessarily aggressive, Keane remains A-grade box office and his return to football should be welcomed” – Henry Winter

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “Who are the good managers you are talking about? Sparky and Brucey have not won a trophy, have they? They have potential, but anyone can have potential. Steve Bruce has had a good season, but Steve Bruce has been manager how many years? Sparky did a brilliant job at Blackburn, but is facing different challenges at Manchester City… Until an ex team-mate of mine from 1994 goes on and really achieves something, then I would not agree with what you are saying about [any of them] being a successful manager… I believe I can potentially be a good football manager. I have done nothing in the game yet. I did OK at Sunderland, but I want to do better than OK… Tony Cascarino? I would not give him the time of day. I am quite happy to comment on people’s opinion in football I respect, but [he] is a man I certainly do not respect, for a lot of reasons, and if I told you, you would be shocked. The day I worry about [him] will be a very sad day of my life.” – Roy Keane.

Runner-up: “I’m not having a battle of words with Alex Ferguson. But I believe that he can see that we are the better side, and that we are very close to United. He has been accustomed to playing these types of mind games for many years. Nobody has ever said anything against him, or stood up to him, as he has a very good team that can win ­trophies. It seems like he has a licence to do these sorts of things. It is essential for us to try to keep the pressure on United. We must not slacken off, and if we keep going that will make them feel under pressure.” – Rafa Benitez.

Today’s overview: The return of Roy Keane to football focuses attention this Friday, most scribes cautiously optimistic over the Irishman’s appointment at Ipswich. Elsewhere, despite Rafa’s claim that he is “not having a battle of words with Alex Ferguson,” today’s papers link the Reds with a swoop for Carlos Tevez.

According to Dominic Fifield, “there is so much ambition burning in Keane, and shared by the hierarchy, that such mediocrity is instantly deemed unsatisfactory. Upheaval lies ahead.” Henry Winter, in his unique style, added “part funny, part unnecessarily aggressive, Keane remains A-grade box office and his return to football should be welcomed. Despite the bolshy stance and disappointment at Sunderland, he has the potential to mature into a fine manager, albeit an enduring angry one. Portman Road will see some fireworks first.”

Some however remains cautious, Louise Taylor arguing that Keane will have to adapt his style to be successful. “Often change-resistant, Keane’s challenge now is to prove he can alter those awkward aspects of his managerial personna which ultimately undid him on Wearside.” Adding to the skeptics is Oliver Kay, who also dishes out free advise to Keane. “Keane loves his football, but, if he is to succeed as a manager at IpswichTown or anywhere else, he must conquer his distrust of and disdain for some of those who play the game.”

Andy Townsend chips in with his two cents, arguing that Keane “can’t rule the boardroom with an iron fist. The baseball bat approach will not work.” While for Des Kelly, “of course Keane’s arrival is a wonderful coup and a tremendous statement of intent by the new regime at Portman Road, but there are no guarantees where this personality is concerned. He is footballing high-explosive and needs to be handled with care.”

Bitter James Lawton is his usual sour-self when commenting on Keane’s appointment. “Roy Keane is not a man for all seasons, only those which suit his mood of the moment. It is a luxury he cannot expect now when he comes back to deference that, as a manager, he has not begun to deserve.”

Owen Gibson investigates Ipswich’s mysterious billionaire pwner Marcus Evans. “Fans are unsure whether he ever attends matches because, never having been publicly photographed, they are not sure what he looks like. Not for him the path from publicity-shy businessman to public figure taken by Newcastle United’s owner, Mike Ashley.” On similar lines, Owen Slot points out that “there is also considerable irony in that Keane, who is famously opposed to the “prawn sandwich brigade” is working for Evans, much of whose considerable wealth stems from corporate hospitality at sports events and who, in other words, is feeding the “brigade” their prawn sandwich diet.”

The Independent have a special report on gambling scams in England.

According to Nick Harris, “The Independent understands the FA requested phone records, bank account access and betting account details from a number of “football people”, and that at least some of its charges arose from this work.” But in a second article, Nick Harris details the difficulty in holding people to account. “Match-fixing is simply too hard to prove, to specific legal satisfaction, whereas infringements of football’s own betting rules are more clear-cut and more likely to end in convictions, though the matter remains within the sport’s governing body. The only scenario where the FA can envisage match-fixing charges would be if a whistle-blower, involved in a crime, admitted it and implicated others. That remains unlikely.”

Dipping into the Premier League, David Hytner wonders why only West Ham appear to want to qualify for the Europa Cup. “The bottom line for England’s final qualifier is that they will have to play 19 matches in order to win the trophy. That is half a Premier League season.” On Arsenal, Duncan White bemoans the Gunners’ rearguard. “Not since Sol Campbell has there been a defender at Arsenal who could physically intimidate an opponent, a player who is first and foremost a centre-half (Gallas and Silvestre had their best years at full back, Toure started as a winger).”

Self-confessed Boro fan Harry Pearson expresses his concerns of being in the relegation dogfight. “Managers are fond of talking about having “our fate in our own hands”, but when you are at the bottom your team’s dumb incompetence means that is more of a liability than an asset. No, we must rely on the stupidity of strangers. When it comes to surviving a relegation dogfight it is not enough that we fail – others must fail worse.”

In today’s transfer news, The Times’ Oliver Kay splashes with the rumours that “Rafael Benitez is preparing to antagonise Sir Alex Ferguson once more with an audacious bid to sign Carlos Tevez.” In a supplementary article Oliver Kay explains how Berbatov appears to have ousted Tevez from Old Trafford. “Cut through the emotion and the case for keeping Tevez is far from overwhelming. In 24 Premier League appearances this season, two thirds of them in the starting line-up, he has scored only three goals. Two of those goals… were set up by Berbatov. The debate is far from clear-cut, but it is approaching a resolution. And it will not be the one that pleases the Berba-sceptics among United’s support.”

Next, the Daily Mail claim that “Richard Dunne will leave Manchester City after nine years at the club and   join Sunderland in a £4million deal in the summer.” The Sun report how Stoke, Sunderland and Blackburnare battling it out to sign Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia. John Cross farts “Chelsea misfit Deco is an £8million target for Italian champions Inter Milan.”

And there is more. While the Mirror also link Birmingham with Manchester City keeper Joe Hart, and the red-top also announce that “Wolves are set to make a bid to sign Manchester United midfielder Rodrigo Possebon on a season-long loan next term.” Alan Nixon claims that both Spurs and Blackburn are tracking Real Betis’ Achille Emana.

And lastly on the grapevine, David Woods categorically bleats “Carlo Ancelotti has agreed to become the next manager of Chelsea.”

Changing tracks, Amy Lawrence looks at the world of youth footballers and their relationships with agents. “Agents and scouts are ubiquitous. It isn’t long before a scamp with skill is being buttered up and told about all the delights that will come his way if he would care to scribble on a dotted line. The most promising players already exist in a miniature version of the celebrity life of fully fledged Premier League footballers. They are “looked after” by their agents.”

From the new generation of earners to today’s current financial climate, and Sachin Nakrani reports on the falling attendances in the Championship. “Attendances declined by 1.6% across the three divisions in the 2007-08 season — a swing of 3.2% on the previous year — and, following the onset of the recession, are showing signs of continuing to fall.”