Keane Leaps Toward Glory
If you ever happen to find yourself taking part in a 'Quantum Leap'-type project, which involves you randomly travelling through the last 15 years of time (presumably to stop a child from falling down a well or somesuch), there is one failsafe way both to prevent your identity as a time-voyager from the future being discovered, and to ascertain the moment of time into which you have leapt.
When confronted by a past-ling, just say "Roy Keane, eh?", and shake your head in a way that suggests both admiration and staggerment. Then sit back and await the response to calibrate your point on the space-time continuum.
"Incredible. What a great player/arsehole/thug/legend/psycho/genius/knobhead! I can't believe he scored that great goal/got locked up in the cells/got sent off for that brutal tackle/single-handedly led his team to the European Cup final/wrote that in his book/left his country in the lurch/stood up against the incompetence of the FAI/said that about his team-mates/got Sunderland promoted. Incredible."
Back here in the future, we remain as astonished by the man from Mayfield as our primitive forebears, with their chunky mobile phones and Liam Gallagher sideburns. His retirement from professional football at the end of last season seemed like the death of a major historical figure.
Like a demised Viking warrior, we lit his pyre and floated his longboat off towards Valhalla.
But one presumes that our Norse cousins of yore did not foresee the afterlife as a place of frolicking in the park with the kids and walking Trigger. And Sweyn Forkbeard and Erik the Red are surely not spending eternity analysing pillage on the Battle of the Day pundits sofa or giggling with Sue Barkersdottir on Question of Carnage.
So the hereafter for Roy Keane is back to before, and he re-dons his pointy helmet and returns to the Premiership killing fields. Leaping forward in time again (Oh boy!) to the heyday of that other Europe-conquering midfield general, Napoleon, it's easy to see the comparison between Keane's return to the imperial court of the Premiership and the diminutive French continent-devourer's comeback from his own exile.
Landing on the coast of southern France, having high-tailed it from the island of Elba seeking a return to top flight action, Napoleon advanced on Paris, attracting the support of disgruntled provincials and demobbed ex-soldiers.
When confronted by the men of his sucessor, Louis XVIII, in Grenoble, he dismounted his horse and approached them. "Soldiers of the Fifth [regiment], you recognize me. If any man would shoot his emperor, he may do so now". The soldiers, after presumably looking towards their boots and mumbling for a bit, shouted "Vive L'Empereur!" and joined the crazy Corsican on his quest.
Keane too has roused a hitherto disconsolate rabble from the sticks and is marching tens of thousands strong towards the seats of power. Plainly, those who have crossed his path, be they vanquished foes or his own rejuvenated forces have recognised the face of the old emperor.
At Waterloo, as the eminent Swedish historians Ulvaeus & Andersson noted in their eponymous, seminal work from 1974, Napoleon did surrender. While the Napster only had to contend with the Duke of Wellington and Prussia's Generalfeldmarschal von Blücher in that tricky Belgian away tie, Keane faces 19 other generals all desperate to run a blade through him, including the old warmongrel himself, Alex Ferguson, and that dashing blade of roisterer, Jose Mourinho.
Of course, the early months of Keane's managerial career have provided ample evidence to even the most sceptical of observers that glittering success awaits. It does not require a quantum leap, or even much of one of the imagination to envisage Keane making a significant mark on proceedings at the very top of the game over the forthcoming years.
Who knows, maybe, in time, Ferguson will echo about Keane the opinion of Wellington on Napoleon; when asked who he thought the greatest of all generals, he answered "In this age, in past ages, in any age, Napoleon."