When former Town manager Roy Keane released his new book this week, there was frantic media attention. Peregrine Cuttlefish, society columnist for the East Anglian Daily Times from 1871 – 1903, occasional Turnstile Blues contributor, and the only man to have spent three solid hours flicking rubber bands at Charles Dickens’s nose, instantly recognised the potential for a meeting of wizened minds, and was first in the queue for an interview. We are proud to present the full text of what can quite literally be described as a historic encounter. Transcribed by Gavin Barber.
Peregrine Cuttlefish: Thank you, Mr Keane, for agreeing to an interview. When I read your book I realised that we should meet. We have each spent our lives at the very forefront of history: living and shaping the moments that define our respective eras.
Roy Keane: You say that. I could agree with it or not agree with it. It doesn’t matter.
PC: One notices straight away your antipathy towards Sir Alex Ferguson, a man whom you chastise for being distracted by horses. This instantly reminded me of Thomas Hardy, who was notorious for tearing up drafts of his latest novel if he saw a moth in the room. A little-known fact is that Far From The Madding Crowd was only completed because me and a troupe of jobbing performers from the Lambeth Music Hall were on a 24-hour patrol outside his study, swatting moths with our banjos lest any should disturb Hardy’s concentration. Did you ever meet him?
RK: Thomas Hardy? Aye, a miserable fuck. Sure he could pull a sentence together but why be so bitter about everything? I look back on what I achieved as a footballer and see no acknowledgement of that in Hardy’s work. None at all. That to me seems disrespectful. I’ve no time for the man.
PC: There’s a passage in the book in which you say that Sunderland chairman Ellis Short spoke to you “like you were something on the bottom of his shoe”. I remember Queen Victoria herself saying this after an unfortunate encounter with the King of Norway. What are your views on the dowager empress?
RK: Queen Victoria? Ah, listen. She’s achieved a lot, there’s no doubt about that. But I don’t get the need to be flouncing around with the big black dresses and the moody face. OK, so the guy with the knob-ring died. Get over it, move on. The way I see it, you look back over some of the proper monarchs, your Henry Vs and what have you, and they never saw the need for that sort of showboating. They just got their heads down and got on with the business of oppressing people. I just don’t get why Victoria had to show off like that. Why the flouncing? Can’t be doing with it.
PC: Thinking back over my own time as one of the leading lights of the literary circuit, I recall a cocktail party in Woodbridge in which Lady Login-Error of Shotley caused quite the stir by reading to the assembled company from her diaries. She shocked the guests by revealing that she had tapped a servant-girl across the ankles for insolence. Your new book reveals several such confrontations. Is this a regular feature of your life?
RK: Listen, I’m no different from anyone else. People think I’m this kind of monster, always getting wound up and fighting people, but I’m just a normal guy. Yeah, I’ve had a few rucks. Jon Walters and Pablo at Ipswich, that’s in the book. Schmeichel at Man United too. And yeah, it happens occasionally. I was in the hotel this morning and there weren’t enough hash browns at the breakfast buffet. I don’t even like hash browns. It shouldn’t matter to me. But it’s about standards of professionalism. So, yeah, I smashed up the kitchen and pinned the chef against the wall. But it’s just part of life. Happens to anyone.
PC: You’ve said in the book that when you were a player you had a ‘character’ that you got into, and that all sports professionals are, to an extent, playing a role. I was fortunate enough to spend some time in the company of your fellow countryman George Bernard Shaw. Like you, he was perceived by some as a troublemaker: in reality he was studious and diligent, but with a playful side. I remember one occasion when we were dining at White’s with Horry Walpole: Shaw carefully arranged all the peas on his plate into a perfect pyramid, then toppled it just as the Prince of Wales walked past our table. The bumbling royal lost his footing amidst the leguminous sea, and clattered face-first into the Duke of Fife’s sherry trifle. Shaw was roaring with laughter. Which of the classical thespians did you follow in developing your role as a footballer? I thought I could see Stanislavski’s influence in the fight with Alan Shearer in 2001 which got you a red card.
RK: Sure, there’s an element of acting there. Stanislavski is nonsense though. Method acting? Don’t give me that. You’re either in character or you’re not. What business do you have calling yourself a professional if you’ve got to immerse yourself for hours? Get in there, do the job, get the fuck off the stage.
PC: And finally Mr Keane: a contemporary of mine was Charles Darwin, who like you attracted disdain, opprobrium and horror in his own time, only to be regarded as a visionary in later years. What are your views on human evolution? Have we reached optimum physicality or can we adapt further? Do you think it will ever be physically possible to…
RK: Stick it up your bollocks.
Roy Keane’s new book, Stuff That Makes Me Cross When I Think About It, is out now. Peregrine Cuttlefish’s memoirs are due to be published just as soon as he remembers the details of that hilarious thing that Edward Elgar once did with a goldfish. In the meantime, an excerpt can be found in the new issue of Turnstile Blues, on sale at Portman Road next Saturday or via this website soon afterwards.