Jon Walters deserves a better Ireland send-off than a raging row with Roy Keane
"He’s a good manager, believe it or not. I liked the way he ran the dressing room... No one could get away with anything. If you put a foot out of line or did anything wrong, he would let you know."
That was Jon Walters' take - in 2016 - on his life under Roy Keane at Ipswich Town.
The pair had clashed on more than one occasion when Keane was manager and Walters part of an Ipswich squad trying, and failing, to gain promotion to the Premier League. Walters eventually moved on to Stoke but both men ended up in close quarters again when Keane came on board as Martin O'Neill's assistant for Ireland.
"There might have been a bit more than a heated argument," Walters admitted to The Independent when asked about their clashes at Ipswich. Words did not suffice on that occasion and several players had to intervene. The forward added:
"When we met up with the Ireland team I asked if we could have a word and we had a laugh about it straight away. We all make mistakes. I am man enough to get on with it and he is the same."
Keane and Walters may have got on with it but they were reportedly at it again, this summer. ahead of a friendly match against the USA. The former Manchester United and Ireland captain is said to have got into "altercations" with both Walters and Harry Arter on the training ground ahead of the game, which Ireland won.
O'Neill, in conversation with Paul O'Hehir in the Irish Mirror, said:
"I'm not denying there hasn’t been altercations. But the situation has definitely been defused and it’s just part of things.
"In one of the particular arguments, the two lads - Roy and the particular player - were actually in agreement about the same thing but it took them time to realise it.
"Roy has been a big supporter of Jon, for instance, as he is particularly close to one of the Burnley coaching staff and is always keeping Jon’s end up. But I can’t say there wasn’t an altercation, absolutely."
Walters went on to play all 90 minutes of that USA game and an hour of the friendly loss to France, in Paris.
O'Neill stresses that he wants his players to be up front with expressing their opinion as long as there is no escalation. He reveals, too, that he got into a heated argument with an unnamed Ireland player ahead of Euro 2016.
"From the viewpoint of the occasional argument," he added, "I’m not too bothered."
Ireland will name their squad for upcoming games against Wales and Poland on Monday. It will be interesting to see if Arter, who recently moved from Bournemouth to Cardiff on loan, or Walters, who has not featured for Burnley yet this season, will feature.
I miss football 😕🤯 https://t.co/aST7FbhFi1
— Jonathan Walters (@JonWalters19) August 23, 2018
Walters may have to seek a loan move to the Championship, or elsewhere, if he is to find any regular football. Burnley boss Sean Dyche, on Thursday, commented:
"Jon is fit and well and he knows that if anything comes available that suits him, that will be the key thing, but he’s a well-respected senior professional, so we make sure we respect him and we do."
Walters turns 35 on September 20 but has already let O'Neill know he is keen to stay involved with Ireland. Indeed, back in March, the Derry native joked that Walters would probably play on 'until he's 64'. Having stepped up with big performances and goals for his adopted county (his mother was Irish) over the past eight years, many fans would not baulk at that prospect.
After 53 games and 14 goals for Ireland, Walters may be nearing the end of his international career. Let's hope one of his final memories with Ireland is not another spat with Roy Keane.