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22nd Mar 2022

Roy Keane was ‘seething’ after Mick McCarthy rejected his World Cup fitness request

Robert Redmond

Roy Keane Mick McCarthy

“That’s why Roy was so annoyed.”

Mick McCarthy rejected Roy Keane’s request to bring Mick Clegg, a fitness trainer, to the 2002 World Cup, according to Clegg.

The ‘power development trainer’ worked with the Manchester United squad during an incredibly successful period for the club from 2000 to 2011.

Clegg is credited with helping Cristiano Ronaldo transform into a powerhouse forward, and he helped make Keane one of the Premier League’s fittest and most dominant midfielders of his era.

However, according to the trainer, McCarthy would not let him work with the Ireland squad at the tournament in Asia.

Roy Keane Mick McCarthy

Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy clash over Man United coach.

Clegg’s work with Keane helped the player get his body fat down to just 5.5 per cent, and it influenced the rest of the Man United squad, who also began working in the gym and following his lead.

The Republic of Ireland captain wanted him to replicate his work at international level. Clegg said that Keane asked him to travel with the Ireland squad to the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

“Roy says to me one day ‘what are you doing in the summer?’ I was going to go to Bognor Regis or something,” Clegg told Miguel Delaney, writing in The Independent.

“But he says, ‘Listen, don’t book anything yet, I’ll tell you in a few days’. He comes back to me saying, ‘I want you to come to Japan’. I couldn’t believe it.”

The trainer said that Keane personally vouched for him and was convinced that he would have a positive impact on the Ireland team.

The former Nottingham Forest midfielder wanted Clegg, who was dubbed ‘the fittest man in the world’ by the United squad, to turn the Ireland team into a ‘small SAS unit’ capable of striking ‘fear’ into the opposition.

Yet, according to Clegg, McCarthy refused to allow him to work with the squad at the World Cup, despite Keane’s best efforts to convince the Ireland manager.

He says that the Irishman was ‘seething’ with anger after the snub.

Mick Clegg

McCarthy and Keane.

“McCarthy says ‘no’. Roy says, ‘He’s at United, Ferguson’s brought him in, that’s why we’re winning.’ ‘No, I don’t know him, he’s not coming… He’s not part of the team.”

“This was maybe six weeks before they went. I was gutted. It was a massive chance. That’s why Roy was so annoyed.

“He would not be happy to go to the World Cup and think, ‘Well, we might get through to the next stage’. He was giving everything.”

Roy Keane Mick McCarthy


Keane didn’t end up playing at the World Cup in 2002. The midfielder and McCarthy clashed on the eve of the tournament and the Cork-native was back in Manchester when Ireland suffered a last-16 exit to Spain on penalties.

The precise reasons behind Keane’s departure ahead of the tournament in Asia are unclear, and there had been an uneasy relationship between the manager and captain during their time working together.

However, if the then-Ireland coach did, in fact, reject Keane’s request to bring Clegg, it certainly would not have helped matters between the pair, with tension already high

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