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09th Nov 2023

“He looked down on me…” – Roy Keane on the English referee who had it in for him

Lee Costello

Roy Keane

“I used to say to him ‘book me’ in the tunnel.”

Roy Keane believed that English referee David Elleray looked down on him with an elitist attitude because of the player’s Irish upbringing.

Elleray had sent Keane off four times in his Manchester United career, more than any other referee, and the Irishman believed that there was more to it than him simply breaking the rules.

The former United captain had been sent off 13 times in his career in total, and had a reputation as a tough combative midfielder who loved crunching tackles and could be prone to getting into off-the-ball incidents.

Speaking on the latest episode of the Stick to Football Podcast, the panel were going through all of Keane’s red cards throughout his career, and inevitably, Elleray’s name was brought up more than once.

Roy Keane on the English referee who had it in for him.

When asked by Gary Neville if he had beef with him, Keane said: “A bit. Was he a principal at some posh school?

“He had that look over me… he was definitely looking down on me… Irish.

“I used to say to him ‘book me’ in the tunnel. He sent me off three or four times?”

Ian Wright agreed that Elleray had an elitist-side to him, and that he too thought the Premier League match official looked down on him as well, giving his working class upbringing in London.

Roy Keane

Referee who sent Roy Keane off four times explains why he received a signed jersey from Irishman when he retired.

When Elleray retired from refereeing, he revealed that Keane actually sent him a signed jersey and a personal note “expressing his gratitude” that he has finally stopped officiating.

Writing in The Guardian back in 2004, the former man in black explained what it was like being enemy number one with United fans, Sir Alex Ferguson, and indeed Keane himself.

“At the end of that season, I found myself in charge of the Manchester derby,” Elleray said about the 2001 tie.

“We had gone 83 minutes without so much as a yellow card until Roy Keane made that challenge on Alf Inge Haaland. People say to me that it must have been the easiest decision I had ever made.

“But it wasn’t. In fact, it was the most difficult. This was a Manchester derby, Roy had made the challenge right by the Stretford End and it was to be the fourth time I had dismissed him.

“It was already alleged that I was pursuing a vendetta against him. Back in the dressing room I saw the tackle on television. I was relieved to see that I had made the right decision. As Roy later admitted in his book, it was deliberately brutal.

“When I retired, he was good enough to send me a personal note expressing his gratitude that I had hung up my boots. He also sent me a signed United shirt. I like to think that that reflected well on him and on me.”

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