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25th Jan 2023

“He took him to the cleaners” – Anton Ferdinand on Roy Keane’s infamous half-time rant

Patrick McCarry

Roy Keane

“You know what I liked about him? He didn’t mince his words.”

It is coming up on 11 years since Roy Keane has full held the reins at a football club. Given how his managerial career started, few would have suspected he would have stayed away from taking the top seat.

After hanging up his boots in the summer of 2006, Keane was approached to take over at Sunderland for the following season. He led the Black Cats to a Championship title and promotion to the Premier League.

They finished 15th in their first season back and Keane sought to strengthen his defence. In came Pascal Chimbonda and the West Ham duo of George McCartney and Anton Ferdinand.

On All To Play For, Ferdinand spoke about his relationship with Keane and how he motivated his players. He also shared the tale of an infamous half-time rant at Ewood Park.

Ferdinand says that his respect for the manager was total, as long as they did not talk down to him or treat him like a child. “Treat me like a human being,” he said.

“I grew up in Peckham, where you got told right from wrong, and there was no black or white. It was, ‘This is what it is. You was rubbish today’. And Roy Keane was like that.”

If he was getting an earful from a manager in a private meeting or in the dressing room, he took it on the chin.

“Managers that I had problems with, didn’t understand that about me. They looked at me as the player, and didn’t want to get to know the person. Someone like Steve Bruce was like that. Me and him had murders sometimes… for me, if he didn’t buy you, or there was something about you he didn’t like, there was a problem.”

“Do you when you go through your career,” Ferdinand continued, “some managers want to protect you, and look after you, because they were the ones that bought you. They don’t want to hammer you in front of certain players. He was the complete opposite, and I liked that about him.

“My first game was against Northampton in the League Cup, and we were getting beaten, 1-0 at half-time. Oh mate!

‘How much did I pay for you?’ Roy asked. ‘You look a bag of nerves’. He hammered me, in front of the boys. ‘You look a bag of nerves. What is up with you?’ It was mental, but I didn’t mind it.”

Asked if there was any time Keane may have over-stepped the mark with his brand of blunt assessment, Ferdinand harkened back to a Sunderland away trip to face Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.

Anton Ferdinand pictured in action for Sunderland, in 2010. (Photo by AMA/Corbis via Getty Images)

“There was this day at Blackburn,” Ferdinand recalled, “where he took Djibril Cissé to the cleaners. Oh my God!

“Djibril wasn’t playing well and we went in 1-0 down, but we were playing well.

“Kenwyne Jones got beaten in the air, for their goal, by Christopher Samba. Kenwyne had the biggest leap, so Roy was fuming. He goes, ‘You’re meant to have the biggest leap in the Premier League and you’re getting beaten to that header? It’s a disgrace’.

“And he moved on to Djibril. Hammered him. Hammered him. Like, mental.

‘Yeah,’ he goes. ‘I can have your arrogance if you’re playing well. But you’re not. I can take your arrogance, but you’re not playing well, so I don’t want to see arrogance from you’.

“Djibril just took it. And he goes out just after half-time and scores. He runs up to him and says, ‘Is that alright for you gaffer?’ and he starts laughing.”

You can see that clip here, and the handshake Roy Keane gave him as he ran over to find him on the bench. In an interview with Cissé, in 2019, the former France international said he “loved” Keane as there was ‘no bullshit with the guy’.

Djibril Cisse of Sunderland celebrates his goal with manager Roy Keane at Ewood Park, in November 2008. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

During that same half-time pow-wow in the Sunderland dressing room, at Ewood Park, Ferdinand recalled telling Keane that the team were playing well, despite trailing by that Samba goal.

“All of a sudden, Roy was like, ‘Who’s going to grab this game by the scruff of the neck? Who’s got the bollocks to do this and do that’. Then he looks at me and goes, ‘We all know you won’t, Anton, because you ain’t got any bollocks, have ya?’

“Straight-faced, he looked at me like that. I was like, ‘What?!’ 

“I’m like, ‘Okay, cool’, but I was fuming inside. I went into the tunnel and I turned to the boys and went, ‘Let’s ****ing prove him wrong, man. Let’s have it. Let’s make sure we win this game so we can go back in there and give him some’.

“We went out and Kenwyne scored, just after half-time, then Djibril scored [after 70 minutes]. I blocked one off the line in the last five minutes, and we won the game.

“I was steaming in, after, to go, ‘What? I got no bollocks, have I?’ and Roy was there, at the door, waiting for me. He put his hand out, pulled me in and said, ‘I knew we were going to ****ing win anyway!’ And he giggled. That, for me, is top management.”

Ferdinand was named Man of the Match in that 2-1 win over Blackburn, with the two other lads bawled out of it by Keane – Jones and Cissé – getting the goals that saw them home.

It was a result that saw Blackburn climb to 11th in the Premier League table. ‘The manager said the right words for us,” Cissé said after the match.

Within two games, though, Keane was gone. Sunderland lost at home to West Ham and were soundly beaten, 4-1, by Bolton the week after. They dropped into the relegation zone, albeit with plenty of games left to climb the table, but Keane’s time with the club was over. He “resigned” from the club.

Sunderland would go on to finish 16th in the league after losing four of their last five games and holding on with just two points to spare.

Keane’s next managerial job was at Ipswich Town, in the Championship. He lasted two years at Portman Road and has not held a main manager’s job since, preferring to be assistant to Paul Lambert and, mainly, Martin O’Neill instead.