IS ROY READY TO PULL THE PLUG ON HIS CARRER? 'He Has Modelled Himself on Cloughie.But Lacks the Human Touch' KEANE ON THE BRINK UNDER-FIRE BOSS FACES MAKE-OR-BREAK DECISION

Article excerpt

Byline: BY SIMON BIRD

ROY KEANE faces a series of difficult questions as he debated his future yesterday - and even he was wondering whether he was the man with the answers.

Can he work to the exacting target-driven demands of new majority shareholder and major investor Ellis Short?

Is his sometimes brutal personality crushing the dressing room morale?

Has he lost the goodwill of his players?

Can he keep control of potentially troublesome stars that include Pascal Chimbonda and El Hadji Diouf?

Does he have the appetite for a fight in the glare of the public eye with his reputation on the line?

Or will his first crisis cause a retreat into the relative sanity of family life and retirement away from the game?

Keane has been given free reign to build Sunderland from top to bottom, and pounds 80million to spend on players over the last 27 months, backed by chairman Niall Quinn and his Irish Drumaville consortium.

But the dynamics of that changed this summer with a share-issue that saw Short take a 30 per cent stake and help inject pounds 50m into the club.

Keane spent the cash, but the bonanza also meant a new man and tough questions, especially when contract talks stalled making planning for the future difficult.

Despite taking Sunderland from the bottom of the Championship to promotion and then masterminding Premier League survival last season, challenges to Keane's authority have mounted over the last five weeks.

If the 37-year-old stays he must realise he has to win back his players, amid fears that some individuals have switched off in the face of his man-management methods.

Keane models himself on the often quirky, and always tough, Brian Clough - but the love Clough displayed at crucial moments is not a trait his advisors, as they face their first big crisis together after six defeats in seven games.

Keane was spared a trip to the Sunderland reserves last night against his old club Manchester United, which was postponed because of snow, allowing further discussions to take place. But after 27 months with the Black Cats, it was Keane who raised the prospect that he might not be the right man for the job five days ago.

Keane, who is still backed by most of the fans, has spent the week reflecting on a 4-1 home defeat to Bolton. Last Friday he hinted he "may not be a football manager for very long". And a day later he said he "might wake up one day and think the job is not for him".

Keane has the immediate backing of Quinn and major shareholder Ellis Short, as long as he can put together a plan to lift the mood and results at the Stadium of Light.

Keane likes to reveal. Mixing in a human side, which he regularly shows in his press briefings, would help. …