Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Keane Pulls on His Boots for Cats

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Keane Pulls on His Boots for Cats

Article excerpt

Byline: By Luke Edwards

ROY Keane has responded to Sunderland's slump in form by breaking the first promise of his managerial career - he has started playing again.

Keane boldly declared during his first week in the job that, unlike other former players who have become managers, he would not be joining in the end-of-session kick-abouts so that he would not be tempted to kick any of his under-performing players.

But, after three successive away defeats and nine goals conceded, the Irishman's resolve has crumbled as he admitted he had put his boots back on this week ahead of the arrival of struggling Barnsley to the Stadium of Light.

"I said I wouldn't, but I've been joining in the kick-abouts in training this week," said a surprisingly relaxed Keane. "The problem is I've been poor, more than a little rusty, I've not got near anyone to kick them.

"Nobody has kicked me yet either, but I'm keeping an eye out for the players who can't get in the team. They're the ones you have to be careful about."

Sunderland have taken just three points from a possible 12 and Keane has moved to shore up a fragile defence with the signing of highly-rated Welsh international prospect Lewin Nyatanga. The 18-year-old should make his debut against the Tykes this afternoon as Sunderland's rookie manager continues to reshape his squad.

But, while some had expected the former Manchester United midfielder to be in combative mood following the 2-1 defeat at Stoke - a result which leaves his team just three points above the relegation zone - the Black Cats boss has a more-rounded view of the job in hand.

"This is a challenge I've taken on board and it's a long-term challenge," reflected Keane, who is still confident his squad is good enough to challenge for a play-off place this season. "It's different as a player and I've had setbacks with form, injury, disciplinary problems, whatever, but this is different.

"This is where I'm meant to be. …

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