It'll end in tears

LONG ago, in a universe far away - well, two decades ago in another part of the country - I sat in a pub with a friend of mine while he drowned his sorrows.

Aidan Semmens

LONG ago, in a universe far away - well, two decades ago in another part of the country - I sat in a pub with a friend of mine while he drowned his sorrows.

He was a professional footballer, one of those who in his early twenties already has a great future behind him. He was also one of the nicest and gentlest of men and not given to the kind of heavy drinking he was into that night.

He was miserable because he knew things that others around him were as yet in blissful ignorance of.

The club he played for had that day appointed a new manager, a well-known name whose arrival was eagerly proclaimed as a new dawn. But not by my friend.

He had played for the manager before at a previous club - and been sold by him at a humiliating knockdown price.

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“They'll learn,” he said into his beer. “They'll find out what he's really like.” And indeed they did. High hopes soon turned to bitter acrimony, ending in relegation.

I earnestly hope the same disillusionment does not await Ipswich Town. But I couldn't help wondering, as Roy Keane's sudden appointment was trumpeted, just what Tommy Miller and Jon Stead might be thinking.

Now I'm not suggesting their reaction was anything like my long-ago pal's response to that other appointment. I wouldn't know.

They may have been as excited as everyone else. If they weren't, they wouldn't let on publicly, would they?

I've never met either of them - and if I happened to be their mate, I wouldn't go revealing their inner feelings in print. Just as, even after all these years, it wouldn't be right for me to betray the trust of the player I didn't name above.

But the parallel is obvious, as both were signed for Sunderland by Mick McCarthy - and let go by Keane.

Miller was allowed to return to Ipswich for nothing, while the Black Cats accepted a loss of more than �1million on Stead.

So it was ironic that Stead should have turned out to be Keane's match winner in his first game as Ipswich boss. Two goals made, one scored, is not a bad return for a man who was left out at the start and came on as substitute for an injured defender.

No wonder Keane said after the 3-0 triumph at Cardiff that he was “happy to have Jon here”.

Perhaps we shouldn't read too much into that. What else would you expect him to say?

And we certainly shouldn't read too much into one splendid result.

The squad Jim Magilton built was always good enough to succeed in the Championship if only he had known his best 11 and kept them motivated. And any change of manager should be motivation enough for a game or two at least.

Keane also suggested he would not be repeating the management style he adopted at Sunderland, where he traded players like Panini stickers. Let's hope not.

In two and a half seasons at the Stadium of Light, he brought in 39 different players at a cost of �80m.

If Town let him roll with stakes like that, they might want a better return than a side struggling to survive in the Premier League. They (like Sunderland) have been in that position before.

Keane was a great player with one obvious flaw - his capacity for falling out with people, which doesn't sound like a qualification for management. As a manager, he's shown both flaws and a perhaps unexpected potential for greatness.

After his departure from Sunderland few, I think, expected him to return to football. Certainly not so soon, and certainly not at Ipswich.

Let's hope he's learned enough from his experiences on Wearside to fulfil a great potential here.

His appointment is certainly a gamble. If nothing else, it promises to make life more interesting than Magilton ever managed.

I just hope it doesn't turn out to be a case of “be careful what you wish for” to all those of us who wished for Jim's departure.

And let us note in passing that it's not only the Magilton era that is over. So is the whole long era of Ipswich the genteel family club.

Like so many others with great traditions - Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle are just the most obvious - our Town is now the toy of a rich outsider.

The choice as manager of a big-name wheeler-dealer with no previous connection to the club is appropriate to the new conditions.

Will any of Keane's future signings ever find a place in our hearts to compare with Johnny Wark, Mick Stockwell, The Beat - even Mauricio Taricco? I very much doubt it.

And it will, of course, end in tears. Every managerial appointment does eventually.

Let's just hope that in the meantime there are more tears of pleasure than the other kind.

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