After only six months, Aston Villa are searching once more for an assistant manager following Roy Keane’s resignation. The former Manchester United midfielder only joined Paul Lamberts back room staff in the summer but has decided to quit to concentrate on his other role as assistant manager of the Republic of Ireland national team. Keane spoke to Lambert early today and told him of his decision, saying that he was finding it difficult to do both roles effectively. His timing is slightly strange given that the Republic’s next competitive match is over four months away but those that know Roy Keane well will tell you that once he has made up his mind there is no changing it.
Keane was hired by Lambert in July after being forced to suspend then fire his long time assistant Ian Culverhouse for an internal matter relating to his treatment of several players. Along with Head of Football operations Gary Karsa, Culverhouse was suspended by owner Randy Lerner in April 2014 with a formal investigation launched with immediate effect. The writing was on the wall for the pair when Lerner suggested to the media that their conduct could have easily set the club back years. A month later, the pair were given their marching orders leaving Lambert with the task of finding a suitable replacement in the summer. He quickly identified Keane as his preferred choice but at the time the Irishman was also being pursued by his former club Celtic who wanted him as their new manager. It looked like a certainty that Keane would join the Glasgow club, especially after he flew to Dublin for a one on one discussion with majority shareholder Dermot Desmond. However Keane in the end turned down the role blaming Celtic’s board for not making him feel special enough, stating it was the right job but at the wrong time. Celtic’s loss was Villa’s gain with Keane signing on only weeks later.
Whilst recent results have not been in Villas favour, Keane’s influence at the club had been very much on show up until this point. Since joining the club, Villa has adopted a new never give up mentality which Lambert credits to Keane’s general attitude about the game. He has had a dramatic effect on some of the players at the club who after last season’s poor showing needed a kick from the Irishman to restart them. In particular the turnaround in fortunes for midfield pair Fabian Delph and Jack Grealish has been one of the key reasons behind Villas good form at the start of the season. Up until October, Villa were in second place but since then have slipped down the table to 16th after several results went against them. This drop in form was partly due to injuries to Delph and Grealish and a lack of squad depth, something that has been a source of pain for Lambert in recent months. Indeed Delph’s good form earn him a call up to the English national side with the 25 year old making his debut in late August against Norway.
Keane has left Villa with immediate effect allowing Lambert to start the process of replacing him. Villa fans have been quick to take to social media suggesting various names for who should Lambert hire. Former players Dean Saunders and Martin Laursen are early favourites whilst some are even calling for the return of Culverhouse, something that is unlikely to happen. Whoever Lambert plumps for he will have to do it quickly with the pressure mounting on the Scot to turn around the clubs bad form. Lambert knows that as the January transfer window approaches, he must move Villa further up the table or he will be replaced himself. Perhaps this is why Keane left now, as he doesn’t believe that Villa can get back up the table in December and didn’t want to be seen to be sacked by the club as it would damage his reputation. Whatever the reason, Keane’s departure has handed Lambert with another big headache at a time where the Villa boss could have done without it.