The fiery former Manchester United midfielder was appointed as O’Neill’s number two last week, a decade after he walked out on the national team at the 2002 World Cup, and he used his first news conference to insist the slate was clean.
Former Ireland captain Keane has remained a vocal critic of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and, in particular, its chief executive John Delaney, but said on Wednesday that the pair’s first meeting ahead of the appointment went smoothly.
“To be honest I’m going to disappoint you, it was very, very straightforward and the past is the past,” Keane told a packed news conference which was broadcast live on the news channel of Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE.
“I’m not here to try and change anyone’s opinion about me or the decisions I made in the past. I spent years trying to please everybody and trust me, it’s a waste of time and energy. You’ve got to do what you think is right and get on with it.
“I know people think I’m a little bit crazy, but I would have been crazy to turn it down, it’s just too good an opportunity. There wasn’t one bone in my body that said, no, this is not for me.”
Keane’s fallout with the FAI over what he saw as amateurish preparations for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea has gone down in Irish folklore and his return has been just as newsworthy, dominating the sports pages.
Having famously compared Ireland’s training-ground to a car park 11 years ago, the seven-times Premier League winner struck a wry smile when he said he had not found any potholes on the training ground this time around.
“We’ve had footballs, bibs, everything. Major progress,” Keane said.
“I’M THE GOOD COP”
Asked if his criticism of Ireland at Euro 2012, where they lost all three matches, would be a problem, Keane said he had never questioned any of the players’ hunger to do well and that they just needed a little bit of quality in the big matches.
He also praised former manager Giovanni Trapattoni but said Ireland should have done better against the likes of Sweden and Austria who finished ahead of them in the recent World Cup qualifying campaign when Ireland sunk to fourth in their group.
“The record I suppose hasn’t been great over the last few years. I always think Ireland should be getting better results but I was the same when I was a player, I suppose it was one of the reasons that I got frustrated as a player,” Keane said.
“A lot of the criticism I’ve take over the last 15-20 years is that I’m very demanding, I don’t settle for second best. I’m certainly not going to apologise for that, it’s just part of my make-up.”
Keane, who had mixed success as a manager at Sunderland and Ipswich town, said he was looking forward to working with O’Neill for whom he has massive respect but he disagreed with the former Celtic boss’s assessment that he would be the “bad, bad cop” to O’Neill’s “bad cop”.
“I think it’s going to be the other way around, I think I’m going to be the good cop. You obviously don’t know Martin as well as you think you do, he makes me look like Mother Theresa,” Keane said.
Ireland host Latvia in a friendly on Friday.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin, editing by Ed Osmond)