Irish footballer Roy Keane developed a fearsome reputation as the hard tackling captain of Manchester United.
It’s an image that has lived on now that he’s a TV pundit, with the unfortunate targets of his scathing match analysis wincing almost as much as they did when they faced Keane on the pitch.
But that’s not the whole picture. There is a gentler side to the uncompromising hard man according to English footballer Michael Chopra, who says Keane helped him to overcome his gambling addiction.
Chopra was promising young player with Sunderland Football Club, but his career was threatened when he developed a gambling habit, that soon consumed him. He says he lost tens of thousands of pounds on a regular basis.
He realised he needed help but was unsure where to go. He decided to approach the Sunderland manager for advice. That must have been a very difficult decision because the manager was none other than Roy Keane, not considered the most sympathetic or approachable person in the world.
Chopra was in for a pleasant surprise and says Keane couldn’t have been more helpful. The two bonded as they discussed life over cups of green tea.
Chopra, who was only 23 at the time, told the BBC of his sense of trepidation in approaching Keane.
“I didn’t know what to expect because I’d not long been at Sunderland – and it’s Roy Keane.
“So I was a bit frightened when I first went in, but he took to me straight away. He opened up about some things he’d done wrong and he didn’t have to do that.
“Whenever I mention Roy Keane, people often say, ‘wow, are you being serious?’ But I had a great relationship with him. It wasn’t, I’m a player and he’s my manager, it was more of a friendship.
“We would go in his office after training and drink green tea and speak about life, speak about everything. He knew about my problems and he tried to make me happy in training, try to have a laugh and giggle with me.
“I really took to him and if anyone has a bad word to say about him, I totally disagree, because I’ve seen a different side to Roy.
“When you saw him on a football pitch, he was captain of Manchester United, he wants the best for his football club, and rightly so. But off the pitch, he was a different person, an unbelievable guy.”
Keane decided that Chopra needed professional help at a gambling addiction clinic and set about finding him the best one possible.
“It was brilliant. I couldn’t get into Sporting Chance because it was fully booked, but he helped get me into the Nightingale Hospital in London instead.
“That was all down to Roy. He was the one that got me help first.
“You think you can solve all the problems yourself and you can’t. You have to open up to people, you have to let people know about it, and you have to you have to try and get help.
“The most important thing is you’ve got to speak to people.”
Thankfully, Chopra is now over his addiction and remains friends with Keane.
Meanwhile, Keane retains his hard man image when he appears as a TV pundit, commenting on matches. He remains extremely popular in Ireland and the UK, with his scathing criticism becoming one of the highlights of match coverage for many people.
It seems only a few people, like Michael Chopra, get to see the gentler side of the Irish hardman.
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