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so farewell then...

roy keane

It's not that often we get to see one of football's real stars grace the SPL so when Roy Keane signed on for his brief sojourn in the Hoops, it was interesting to note the reaction of the Scottish hacks: such a privilege to be watching a class player even if it is towards the end of a glittering career; a chance to gain some insight from someone who has experienced it of football at the highest level in Europe; a complex personality who could be the subject of many an in-depth article.

We got none of this.

Instead, we were informed by the Laptop Loyal that Keane would be a disruptive element in the dressing-room, that he couldn't play in a Celtic midfield with Neil Lennon, that Gordon Strachan didn't really want him there and that he was bought by Dermot Desmond behind the manager's back.

We even had the unedifying spectacle of David Tanner on Setanta after the game at Ibrox trying to convince Keane that he had just played in one of the most fiercely contested derby games in the world against a worthy opponent in Barry Ferguson.

Truly, the Scottish media weren't really prepared for Roy Keane. You could almost smell the fear.

They might have got used to him and learned to appreciate him a bit more had he stuck around for longer, but the demands on his body were too much after a career spent at the coal face of Premiership and European football and he has decided not to take up the challenge of another campaign in the Champions League. Pity. We could certainly have done with him. Class is permanent, as they say, and he showed enough of it in the run-in towards the title to steady the ship and steer us home without too many alarms.

But even then, thirteen appearances (ten in the SPL) out of a possible 21 is perhaps as good an indication as any that he would hardly have been an ever-present this season.

His Celtic career began at Broadwood in January this year in the Scottish Cup against Clyde. You might remember the occasion. Maybe the way you remember the first time you saw the Cyber Men on Doctor Who.

The other debutant that afternoon was our hapless Chinese centre-back Du Wei. It was all too much for him and a sprightly Clyde team galloped out of sight in the first half. Keane must have been wondering what he'd let himself in for. Thank goodness there was nobody about to see it. Apart from the millions watching on Sky.

There's no doubt that questions were being asked about how the team formation would have to be organised to accommodate Keane following that Cup debacle, but within two or three games he looked as if he'd been playing for Celtic for years. Indeed when he made his first appearance in the Hoops at home to Kilmarnock there was distinct feelgood factor evident and he seemed to give our title push some timely impetus. Maybe the impressive card display behind the goal helped as well.

Given the brevity of his Celtic career it's not too difficult to pick out the highlight. Against Rangers at Ibrox Celtic won by a single goal in February, but the scoreline itself doesn't reflect the dominance of Keane and Lennon in the area of the pitch where it matters most. He even brought the best out of Paul Telfer that afternoon!

Two or three crunching tackles on Barry Ferguson which rattled the fillings in his teeth were enough to settle any putative arguments about who was going to be leaving town on the next stagecoach and who was going to be lighting a cigar in the comfort of the saloon.

The other highlight was his solitary Celtic goal, a vicious strike from the edge of the penalty box against Falkirk which took a wicked deflection before nearly ripping the net away from the goal frame. Not that I'm suggesting he was Gerd Muller when it came to scoring - simply that he had it in his repertoire and I'm glad I was there to see it.

Keane won his first Celtic honour in the Jinky CIS Cup final, but a hamstring injury meant that he had to come off after an hour. By the time he returned from his four week enforced absence the league was already won.

At the end of the season Keane had made enough appearances to earn himself a Scottish league winners medal. I don't know how much it meant to him, but I was pleased that he got it because I felt he'd earned it. Not just for his own contribution, but for the influence he appeared to have on the players around him as well, whether he was playing in midfield or at the back.

If it's true that he was living out his boyhood dream by playing for Celtic then I hope he enjoyed it. I also hope it made him realise that playing in a Champions League semi-final against Juventus at Old Trafford is nothing compared with the feeling you get scoring against Falkirk on a wet Wednesday in February.

We wish him all the best for the future.

roy keane celtic display