“Keane is the hottest prospect in football right now,” Brian Clough said of Roy in his last season at Nottingham Forest. Jack Walker was trying to buy Blackburn success, something he would later go on to achieve, and Kenny Dalglish identified Keane as the man to take the club forward in 1993. Initially speaking to the player whilst under contract and behind the back of his club, Blackburn beat off interest from Arsenal, and went on to have a bid of £4m accepted.
It was Friday afternoon, Dalglish wanted the paperwork on the deal to go through, but there was no one still around in the Ewood Park offices so Keane couldn’t sign. No big deal, thought the Scot, it will wait until Monday.
However, Sir Alex Ferguson had just helped Manchester United win their first title in 26 years and was looking to take the team forward. Captain Bryan Robson was on his last legs and we would need someone else to fight our battles in the centre of the park. Why Fergie hadn’t spotted Keane before then is a puzzle but the manager got him on the phone on Sunday lunch time.
After establishing that nothing had been signed with Blackburn, Ferguson invited Keane to Manchester. The manager met Roy at the airport and drove him to his house where they played a game of snooker.
“I liked him straight away,” said Roy. “For a man managing Manchester United, he was unaffected, funny and reassuringly human. He was also clearly hungry for more trophies. There were a few obstacles to overcome before a deal could be done. We agreed that I would tell Dalglish our deal was off.”
Unsurprisingly, King Kenny wasn’t too pleased to hear that Sir Alex had snatched his star man from under his nose. In his autobiography, Keane reflected on that conversation:
“What the fuck do you mean? We shook hands on a deal. You can’t back out now.”
“Look, I’m sorry, I really am,” I told him, “but I’ve got my future to think about, I’m entitled to that.”
“You’re entitled to nothing except the commitment you made to me on Friday.”
“I’m sorry, if you’d had the forms ready, I would have signed on Friday.”
“Nobody does this to me, nobody does this to Kenny Dalglish. You’re a wee bastard and you won’t get away with this.” Kenny wasn’t cool any longer.
I felt very uneasy about the situation. But here was Kenny Dalglish insisting that I honour a deal I hadn’t signed. The same Kenny Dalglish who’d spent several months “tapping” me up behind Brian Clough’s back. The more he swore at me, the less my conscience bothered me.
Dalglish wasn’t finished there though. The following day, 6.30 in the morning, the Scot was back on the phone:
“You won’t get away with this,” he began. “Blackburn Rovers will sue you for every penny you’ve got.” He and Ferguson had never got on and this more than anything appeared to be bugging him. He called me names. He repeated that nobody “fucked” with Kenny Dalglish and “got away with it”. I told him I was going on holiday and that the matter was closed as far as I was concerned.
So, he didn’t sign for Arsenal, or Blackburn, because they’re shite. He signed for Man United because they’re fucking dynamite.
Imagine Dalglish’s frustration 18 years later, back in charge of Liverpool now, having just witnessed Ferguson lead United to a record 19th title, when he misses out on yet another great prospect. Phil Jones, the lad tipped to be future England captain, was favourite to sign for Liverpool. The papers claimed a deal would be done later that day, only for it to be reported that he was having a medical with United. Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool were amongst the clubs that had bids accepted, yet Jones opted to sign for us. Arsenal even offered him better wages but he turned them down.
However, Blackburn’s owners have thrown a spanner in the works, having got wind of how highly rated this lad is. The £16.5m release clause in his contract has been activated, making it irrelevant how much money they want for him. This didn’t stop Liverpool bidding £22m for the player who has already turned them down in favour of United yesterday.
The player’s agent has told the papers that the deal with United is still on, with it set to be announced today, as this is where the player wants to go. The Venky’s were under the impression the release clause meant clubs were allowed to talk to the player which is why Dalglish, in his desperation, offered £6m more.
As if losing out on the player at the last minute wasn’t embarrassing enough for Liverpool, but throwing money at the situation in the hope that it will get them what they want. Jones has made it clear he wants to play for United, not Liverpool, yet here they are, offering £6m above the release clause, with Dalglish clearly not happy about being done by Fergie again.
Phil Jones’ agent has confirmed that the deal is done and should be announced soon, as the release clause can’t be challenged by the Blackburn owners. The agent confirmed that Jones had met with all four clubs who had offered the release clause and chose United.
Quotes were attributed to Jones, who is set to play alongside our Chris Smalling in today’s England U-21 game against Spain, which suggested if he wanted to continue winning nothing in his career, he would have stayed at Blackburn.
He didn’t sign for Arsenal, or the scousers because they’re shite. He signed for Man United because they’re fucking dynamite.