Maybe he'll be back. Maybe down the line he'll figure that while he could do without football that time back in 2008 he can't be without it any longer. Maybe some First Division club will recognise his first 18 months with Sunderland was one of the best coaching jobs of the decade. Maybe Keane and that club will realise that even Alex Ferguson was sacked at 37 and the lessons went on to serve him and all future employers well. But before that happens Roy has a bit of growing up to do. We all do.
The problem with Roy Keane isn't just that he goes to extremes but that we go to extremes with him. Supposedly you were either for him or against him the time of Saipan. Now apparently you either believe a) he's a victim of Premiership hysteria where a mere blip becomes a full-blown crisis, or b) another former great who "failed" in management, á la Bobby Charlton and Bryan Robson.
Well here's one who wasn't either for him or against him during Saipan. For us Saipan was a bit like something John Bruton said after that other monumental debate in recent Irish history – the 1995 divorce referendum – albeit one that wasn't as monumental as Saipan; it wasn't that 50.1 percent people were in one camp and 49.9 percent of people were in the other, but that internally a lot of people were split. Roy was right to describe aspects of the McCarthy regime as shambolic but wrong to dismiss the whole set-up as a shambles; right in much of what he said to Tom Humphries in that interview but wrong to say it. Yes, he was captaining his country, and his observations could long-term benefit that country, but more importantly he was captaining a team, and by dragging up an issue and incident that team had thought had been parked the previous day, he compromised the team's interests and them second to his own image.
Most people who have been involved with a team should have seen that and laughed as well as cried at the following week's attempts to cajole McCarthy and Keane into teaming up again – do you seriously think Ireland would have got a result against either Cameroon or Germany with the whole dressing room looking over to see if Mick's latest instruction would meet the approval of Roy? But in a time before a gentleman like Pádraig Harrington had won a major or a contemporary Irish captain had touched either a Heineken Cup or even a Triple Crown shield, Keane was identified as Ireland's one true "winner", the man who had "almost single-handedly" brought Man U to that 1999 European Cup and Ireland to the World Cup and in many quarters any criticism of him was labelled as blasphemy and "pro-McCarthy". Me? Like the silent majority I probably had more sympathy for Mick than Roy but still certainly wasn't anti-Roy.
It's the same now. It's completely unfair on both him – and Bryan Robson – to brand them as "failed" managers. Bryan Robson isn't a "failed" manager. He wasn't a great one but he was a decent one. Roy Keane was that at least too. But in recent times he was floundering.
Whatever about spending too much, Keane signed too often and wasn't challenged enough by his remarkably gracious and generous chairman. Eighteen months ago Niall Quinn said player recruitment wasn't just an important aspect in the running of a football club but it's "absolute be all and end all". Both himself and Keane said they would buy players of character. They abandoned that principle for a scattergun approach. Sunderland currently aren't a team but a large collection of individuals lumped together. As anyone who observed the Lions 2005 tour knows, there are simply far too many of them.
There are also far too few leaders. Look at the list of Keane's signings and forget their position or form; how many were leaders? Instead of looking for a right back who could defend or a forward who could score, how often did he look for a leader?
What is a leader? In sport he is someone who can look beyond his own game and guide and elevate that of others. Paul McShane at a certain level can be that player but he had too many difficulties with his own game at Sunderland to look out for anyone else's. Other than Dwight Yorke and the marginalised Graham Kavanagh, it's hard to think of a leader Keane signed.
The biggest failing of Keane wasn't that he didn't sign any leaders but that he didn't cultivate any. Coaching isn't about coaching a game but people, believing in them, caring for them, involving them and in the last year Keane didn't have the patience for that. He didn't appreciate that getting close doesn't have to mean getting too close. As HA Dorfman puts it in Coaching: The Mental Game, coaching is about power without insolence, discipline without humiliation, confrontation without abuse, consistency without inflexibility. Excess means too much. Roy didn't have that touch, that balance.
He might yet develop it; you cannot underestimate this man's intelligence, pride and powers of reinvention. But like Anthony Daly said after a certain former manager of his was beaten in the hurling championship this summer, maybe Roy Keane and the rest of us will now realise that it wasn't just him who won all those championships, that it had something to do with the men who were around him too, men being the operative word. Keane did not "almost single-handedly" bring United to that European Cup final. It had something to do with David Beckham's two crosses and Dwight Yorke's two headers against a stacked Inter Milan as well as Keane's Turin tour de force; the power and presence of Peter Schmeichel and Jaap Stam who Keane used to mock; the timely interventions of Ryan Giggs who keeps winning championships post-Keane just like he did pre-Keane.
And maybe now Roy and the rest of us will realise qualifying for that World Cup had something to do with Shay Given's heroics against Holland and Iran as well as Roy's – and particularly the team manager's remarkable capacity to believe and instil belief in mediocre players marginalised by their clubs.
Success is never the work or ownership of one leader. It's time Roy and all of us copped on to that.