This time, his departure probably won't see a play written about it. Just as well, because right now, far from I, Keano, it's hard to tell what form it would even take – a Shakespearian tragedy or a Greek one. Was the main protagonist ultimately responsible for his own downfall or did the gods nudge him in that direction?
Well, while no one would doubt that a morbidly introspective Roy Keane came to his own conclusions, equally it cannot be denied that there have been earth-shaking movements on the Mount Olympus of the Sunderland boardroom. In the last two months, a period which has seen Keane's second worst run as manager with just three points from a possible 18 (the nadir was actually September-November last year which yielded only three from 24, and he stuck that out), he has found himself working for a different style of owner.
And in that sense, perhaps it's timely that he's gone. Because the era of Drumaville as we knew it, the consortium that brought him in, is too, their share and influence largely replaced by elusive Irish-American businessman Ellis Short. He may have indirectly caused Sunderland to lose one of English football's greatest individual forces, but could directly result in them becoming one of its most powerful collective forces. The stability and structure are there... as long as they escape the current stagnation.
Before that though, there is the issue of how the Gods – or rather the new Zeus – may have guided Keane's mindset.
For two years he had the full faith of an almost completely Irish consortium that bought into the romantic notion this Manchester United icon could bring Sunderland up to a similar level. Indeed, speaking to the Sunday Tribune this week, Charlie Chawke maintained Keane is an "absolute genius". With the economy as it is though, four property developers and two publicans couldn't sustain the finance to match their faith so outside aid was sought. That came with Short.
He first provided input – up to £30m of the £35.7m Keane spent the summer just gone – but then received influence by agreeing to take advantage of a summer rights issue and acquiring up to 30 per cent of the club's shares at the end of September. That greatly diluted the stakes of Chawke and other Drumaville members such as Louis Fitzgerald, Jack Tierney, Pat Beirne and Seán Mulryan as well as giving Short effective control of the club. Niall Quinn all but signed off on the old era at that point by saying "Drumaville is still intact and the individuals behind it remain the driving force" but then thanking them for all they had done. Duly, Chawke, Beirne and Owen McGartoll were made non-executive directors.
And to their romance, Short brought a far greater sense of realism. A hugely-respected business figure in the States, he began to ask uncomfortably prudent questions that belied his ignorance of Keane's profile as a player: About what was being done with his money, about why the manager was so windy regarding the issue of a new contract. Whether Short ever asked these questions to Keane directly, Chawke isn't aware. "I don't know their relationship or what conversations they had. Certainly there was no pressure from the consortium. But I can't really say anything about Short and Roy. I don't know and wasn't privy to what went on between them."
Sources in Sunderland however maintain that it wasn't anything Short said directly to Keane but the situation he created. Finance became the bottom-line for the club and as talk grew of safety nets in the event of relegation, Keane may have felt a mounting sense of guilt that he wasn't providing sufficient success with the money he was given. If not the reason for Keane's decision, it was at least one of many.
In any case if it was doubted before Thursday, it's certainly true now. With Keane gone, Short – aside from Quinn – is the most important figure at Sunderland. Set to end up with full control of the club in 18 months time, he has already been talked of as a strong but silent figure in the guise of Randy Lerner at Aston Villa. And he comes with the CV to match the MBNA chairman.
A roots-conscious Irish-American, Short grew up in Missouri and began his career at General Electric before co-founding private equity firm Lone Star in 1995. Funds worth more than $13.3bn were established and, as a Daily Telegraph profile outlined in September, Short is seen as so integral that a "key man" clause allows investors to withdraw without penalty if he leaves.
It's that kind of higher-level business acumen which synchs with Quinn's vision. Just two months ago, Sunderland's chairman explained to this newspaper his five-year plan for the club. And although right up until Thursday he very much wanted Keane to be part of it, just as the ex-manager and Drumaville were vital to the first two steps – saving the club and then raising the club – it is Short who is imperative to the next three.
It was of course Quinn who largely brought Short around to the idea. Known to members of the consortium for quite a while, he first met the former striker at the K Club for the 2006 Ryder Cup. And although many have talked of his "love for the club" it appears to be Short's keenness to work closer to his ancestral home that is a driving motivation.
Joining him at Sunderland in another sign of the club's altering profile is Steve Walton as the new chief executive. Fans may look on him suspiciously because of the three months he spent at Newcastle before Mike Ashley came in, but will forgive him if he brings the expertise gathered from 10 years spent at Barclays advising Premier League clubs on finances. Sunderland mean business, so they've scoured business.
In more tangible terms, Short's money has quietly made Sunderland one of the Premier League's financial powerhouses. Much has been made of the cash Keane has spent, but not the context. Startlingly, Short's £30m this summer ensured Sunderland became the Premier League club with the second greatest net expenditure since they got promoted (see panel). More damningly, were it not for the wild card of the Abu Dhabi group's purchase of Manchester City and then Robinho, they would be the club with the greatest.
While Keane's wastage seems even worse given that fact, his excesses in the transfer market have been overstated. Players who have served well when they have been on the pitch – such as Craig Gordon, Kenwyne Jones, Steed Malbranque and Anton Ferdinand – eat up the bulk of the money he has spent at almost £30m and in truth it has been the smaller fees such as for David Healy which have been the most confusing. It's also not Keane's fault the club's negotiators gained a reputation for paying well over the odds.
Short is now responsible for curtailing that and one of the ways is to enhance Sunderland's profile worldwide. Ironically, one part of the world where their profile will fall is Ireland. With Keane gone, the plane-loads of fans and Sunderland jerseys on the streets are too. For Chawke it's particularly disappointing. But he believes he has the solution. "It's a funny thing but I'd bring Mick McCarthy back. The way things went here last time wasn't his fault and he's proving it at Wolves. Of course he probably wouldn't want to leave but I'd be putting his name forward."
Short may have other ideas, but if not, hold off on that play. There could yet be another act to it.