By Sam Cage
DUBLIN, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Ireland's new manager Martin O'Neill does not want to change Roy Keane - or at least, not too much - and will rely on his assistant for "a little bit of volatility", he said on Saturday.
In his first press conference since his appointment earlier this week, a relaxed and joking O'Neill said he would rely on fiery former Manchester United midfielder Keane to keep tabs on players' performance and that he would be a great asset.
"It took him about four and a half seconds (to say yes). He was absolutely delighted. I told him about the roles we would have and he said he would reverse them in about 10 minutes," O'Neill said to laughs from assembled reporters.
"I'll maybe make the occasional adjustment, if that's possible. A little bit of volatility will do no one any harm," said the 61-year-old former Celtic and Aston Villa manager.
O'Neill's main task is to take an Ireland side that trailed in fourth in its World Cup qualifying group to the 2016 European Championship - something he hoped he could do while playing attractive football to encourage Irish supporters.
But the former Northern Ireland international's choice of Keane as his assistant, having taken over after the Italian Giovanni Trapattoni quit in September, is an intriguing move.
Keane, regarded as one of the country's greatest players, had a major fallout with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) over what he saw as amateurish preparations for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.
The seven-times Premier League winner's withering evaluation of then-manager Mick McCarthy and of the FAI in general means he remains one of the most divisive figures in Irish soccer.
Keane threw the national team into chaos when he walked out and the incident dominated the front and back pages of newspapers. Despite returning to play for the country two years later, he has remained a vocal critic of the association.
But the FAI president, John Delaney, said previous issues had been quickly smoothed over once O'Neill had suggested Keane as his assistant.
"From working with him over the last couple of years, doing some television work in the Champions League games, I've found him very very engaging," O'Neill said of his assistant. "I think like all of us in the game, he has points to prove."
O'Neill, once touted in the media for a big club job in England after winning three Scottish league titles and reaching the UEFA Cup final at Celtic, was sacked as manager of struggling Premier League side Sunderland this year.
Trapattoni succeeded in taking Ireland to Euro 2012 but was widely criticised for negative tactics as the team lost all three of its matches.
"The only way for us to bring (the fans) back is to win some games and try and win them with a little bit of style, a little bit of panache," O'Neill said.
And if Keane causes too much trouble?
"I might call (former Manchester United manager) Alex Ferguson up and ask how he dealt with it." (Reporting by Sam Cage, editing by Justin Palmer)
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