Strange kind of love — the unexpected magic of the Roy Keane and Micah Richards show – Irish Examiner

Let’s face it. They’re in love, aren’t they? This is a bromance made in the TV studio. While some football media partnerships are more Dumb and Dumber, here we have the Don Quixote and Sancho Panza of the pundit world, football’s Bill and Ted, or maybe even Tango and Cash. The game’s great buddy movie.

They are the only show in town these days, so famous and renowned that both participants need each to go only by a single name: Roy and Micah. One Roy and Micah, there’s only one Roy and Micah.

It’s quite something when a pair of pundits are managing to upstage the game itself, but the Roy and Micah show is often more entertaining than the football they’ve been asked to comment upon.

The distinctive pointed Cork lilt versus the Leeds sonorous basso profundo is compulsive viewing.

They say opposites attract but for a while this was very much a one-sided relationship. New to the punditry game, Micah came in as a breath of fresh air, unafraid to laugh, unafraid to stand his corner with good humour and no little passion. 

At first, Roy looked at him through the narrowed eyes of the cynical old hack who has seen too many young thrusting bucks come and go. Who was this crazy guy with his eyes on fire, looking to intersperse serious points with uproarious laughing? Was he for real?

Roy has based his punditry career on being the man who can be relied on to not pander to the lily-livered, perfume-scented, designer washbag-carrying darlings that play the game these days. He has perfected the art of scowling at any outpouring of emotion that isn’t anger, as though it is an offence to his masculinity; almost embarrassed by it. 

Roy’s is the role of a classic emotionally-repressed hard man who looks at the modern world and is vaguely disgusted by it. At times, when wearing a full beard, he looks like an Old Testament prophet.

At other times, clean-shaven and suited, the fire and brimstone village cleric who sees sin all around him.

He’s perfected furrowing eyebrows and sneering as though he has caught the whiff of blocked drain at any point of view that differs from his own. And that’s what we love about Roy. Yes, he might wear the expression of a man forced to piss through his own eyes, but that is his USP.

There are times when he appears to get very cross or disgusted, at something or someone, probably David De Gea or Paul Pogba, in an almost cartoonish way. He will treat a late equaliser against Manchester United as though it is a crime against everything that is decent. 

In these moments it is often hard to know if Roy is merely playing at being Roy or if this really is Roy, or if he can even tell the difference himself. 

There is certainly something of the pantomime villain about him that he contrives to play up to. He seems to relish the bad guy role, but it is a niche he finds easy to occupy and he’s been really successful at it.

If you think of Roy right now, he’s frowning isn’t he? He certainly is not smiling, or god forbid, laughing. Roy doesn’t do laughing — or he didn’t until he met Micah — and we got the impression that he found it vaguely offensive when anyone else laughed.

My granny, a redoubtable Yorkshire woman who was built entirely out of nicotine and bitterness, would, on seeing someone in the street laughing, seeth in a thin-lipped hiss ‘what’ve they got to laugh about?’ To her, laughing was a character weakness. She’d have bloody loved Roy.

By contrast when we think of Micah, in our mind’s eye he is throwing his head back and roaring with laughter, almost to the point of incontinence. His is not just a chuckle, it is a full-body heave as he surrenders to his own internal mirth generator. No-one is quite so uninhibited in the football studio.

He brings real joy, even to Roy, and Roy joy is a rare thing indeed.

Roy Keane’s is the role of a classic emotionally-repressed hard man who looks at the modern world and is vaguely disgusted by it. Picture: PA

Roy Keane’s is the role of a classic emotionally-repressed hard man who looks at the modern world and is vaguely disgusted by it. Picture: PA

Initially, the Cork man looked at his fellow pundit’s paroxysms of mirth as though he was from a different planet, almost puzzled at that noise he was making. At first, like any man who is suspicious of emotion, his instinct was to resist this ebullient force of nature, in the same way your dad resists being pulled up onto the dancefloor to cut a rug at a wedding reception, at least until the eighth drink of the night.

This captivated us. What would be the outcome of this interaction of seemingly unsuited souls?

Would there be shouting? Would there be violence?

Possibly the last thing we expected was for them to actually fall in love with each other. As time has gone on, Roy has visibly relaxed and now seems at ease with the outbursts, enjoying them even, looking at Micah warmly. Each trading off the other’s distinct character traits. 

Micah uploads video clips of pre-show joking around, of him stalking Roy, of them in the green room, all the while laughing in that wheezy hysterical way.

It would appear Roy respects a man who just outright laughs in his face and takes the mickey out of him, possibly because in his entire life, or at least since having Brian Clough as his boss, no-one has dared to do this. 

He also seems to enjoy the fact that Micah will push back against him, unafraid to take him on. When others just go quiet and let Roy have his way, Micah will explode at anything he thinks isn’t right. Maybe Roy likes a man who will go head-to-head with him and stand up for himself when others shrink.

Micah seemed to instinctively intuit that everyone, for far too long, has taken Roy far too seriously, possibly including Roy himself, and set about debunking his persona but in a good-natured and respectful way. Indeed, he’s often said how in awe of Keane he is and what a great person he is to work with; what a football legend he is. 

It’s a form of love bombing; even Roy is not immune to these good vibes.

In return, Roy has worked out that this man isn’t a clown and isn’t being disrespectful, he’s just cheerful on a nuclear level. But surely the oddest thing is how Roy has picked up the Micah ball and run with it, even playing up to the former City defender. 

He’s always had a dry wit and a sharp, acerbic tongue when needed as a form of defence, but Micah’s presence seems to have brought more warmth out of him. We can see it in his body language, now much more open and relaxed when sitting alongside the former City defender.

Micah’s great achievement in this unlikely relationship is, in joking about Roy’s passive-aggressive persona, he’s managed to make Keane seem a more complete personality. None of us would’ve thought that Roy could take a joke, but it turns out not only he can, but he rather enjoys them.

Micah is larger than life, or at least larger than those too-tight suits that he wears along with tan-coloured shoes that look more like intercontinental ballistic missiles. His big flamboyant style perfectly mirrors Roy’s somewhat repressed conservatism, the one bringing out something in the other. They are sugar and spice, salt and vinegar, vindaloo and yoghurt.

The greatest crime in football punditry is to be boring and lord knows, plenty have bored us rigid over the years, but not these two.

Forget the football, we just want to see the next episode of the Roy and Micah show.

The talking shop: Three other great punditry partnerships

Derek Dougan, seated middle, and Malcolm Allison, seated right, with Paddy Crerand, Jimmy Hill, and Brian Moore.

Derek Dougan, seated middle, and Malcolm Allison, seated right, with Paddy Crerand, Jimmy Hill, and Brian Moore.

Derek Dougan and Malcolm Allison

A long time ago in a world far away, these two were thrown together for the revolutionary 1970 ITV World Cup Coverage on a four-man panel, The Doog and Big Mal were yin and yang.

One a charming but fierce Norn Irish striker, the other a cerebral soccer thinker who was in the process of creating a huge alter ego for himself that would overtake the football man; a man who was absolutely full to the brim with champagne.

There was shouting, there was jabbing of fingers, there were rows. It was boisterous, loud and smokey. The Doog sat to Mal’s right, wreathed in the Englishman’s Cuban cigar smoke trying to be the voice of reason as Big Mal fired off criticisms and insulting volleys about everything and everyone. It was the most rock ‘n roll football punditry we’ve ever seen and would shock most modern viewers.

Later, Dougan said, “Malcolm was the only guy that I have ever worked with who could drink an excess of champagne and not slur his words.”

Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher

They come on like a pair of exceptionally bolshy 1970s trade unions reps, fomenting revolution on the shop floor amongst the freehand tool grinders at some windswept factory in Ramsbottom.

One with the sort of flat Lancashire drone that seems designed for plain speaking and talking about the price of tripe in the pouring rain at Bury market, the other with a is-he-choking-on-a-fish-bone Bootle accent which you could grate cheese on.

They make an unlikely pairing, especially given their one-club career biases. And yet despite this, they bestride the world of football punditry as Kings via the mastery of giant iPads, knowing self-deprecation, and by virtue of actually doing research and preparation, rather than just turning up and pretending football is an ancient and mysterious code that only the ex-pro can decipher.

Saint and Greavsie

A fixture on ITV from 1985-1992, Ian St John and Jimmy Greaves were not so much a pair of ex-professional players-cum-football pundits, as they were a light entertainment comedy duo. It was a legendary partnership, almost larger than life.

It almost became hard to tell the difference between their Spitting Image puppets and the real thing.

Saint would play the straight man in slacks ‘n’ sports jacket doing the introductions while trying to be a serious broadcaster, while Jim would chuckle away and make jokes about things which would now be taken too seriously.

A referee head-butting a player? Hilarious. A referee being chased off the pitch? Ha ha, look at him go, Saint. Scotland was always called ‘chilly-jocko-land’ and Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis was always ‘Deadly Doug’.

Jimmy generally behaved like a mischievous footballing Bagpuss dressed in a Pringle sweater.

It was a lesson that in order to take football seriously you had to be prepared not to take it seriously at all. This was before the big money made football A Serious Business, aka The Glory Days.