How Roy Keane & Micah Richards became the ‘odd couple’ of Premier League punditry

Micah Richards Roy Keane Sky

“Did you ‘burst onto the scene’?” A thinly veiled smirk flashes momentarily as the wordsland on the newcomer. “Very few defenders ‘burst onto the scene’…”

So began the unlikely punditry double act of Roy Keane and Micah Richards.

Since then, TV bosses have recognised the value of pairing the two former players – one from the red half of Manchester, the other from the blue half – with their chemistry producing some notable highlights.

Richards’ infectious laugh smothers Keane’s cynicism and cuts through any tension to the point where eventhe man who is defined by a carefully cultivated ‘no-nonsense’ persona can crack a smile.

It is a clash of old world and new, with Richards – who is 17 years Keane’s junior – scrubbing some of the mystique off his more aloof elder, a task that is helped by the occasional candid social media video.

Richards says he loves partnering up with the Irishman, admitting that he isparticularly enthused by the thought of taking the former Manchester United captain “out of his comfort zone” when they are on air.

“When you work with him, it’s sink or swim,” Richards wrote in hisDaily Mail column, reflecting on a relationship which blossomed in 2020.

“The first time we were together on TV, I said I’d ‘burst on to the scene’, and he replied with a wry smile, ‘Did you burst on to the scene? Very few defenders burst on to the scene.’

“I fought my corner and, since then, he has been as good as gold with me. He was a legend as a player and I know I could never compete with him in terms of medals.

“What I like to do, though, is take him out of his comfort zone and see his reactions. It’s never dull when we’re on air.

“I’ve had hundreds of messages telling me we should do a travel show. And while Roy has never hidden his ambition to return to coaching, I’m keen to spend more time with him in 2021. I don’t know if the feeling is mutual!”

A discussion about Chelsea’s teenage midfielder Billy Gilmour brought about the first pundits’ duel between Keane and Richards back in March 2020.

After Keane waxed lyrical about being in awe of the young Gilmour while he drank tea and ate chocolate in front of the television, Richards was asked for his opinion on how a precocious talent should handle the limelight.

“You’ve just got to be careful,” began Richards, armed with the experience of an early career breakthrough. “I burst onto the scene, didn’t I? I was going to be the next best thing.

“Yeah, I won a Premier League, which is the best thing you can ever do, I won the FA Cup and I got to play for a team that I loved, but I underachieved, because sometimes, as a player, you can believe the hype.”

As Richards was making a serious point about remaining grounds, Keane saw a gap – a chance to needle the new kid on the punditry block.

Aston Villa’s exuberant celebrations upon securing Premier League survival did not amuse Keane in July 2020, but Richards could not contain his own amusement.

With Neil Diamond’s classic, ‘Sweet Caroline’ ringing out of the Villa dressing room amid scenes of elation among the players, the camera flashed to the look of disgust on Keane’s face.

The dramatic juxtaposition, itself usually enough to set social media alight,was shattered by Richards’ unique laughter and Keane was forced to begrudgingly acknowledge the achievement.

“Imagine if they ever win anything,” Keane says, with trademark acrid delivery.

“They’ve just stayed in the Premier League!” roars Richardsincredulously between laughs and Keane relents.

“Listen… a big achievement,” concedes the seven-time Premier League winner as he drops his steely glare.”The celebrations… slightly over the top, but good luck to them.”

In December 2020, in the lead up to the Manchester derby, Richards spoke about the idea of players enjoying their time in the Premier League.

Paul Pogba needing to be “loved” was another point made by the former Man City man.

Keane, of course, had no time for such talk, preferring to emphasise the need to win games and take it all a bit more seriously.

“I always love players when they’re playing with a smile on their face,” says Richards, before throwing the floor open to a visibly unimpressed Keane.

“I never like players who smile while playing football…” comes the by-now-predictable response from the Irishman. “You’re there to win, remember.”

As well as trading quips on screen, thanks to Instagram and Twitter, football fans have been treated to rare glimpses behind the curtain thanks to Richards’ social media channels.

You’ll have to be somewhat engaged to catch moments – such as those which appear on Richards’ Instagram Stories

“My followers on Instagram enjoy my behind-the-scenes videos with Roy,” Richards wrote in his Daily Mail column.

“But he doesn’t understand the attraction of social media and what he calls ‘all that nonsense’, so I don’t think he’ll be joining any time soon!”

Keane clearly doesn’t enjoy having the phone shoved into his face – as Richards has done on a number of occasions.

For the last day of the Premier League season in July 2020, Keane is having what he thinks is a private conversation with Richards before disengaging entirely upon seeing the phone.

“This is a new day, this is social media, this is what the people want to see,” Richards declares as Keane waves him off.

Richards made sure to chase Keane with his phone after the Manchester derby in December 2020 too, after a day which saw the pair butt heads over Pogba among other things.

As they’re making their way out of Old Trafford, Richards catches Keane unaware and the Irishmanmakes a dash for it when he sees what his pundit is toting, having no time for such shenanigans.

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