Roy Keane’s brutal military pre-season camp left vegetarian players ‘fainting’

Roy Keane is well-known for his uncompromising attitude to hard work, but one former player revealed the ex-manager even roped in a regiment of paratroopers to get his squad up to speed.

Although Keane can now be found in the comfort of the press box, he initially followed up his successful career with management spells at Sunderland and Ipswich Town, and guided the Black Cats to promotion to the Premier League.

The Irishman left the northern club in 2008, and joined Ipswich Town in the championship in the following year. Despite staying at the club for nearly three years, Keane failed to draw on his top-flight experience to return the club to the highest tier and was dismissed in January 2011.

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Now, looking back on Keane’s time managing Ipswich on the Under The Cosh podcast, defender Alex Bruce has revealed that manager wasted no time in introducing his hardline tactics to the squad, who were left shocked by his pre-season ritual.

“He took us to this parachute regiment in Colchester,” he remembered. “We had a friendly, and he said, ‘lads, tomorrow when you wake up I want you to make your way to Portland Road at half eight in the morning’.

“‘I’m not telling you where we’re going, you don’t need any phones, you don’t need any wallets, you don’t need any overnight bags, just bring yourselves.”

After being warned that they would be out of contact with their families for 48 hours, Bruce remembered that the players had felt a a little on edge about their manager’s plans, and this anxiety only increased when their coach pulled up outside Colchester parachute regiment.

“We pulled in, and these four lunatic lieutenants jumped on this bus, split us into groups and gave us these big massive backpacks,” he added. “We went off in groups of sixes, some were doing physical work, some were doing mental activities like what the paras did, and it was a good experience to be fair.

However, what started out as a competitive team-bonding exercise soon became the stuff of nightmares for some of the squad, when thoughts turned towards dinner.

“The paras have brought these big white boxes out, and we were thinking, these are going to be full of hot dogs and burgers and stuff. They’ve taken the sheet off, and there was a live pig, and a load of ducks.

“A few vegetarians are thinking, what are you going to do with these pigs and ducks? One of the paras is on top of the box, the other is waiting for the pig to run out, [and he put his] penknife straight into the pig's throat.

“To this day, you know the phrase ‘you squeal like a pig’? This pig’s gone up squealed, there were lads like that [mimicking fainting], blood everywhere, going a bit weepish.

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The hardened defender described how the paratroopers then spit-roasted the animals and served them for dinner, before continuing with the unusual bonding exercises in the early hours of the next morning.

He added: “It was just mental. We had to go and have a bit of kip at night, and at four or five in the morning they were throwing smoke canisters underneath the [tents] and lads were s****ing themselves."

The podcast’s host Jon ‘The Beast’ Parkin asked whether Keane had taken part in any of the rituals himself, and Bruce unsurprisingly claimed that the gaffer had “loved every second of it”.

"He was obviously my hero, I'd have jumped through hoops for him, but I think he made mistakes at Ipswich," he acknowledged.


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