Burnley pair embroiled in Keane row

Stephen Ward and Jon Walters, with Glenn Whelan, top
Stephen Ward and Jon Walters, with Glenn Whelan, top
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Burnley duo Stephen Ward and Jon Walters have become embroiled in a row involving Republic of Ireland assistant Roy Keane.

Ireland boss Martin O’Neill has been forced to defend Keane after a WhatsApp voice message recorded by Ward was leaked on social media, which claimed Keane verbally abused Cardiff midfielder Harry Arter and clashed with Walters - as the pair had previously at Ipswich Town.

In the message, the Clarets left back alleges that Keane admonished both Walters and Arter with expletives after they were advised to sit out training by medical staff.

The row is believed to have happened in May and June when Ireland took in end of season friendlies against France and the USA, when Ward was not in the squad.

O'Neill doesn't dispute that Keane had an argument with the pair, but feels Ward's version of events isn't the whole story.

Arter is not in the current squad, after telling O’Neill he doesn't want to be considered for selection, but Walters, currently back on loan with Ipswich until January, played in last week’s 4-1 Nations League defeat in Wales.

Ward's message read:

“So basically lads, Roy was getting on to the lads for not training three days in a row. Jonny [Walters]’s got a bad knee so he can’t train all the time.

“They were at the training ground and him and Harry were just sitting on the bench, just relaxing and icing themselves and stuff. Roy walked over and was like, ‘Why aren’t you lads training?’ and he blatantly knew why they weren’t training because the manager would have told him.

“And they were like, ‘We can’t do three days in a row.’

“‘What are you guys? Professional footballers? That’s a shambles that is’. They both didn’t say anything and Roy walked off and came back over again.

“‘So when are you going to train, I’m sick of people pulling out with injuries. What the f**k is wrong with ya?’

“And the lads were like, ‘Listen, we’ve got problems, we do it at our clubs, we can’t do it.’ Roy said something under his breath about Jonny and walked off.

“Jonny lost his head, jumped off the bench and walked after him, grabbed his arm and said, ‘What’s the story Roy? If you’ve got a problem say it to my face, don’t f*****g walk off.’ And he was like, ‘I do have a problem, you’re not training, you’re getting soft, it’s no wonder [Sean} Dyche doesn’t play ya, you’re f*****g always looking for an argument like you are now.’ And he was like, ‘No Roy, you are the one trying to start an argument.’ And apparently they were squaring off to each other and having it off and had to be pulled off each other. All the lads were grabbing Jonny away from him. Jonny was going to kill him.

“Roy brought up something about when they were at Ipswich together, they had like a falling out as well. ‘You’re threatening me again Jon, like you did at Ipswich.’ And Jonny was like, ‘Yeah, are you going to be a s*******e again and send me my fine in the post rather than say it to my face?’

“It blew over for a few days and then they flew out to France and Jonny apparently just text Roy was like, ‘Listen Roy, I’m in room whatever, if you wanna come up, you’ve obviously got something on your mind that p****s you off about me because it’s causing tension in the squad, let’s talk it out.’ Apparently Roy just wrote back, ‘Nah, I’m just here to help players. People like you; stay out of each other’s way. You don’t need to reply to this message.’ And that was that.

“They got back from France and Harry [Arter] felt his quad in training again. So he wasn’t training. Apparently he was getting treatment in the treatment room and Roy walked in and was like, ‘When are you going to train you f*****g p***k?’

“And Harry was like, ‘What?’ And he was like, ‘Any chance of you training?’ He explained the situation again and Roy was going off going, ‘You’re a f*****g p***k, you’re a c**t, you don’t even care, you don’t wanna train.’ And Harry was just going, ‘Roy, I’m not speaking to you like this. I’m not listening to you. You’re not the manager. You can’t say anything to me.’

“Apparently Roy was going mad getting worse and worse and Harry got up off the treatment bed and was walking back to his room. As he was walking back Roy was shouting down the corridor, ‘You’re a f*****g p***k, you’re a c**t you’ve been all your life.’ And that was really it lads.

“It didn’t come to blows but basically just Roy losing his head.”

In Monday's press conference at the Stadion Wroclaw, O’Neill said: ‘First of all, Stephen wasn’t there, he’s just picking up on things.

‘I think there are differences over what was said (but there was) a confrontation with Jon and a confrontation with Harry. Jon is fine. Harry perhaps not so fine.

"(Roy) was looking for exacting standards and that’s exactly what I want, whatever way they are mentioned to people.

"Sometimes I think the game has changed. But hopefully it hasn’t changed that much that there are some things you can still say to a player, maybe using some industrial, heavy-duty language at the end of it all, if you think they can actually take it and go out and prove the person wrong."

Asked if Keane’s version of events was the same as Ward's, O’Neill said: ‘No. It doesn’t tally.’

And, O'Neill added: "Do I have sympathy or empathy for a 33-year-old who has known about social media for a lengthy time and says he’s just telling it to a crowd of mates? Today... probably not. Tomorrow... probably not also.

"He has been betrayed by some of his friends, who he has known for a long, long time. That will be a disappointment for him.

"But I think that Stephen has apologised to Roy."