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Keane v Dele Alli: Why he's so wrong to scoff at Spurs star's changes

COMMENT: Roy Keane. Dele Alli. One should be doing better. And the other actually deserves better.

As a pundit, this column is a fan of Keane. Blunt. To the point. His 'old skool' commentary is straight from the heart. There's nothing calculating from the former Manchester United captain. He doesn't play to the gallery. Nor for clicks. He simply says what he believes.

But in Alli, Keane's approach is wrong. There can come a time - even in the world of today's pampered Prem player - when there can be too much use of the stick. The carrot eventually needs to come into play. Encouragement, even praise, needs to be offered, especially when the player is making the right changes for his career - and his club - which Alli has now been doing.

Keane kicked it all off on Friday night. Sitting in on England's listless, error-ridden Euros defeat in Prague, he was asked by his studio host about the missing Alli. News had broke last week of the Tottenham midfielder hiring a personal nutritionist, dramatically changing his diet and scaling back his commercial commitments.

Identifying and acknowledging his problems. Acting upon them. And stripping away all outside distractions to focus on what he's actually paid to do. You'd think these changes by Alli would be music to Keane's ears. Seeing a young pro take responsibility for his form slump. To cut out the bad influences and get back to basics. This really should've been up Keane's alley. But he was having none of it.

Instead, Keane declared it all too little too late.

“Yeah, we saw the signs with one or two of these young players you mentioned who have disappeared," Keane said.

“They should have done that about a year ago. And they mightn't get a chance to get back in [now], that's what happens in football.

“Timing, these young lads in England, take your opportunity and let these lads fall by the wayside."

Receiving push-back about Alli winding back his endorsement work, Keane still refused to offer any support.

“They should have recognised it a year ago," the Irishman snapped, referring to Alli's management team.

For someone who's bemoaned the culture around today's Prem footballers. Who has railed against the way so many are indulged. This was a missed opportunity by Keane.

Here was the chance to acknowledge the sacrifices Alli is making. To speak to the Spurs midfielder directly through the camera. Give him a pat on the back. Offer him support. Not for the sake of English football, or even Alli himself. But to chip away at the excess that swirls around the game today. To highlight that form and career is all built on how you train and live your life.

Instead, all Keane could offer was a "should've done it a year ago". Okay, okay, maybe he's seen all this before. Been down this road too often with past players to be let down again. But what chance do those of us who want footballers praised for their actual football have, when someone with the status of Keane refuses to offer any sort of support when a player actually does the right thing?

Alli should be applauded for the changes he's made in his day-to-day life. The diet. The fitness training. It will make a difference. There's countless examples amongst his peers to draw inspiration from.

And cutting down on his commercial activity. Blocking the incoming calls from all those who want a piece of him. That'll also pay off. Alli's first responsibility must be to the club and the Spurs support. Not to some ad exec hoping to exploit the player - and his fans - for some cynical viral campaign, no matter the fallout.

Alli is wanted by all these blue chip brands because of the platform Spurs have given him. He has a profile and a commercial appeal thanks to the global popularity of the club he plays for. He needs to do right by Tottenham. From there everything else will flow. That he took it upon himself to take action is worthy of praise.

It's significant that within Keane's slight on Friday, Jesse Lingard's name was also raised. But Alli doesn't deserve to be mentioned alongside the Manchester United midfielder.

Forget Snapchat and all that preseason stuff. The campaign is barely two months old and we've already had multiple reports of Lingard being pulled up by United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his No2 Mike Phelan. Concerns have been raised about his off-field ventures. And all the distractions that come with it. The very same concerns which accompanied the launch of Lingard's clothing line last season - a date which fell in the same week as Jose Mourinho's sacking. Clearly Lingard, unlike Alli, sees no reason to change. Perhaps there's a belief around him that the Jesse Lingard of Manchester United will hold the same commercial appeal as the Jesse Lingard of Burnley or Southampton...?

Which is why Alli deserves praise today. Making these lifestyle changes will be good for him and his club. And for this column, you hope he'll set an example for others to follow.

For his status and as a leader in this industry, Keane really should've done better by Tottenham's No20 on Friday night.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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