Why Brian Clough once punched Roy Keane after a dodgy back pass: "He'd bring Roy down a peg or two when he needed it"

Roy Keane
(Image credit: Getty)

Brian Clough managed Roy Keane for three seasons at the beginning of the 1990s, bringing the then-19-year-old over from Cobh Ramblers to Nottingham Forest after the Irishman impressed during a trial.

Their relationship flourished together, with Keane often saying how he grateful he was to Clough for giving him a chance in English football and progressing his career.

However, the pair didn't always see eye-to-eye, as former Forest right-back Brian Laws recalls to FourFourTwo exclusively.

“Roy saw Cloughie as a father figure, but he’d bring Roy down a peg or two when he needed it,” says Laws. “He even punched him.”

That came after an FA Cup third round clash against Crystal Palace, when a Keane back pass cost Forest a goal. The game finished as a draw, but, despite the punch knocking him to the floor, Keane later sympathised with Clough due to the pressures of management, claiming he had no ill-feelings to the legendary gaffer.

The incident might have actually spurred Keane on in the Cup, as he scored three goals en route to Forest reaching the final, which they eventually lost to Tottenham.

There were more fisticuffs on a squad break to Jersey, though. On a night out, Keane ended up fighting a man and scrabbling around on the pub floor. 

“Cloughie sent him home,” recalls Laws. “We were shocked – we’d never seen him do that before. But he punished him that way rather than taking him out of the team.”

Keane went on to make 154 appearances for Nottingham Forest across three seasons at the club, and even made the PFA Team of the Year for the 1992/93 season, despite the club's relegation from the inaugural Premier League campaign.

He moved to Manchester United for £3.75 million that summer, where he won seven league titles and countless other trophies.

His career at Nottingham Forest started in slightly unfamiliar circumstances, though, with nobody even knowing who he was when he made his professional debut against Liverpool at Anfield in 1990 - not even his own team-mates. 

They knew who he was after the game, alright, as he stamped on John Barnes within the first five minutes. As Laws describes: "What a debut."

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Ryan Dabbs
Staff writer

Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.