Former Republic of Ireland international Jason McAteer has claimed that, his former international teammate and current assistant manager, Roy Keane, has nothing to prove to his country following the Saipan incident at the 2002 Japan and South Korea World Cup.
At the highly anticipated tournament in 2002, Keane was at the height of his powers and looked destined to lead out Ireland's plethora of leading talents, but a fiery public outburst about Mick McCarthy's management by the midfielder led to his departure from the Irish camp, without having featured in the tournament.
Speaking exclusively to betsafe.com, McAteer said in reflection of the incident: "I don’t think Roy cares [about Japan incident]. I think he’s got his opinion on why he wanted to leave, he will stand by that opinion for as long as ever.
"That incident, we all see it through different eyes, I see it through my eyes and my take on it is completely different from say Gary Breen’s or Shay Given’s or Gary Kelly’s.
"My sympathy comes because he missed that World Cup at a time when he was the best player in that position, and it was his stage and he missed that. But that’s something that he has to deal with, I wouldn’t say knowing Roy’s personality, there’s any debt of gratitude that he feels to the Republic of Ireland."
16-years on and the Republic of Ireland are two games away from sealing their place back in the World Cup, where Keane will be on the touchline against Denmark to help Martin O'Neill steer Ireland to the 2018 tournament, but McAteer believes a two-legged tie against Italy might have been easier to navigate.
He said: "I always felt that if we had got Italy, I just think the glamour of the game, it might have just thrown that little bit extra into our performances. And Italy, for some reason haven’t qualified – well for a reason, I think they’re there for the taking. I just thought it might have been a better game for us.
"I think Denmark can hurt you, you look at their qualifiers. Yeah it wasn’t a great start, very, very strong towards the end: it was five or six wins on the bounce.
"They know what they’re doing Denmark, my experience of Scandinavian teams is they’re tough and they’re physical and they’re very, very fit; they’ve got goals in their team and creativity….we have to keep this tie alive by getting something in Copenhagen."
However, regardless of how competitive Denmark may be, the former Liverpool midfielder is confident that Ireland can land the knock-out blow by playing in a similar fashion to that of their victory over Wales.
He said: "I do think if you apply yourself and you do what’s asked of you, and you don’t switch off and you’re one hundred percent focused and you do your job – if you do that as a collective unit, you’ll get the outcome that you’ve set out to do.
"And that’s what the Wales result brought, a disciplined, honest performance by the lads. And if they do that in Denmark, they’ll keep that tie alive."
Read the betsafe.com interview with Jason McAteer, including how he compares O'Neil and Kane's managerial st.