In Depth

Roy Keane and Kevin Pietersen: what we learned about complex heroes

Both men's autobiographies have revealed unfavourable aspects of their characters

Two of British sport's most complex characters find themselves in the spotlight today after publishing explosive memoirs that pull no punches in assessing the failings of those around them.

 Details of former Manchester United legend Roy Keane's latest autobiography have emerged after it mistakenly went on sale three days early at a supermarket in Burnage. Meanwhile preview copies of cricketer Kevin Pietersen's book have been devoured by the media ahead of its release on Thursday.

Aside from highlighting the grudges borne by the authors, both books offer a window into their psyches, just as a memoir should. But those who have read the two books find themselves bemused by the mentality of the two authors.

In Pietersen's book "there is barely room or time to dwell on the fun that he must have had and the joy he undoubtedly gave," laments Stephen Brenkley in The Independent. "Here is one of the greatest sporting entertainers of his or any other age, who has scored more runs for England than any other batsman in history and yet all he seems to have gathered are scores to settle."

What the batsman has delivered is a solipsistic "bid for historic blame-aversion", says Barney Ronay in The Guardian. His argument can be summed up thus: "Things keep happening to me because so many of the people I come into contact with are bad."

"This is not, it turns out, an autobiography at all. It is instead a score-settling exercise," says Ronay, complete with an "exit strategy" in the form of "mawkish" overtures to South Africa, the land of his birth. 

It offers something of an insight into the claustrophobic  life of an international cricketer but  "there is a wonderful cricket book in here that has not on this occasion been written", says Ronay.

If Pietersen gets mawkish Keane's latest book is anything but sentimental, and appears designed to cement his reputation as "nothing less than a monster", says Mark Ogden in the Daily Telegraph. "There are two sides to Roy Keane, but for reasons known only to the man himself, it is the dark one that he appears happiest to project."

But his hard-man image has undermined his career as a manager, and although he is getting his reputation back on track at Aston Villa and with the Republic of Ireland "the caustic nature of his book risks setting Keane back to where he left off, with too many rows, bust-ups and condemnations painting him as Mr Angry again".

One of the most telling vignettes in Keane's new book concerns his use of his company car after his parting of ways with Man United. He kept it for three months after leaving the club and made a conscious effort to rack up as many miles as possible. "Every little victory is vital," he writes by way of explanation.

It sounds like parody, says Oliver Kay in The Times, but it sheds light on his character and explains why his book has been so eagerly anticipated and devoured. "Even now that he has retired as a player, he remains one of the most complex, fascinating, unfathomable characters in Premier League history."

It is an epithet, in his own sport, that also applies to Pietersen.

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