Baird lifts the lid on spat with Keane

RASHARKIN'S Chris Baird has spoken out for the first time about his decision to reject the chance to play under Roy Keane which provoked a furious outburst from the then Sunderland manager.

Wednesday, 21st April 2010, 2:00 pm

The former Manchester United stalwart launched a verbal volley at Baird when he chose to join Fulham from Southampton in 2007 rather than the north east side.

Keane accused Baird of opting for the London outfit rather than Sunderland in order to keep his wife happy, claiming Baird had allowed his career path to be decided by WAG culture.

Speaking in the Sunday Times, Baird laughed off such suggestions.

"Harrods? I don't think we have been there once," Baird said.

"We're not mad on shopping. We live with what we have got and that is enough for me."

In August 2007 Keane said: "We have had a player this summer who didn't even ring us back because his wife wanted to move to London. He didn't even have the courtesy to pick the phone up to us.

"And shopping was mentioned. It might astonish many people, but it is true."

"My wife and daughter are from Southampton originally," Baird explained.

"I didn't want them to go as far away as Sunderland, because my wife has her family there and she is close to them. I knew a lot of people at Fulham as well, with the Irish connection.

"We moved not far from Southampton, so my wife could continue to see her family. I know Roy Keane said otherwise, but this is me telling the truth. I have no regrets about turning down Sunderland."

And the phone call? "My agent phoned him, but me personally — I didn't."

The decision to join Fulham ahead of Sunderland appears to be paying off and Baird will line-up against Hamburg in the semi-finals of the Europa League this Thursday.

Baird grew up in Rasharkin, "in the middle of nowhere" as he puts it. Gaelic football and hurling competed for his family's affections and won over his brothers, but Baird's outstanding promise was best demonstrated when it came to association football and after a successful trial at Southampton he was offered a professional contract there.

Following outstanding performances for Southampton Baird was snapped up by Fulham whose boss at the time was former Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez.

But when Sanchez departed just six months later - to be replaced by Roy Hodgson - Baird's days at the club appeared to be numbered.

"Up until a few months ago I wasn't even getting in some of the squads, never mind the team, which was hard to take," he said.

"At one point I was thinking the time had come to move on.

"I was patient and I have been working hard and I think Roy has made a lot of us better players because he has got all that experience."

Baird, whose versatility allows him to play at centre half, right-back or in midfield, got his chance as Jonathan Greening and Danny Murphy struggled, respectively, with suspensions and injuries.

The manager, as he recently stated, recognised that Baird was in a situation where "the team was being tarred with a somewhat negative brush and a lot of the tar stuck on him."

"The style Lawrie had was more from the time he was international manager — a lot of long-ball stuff — and that is what killed him, whereas Roy Hodgson has got us playing some really nice football," said Baird.

"On the floor and pass and move.

"Lawrie was a very quiet man."

"He would just deal with things with his staff and not come to players and speak to them one to one, as much as what Roy Hodgson does. Roy Hodgson would do it every day. He comes out, he shakes your hand, says good morning and all the little things like that.

"It makes a big difference. If you have any problems as well you can speak to him and if you are not doing well he will speak to you.

"His man management skills are a lot better. Still, you've got to give respect to Lawrie and not slag him off."