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By ESPN Staff

Keane defends referees and slams 'cheating' players

Roy Keane has claimed a number of players in the game are 'conning' and 'cheating' in an unlikely defence of referees.

The former Manchester United midfielder, now manager of Sunderland, clashed with officials on many occasions in his fiery playing days but now seems happy to back the men in the middle.

The performances of referees have been brought under the spotlight this week after a number of controversial decisions by top official Graham Poll in games involving Chelsea and Everton.

Yet Keane feels referees are not being helped by the players and is particularly concerned by the recent number of diving incidents in the Premiership.

The 35-year-old said: 'Players are conning each other, there's a lot of sneaky stuff going on and I'm glad I'm not playing.

'There were lads I played with who went down like they'd been shot, and it drove me crazy. I'd pull my hair out.

'We all know the players and I wouldn't give them the time of day. I can't get my head round a player who rolls round then he's up 30 seconds later. I'd be embarrassed.

'It's cheating and if I'd done that my family would disown me. Referees are scrutinised left, right and centre and the players aren't helping them.'

Keane's comments may come as a surprise, particularly to those who remember his outburst at Andy D'Urso in a United match against Middlesbrough seven years ago.

But Keane said of that incident: 'I wouldn't say I'm embarrassed by that, but it's hard to make excuses. I was 100% wrong.

'I still think the veins were superimposed by a bit of camera trickery. Mr D'Urso was the middle man in the (Arsene) Wenger and (Alan) Pardew incident and my heart went out to him, it always seems to be him.'