On Second Thoughts: Kevin Keegan Was One of the GreatsBy: Rob | February 4th, 2010
I don’t know what the joke is but the punchline is probably Kevin Keegan. His reputation is not that as one of the top ten managers of the Premier League era, but I would certainly place him in that company.
He is remembered for the kind of heart on sleeve moments that go against the stiff-upper-lip English stereotype. Resigning from the National Team in the toilet. Letting his emotions get the better of him with an incredible rant on Sky. Walking away from Newcastle after one too many run ins with Mike Ashley.
He should be remembered for much, much more.
The first thing the naysayers will point to when I put him in the top ten premier league managers is that he didn’t win anything. Not strictly true – he won plenty of lower league titles while helping to turn Newcastle, Fulham and Manchester City into Premier League clubs (again, in some cases).
He took Newcastle from a side struggling in the Second Tier to a side that not only won promotion at a canter, but finished third in the Premier League the following season (a Champions League place nowadays) with basically the same team.
He’s remembered partly as a chequebook manager, but his record in the transfer market was pretty good. David Ginola was a revelation, Andy Cole was turned from Obscure Bristol City striker into one of the Premier League’s best, and Warren Barton and Lee Clark picked up for next to nothing. Alan Shearer’s best days were at Blackburn, but he still became a Toon hero, and the main reason he wasn’t quite the same player at Newcastle was due to injury. Tino Aspilla wasn’t the flop he’s remembered as either – witness his performance against Barcelona in his second season.
So to the Elephant in the Room. Newcastle surrendered a 12 point lead at the top of the table to allow Man United to win the League. Technically, that is true. But it only tells half the story. All of Man United’s tough games (much like Arsenal’s this season) came together,
allowing them to end the season having won 15 of their last 17 fixtures. They also were never really 12 points behind Newcastle – they always had games in hand over Kevin Keegan’s side.
As for the “I’d Love It” rant, its oddly come to define him, but he shouldn’t be critised for letting the moment get the better of him. It was a wonderful, jaw-dropping moment, but all his did was show a bit of passion.
Keegan bought us some of the most memorable, brilliant attacking football. People of the right age, remember fondly that Keegan side. Why? Because they were bloody brilliant to watch. Under Jose Mourinho, neutrals began to dread Chelsea winning anything – why? Because they were boringly effective. Ultimately, I’d rather my team play brilliant attacking football I’d be glad to watch and come second, than see them bore me to tears and win. I’d rather be Holland in 1974 than Germany.
He came back for more of course, at Newcastle. That might look like it ended in tears, but Newcastle started last season with a strong draw against Man United. It was only when Keegan left/was pushed that Newcastle went into freefall. Mike Ashley is to blame, not Keegan.
At Fulham he took a side who (with a little help from Al-Fayed’s money) were in the third tier, and got them promoted in Record Breaking style. He only left to become England manager, but let us not forget, Fulham are now a Premier League club and it was Keegan who set them on that path.
England was a trickier time. No-one comes out of the England job with a better reputation than they went into it with. But Keegan was a bit unlucky in his time in charge.
We got to Euro 2000 after a playoff against Scotland. So that’s better than Steve McLaren did. We were drawn in an absurdly tough Euro 2000 group – Germany, who would reach the World Cup Final two years later, Portugal, in the midst of their Golden Generation when Figo was the best player in the world, and Romania who had Dan Petrescu.
We beat the Germans, lost to Portugal thanks to the goal that Luis Figo considers his best ever (and without Micheal Owen who got injured) and only didn’t get through the group because Phil Neville had a rush of blood and gave away a bloody stupid penalty in the dying minutes against Romania. And if we’d have got through and been beaten by an Italian side that should have won the tournament, that would have put him on the same mark as Sven.
He left England after emotion got the better of him. We lost to Germany in the last game at Wembley Stadium (mark one), thanks to a messy free-kick. But we only really lost because Keegan lost faith. He dropped his all-out-attack methodology for an oddly defensive system that employed Gareth Southgate in a Franz Beckenbauer type role. It didn’t come off.
I’m not saying that Keegan should be put up with Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, or Jose Mourinho. But I am saying he deserves a hell of alot more credit as a manager than he’s given.