Kevin Keegan was an absolute legend of the game.
For those old enough to recall Keegan in the 70’s they might remember a hardworking, determined and highly courageous forward who lit up Anfield. Joseph Kevin Keegan was born on the 14th February 1951 and he played for several clubs including Liverpool, Newcastle and Hamburger SV.
Keegan was capped by his country 63 times and scored 21 times in what would be a disappointing England career.
Early Career (Scunthorpe)
Kevin began his footballing career at Scunthorpe in 1968. The young Keegan progressed rapidly and by 1969 was a regular in the team. Keegan was attracting attention of bigger clubs and by 1971 it was Liverpool’s chief scout that would come calling.
Geoff Twentyman was renowned at Liverpool and over the years he became known as a man who had a phenomenal ability to spot young talent (www.lfchistory.net)
Twentymans view on a player was so trusted that Bill Shankly snapped the young Keegan up for the prize sum of £35000 pounds. He was twenty years old.
Keegan once said of Shankly. ” I owe him everything. He changed my life”.
He also said as reported in the LivepoolEcho;
“They were doing up the main stand at Anfield so they were using these temporary offices,” Keegan said.
“The only place to sit was on a dustbin outside so I sat there talking to my manager at the time, Ron Ashman, while Bill was inside.
“After a while Bill came out, shook my hand and beckoned me over to his Capri to take me for my medical down near the docks.
“From the moment I met Bill I just gelled with him. I was from mining stock and so was he. I think he saw something in me that reminded him of himself.
“He wanted to help me and he did, massively. Apart from my parents, Bill was the most important person in my life.
“He brought me to the club, he believed in me and he inspired me. That first meeting with him changed my life forever.”
A fantastic assessment of a wonderful club manager. Bill Shankly was reportedly taken aback by the young Keegan who apparently was not happy with the wage offer and demanded £5 more.
Keegan was to play 6 glorious years for Liverpool. His debut was at Nottingham Forrest and he was to score after only 12 minutes.
Keegan settled quickly into the team and success was to follow. In 1973 Liverpool got their first domestic honours in six years as they won the league.
The formidable John Toshack was Keegan’s strike partner and the two of them were the Batman and Robin of the league.
It wasn’t long before England came calling and Keegan was to make his full debut against Wales in a 1-0 win.
Keegan was to continue to score goals in the league and was becoming a footballing superstar. Like George Best before him the media lapped him up.
He was infectious, enthusiastic and was an excellent role model to young people.
In 1976 Keegan decided to move on from Liverpool at the end of the campaign. His motivation to continue with Liverpool had diminished but his last season was successful with Liverpool competing to win the treble.
Unfortunately, they were not able to do this but they did win the league and Keegan’s last match for The Red’s was a win in the European Cup Final against Borussia Monchengladbach.
Keegan was to leave Liverpool after making 323 appearances and scoring 100 goals. After having countless offers across Europe Keegan decided to start a new life with Hamburg SV in the Bundesliga.
Although starting off slowly in Germany Keegan buckled down and quickly learnt the language. In the 1977/78 season he managed to score 12 goals and picked up the European Footballer of the Year award.
Life was good in Germany and with more confidence and success on the pitch the fans now dubbed Keegan Mighty Mouse.
He would go on to win another European Footballer of the year award in his second season and with a disappointing third with the German club he decided to head for home again.
Southampton and Newcastle
Liverpool had a buy back clause from Hamburg for the now experienced forward but they chose not to exercise this and so Keegan decided to join up with Southampton for the 1980/81 season.
Southampton were not the biggest of clubs but Keegan took to the challenge. His first season saw him playing with Alan Ball, and Charlie George. With the help of these three greats the club secured a 6th place finish which was a wonderful achievement.
In his second season Keegan continued his excellent form and was voted PFA player of the year but relations with manager Lawrie McMenemy had soured and Kevin had plotted his next move.
Keegan felt he had still a bit more to give and joined Newcastle United for the 1982/83 season. They were in the old Second Division and had some marvellous players such as Peter Beardsley, Chris Waddle and Terry McDermott.
Keegan was adored by the Toon army as he led the charge from the second to the first division for the first time in six years. Keegan was to play 78 times for Newcastle and scored 48 goals.
He would eventually hang up his boots on Tyneside and left for a life in Spain. He once said that he would never enter the world of management but sometimes players of his stature cannot leave the game.
Return to Football
Kevin Keegan returned to football with Newcastle in 1992. He strengthened the team in his first season in charge and eventually one promotion to the Premier League.
He was proving to be an excellent man-manager and excellent player motivator. Moving up the league and recruiting players such as Andy Cole, Peter Beardsley, and David Ginola to name a few he was attempting to kick Manchester United off their perch.
By the time of the 1995/96 season was under way Keegan had put together an exciting team which also included Alan Shearer.
Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and Keegan was to leave the club part way through the 1996/97 season.
This was the end of Keegan’s most glorious spell in management but he would also manage England,Fulham, Manchester City and Newcastle for a second time.
Keegan’s appointment with England was initially met with excitement and optimism. He was known for attacking football and it was thought that this could be applied to an England team which contained an array of attacking talent.
Unfortunately the England managers post is one of intense scrutiny and negativity and after some poor results his tactics were heavily criticised.
After a defeat to Germany at Wembley Keegan was to resign after the game saying that he didn’t quite have what it takes at that level.
Kevin Keegan was a footballing hero of mine and a player that I first heard about at the age of 4 or 5. His haircut, style and presence was something a young player could look up to and its a shame there are no characters like Keegan in the game today.
How many children were positively affected by Keegan will never be known.