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Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Taking on the poisoned chalice
Kevin Keegan approached Euro 2000 in the knowledge that failure would be accompanied by a severe reappraisal of his suitablility for the job of England coach.
Three games later and the debate is truly under way. England's poor performances drew strong criticism from all quarters, directed as much at the players as Keegan himself.
But now that former manager Terry Venables has indicated a return would not be out of the question if the circumstances were right, Keegan's position is certainly under pressure.
Both men undoubtedly have a lot to offer, so where do their relative strengths and weaknesses lie?
Venables came so close with England in Euro 96, but many forget a largely unimpressive build-up characterised by extensive experimentation with both formation and personnel in a series of lacklustre friendlies. He was never tested in a major tournament abroad while in the job.
By contrast, Keegan has had precious little opportunity to tinker since taking the helm. Qualifiers, the play-off with Scotland and the finals themselves all within a short space of time... and a World Cup group opener against Germany to kick off the new season in September - definitely a case of learning on the job.
As a player, Keegan's credentials are supreme but he has yet to land a big prize as manager. Famous for both fashioning a stylish side at St James' Park and equally for the way he and his Newcastle team let a 12-point lead and the 1995/6 Premiership title slip from their grasp.
Both Keegan and Venables tend to polarise opinion, perhaps a tribute to their strong personalities and public profiles.
There are staunch admirers and fierce detractors in the FA corridors at Lancaster Gate too. Venables' acrimonious fallout with the FA is certainly an obstacle to any future return, although there are new faces in the top jobs now.
Publicly, the likes of chairman Geoff Thompson and chief executive Adam Crozier have backed Keegan too, but Thompson is known to believe Keegan's tactical acumen needs honing.
Keegan kept faith with a rigid 4-4-2 system, an approach that Venables sought to refine with his 'Christmas Tree' and then Teddy Sheringham linking the midfield and attack as a withdrawn striker.
Keegan can be inspirational when at his engaging best, but that infamous televised outburst aimed at Alex Ferguson leaves a permanent question mark against his ability to stand firm in the spotlight.
One final thought when talking about Keegan and Venables. Clearly they both have a lot to offer in their own way - what price the pair working together in some capacity in an attempt to harness their individual strengths and collectively forge the best way forward for a struggling England team...
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