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Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Taking on the poisoned chalice
England fans
Fans made their views clear before Keegan took over
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?

Managerial record:
Most would agree Venables has the greater pedigree and track record when it comes to management. High-profile stints at Barcelona and Tottenham brought considerable silverware, though that record was slightly tainted by a miserable short spell at Crystal Palace.


Keegan v Venables
Keegan record:
P16 W7 D6 L3
Venables record:
P23 W11 D11 L1

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.

Man-management:
Both score strongly in this department. Venables nurtured his protege Paul Gascoigne back to his best for Euro 96 and was well respected by all his players. Keegan comes across as everyone's friend, keen to be involved and liked, but is highly regarded as a great motivator.


Terry Venables
Venables' glorious failure at Euro 96
Popularity and Image:
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.

Tactical awareness:
A key area for many England followers. Arguably the most worrying aspect of England's Euro 2000 flop was the way they were outpassed and outmanoeuvred by more fluid-looking formations.

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.

Approach:
Both are characterised by an open and honest style, but press probes into his off-the-field business dealings have made Venables more guarded in recent times.

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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Sportstalk SPORTSTALK
Venables for England England calling
Should Terry Venables return as England boss?
See also:

28 Jun 00 | England
Venables hints at England return
28 Jun 00 | England
Uefa sorry for Keegan criticism
25 Jun 00 | England
Charlton joins Keegan critics
22 Jun 00 | England
FA gives backing to Keegan
21 Jun 00 | England
No calls for Keegan to go
13 May 00 | Squad
Kevin Keegan
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