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banner Saturday, 7 October, 2000, 18:16 GMT 19:16 UK
People's champion who came unstuck
Kevin Keegan
Kevin Keegan quit as his popularity began to wane
There are some who questioned Kevin Keegan's ability as a tactician and his temperament when placed under the most severe pressure, but even his most ardent critics must have been surprised by the England manager's decision to quit after defeat by Germany.

He was the choice of the people and the players but in the end he himself admitted that he was not up to the job.

Keegan made his name as a manager with Newcastle where he was elevated to God-like status and could do no wrong in the eyes of the Geordie faithful.

And with few choices available to them, and England in a desperate position, the FA had little option but to gamble on Keegan as a replacement for Glenn Hoddle.

Tactical naivety

Keegan in England kit
Keegan won 63 caps for England, scoring 21 goals
But in the end, Keegan's motivational skills were not enough to make up for his tactical naivety at the top level.

But even though the fans booed Keegan off the Wembley pitch after another poor performance from his players, few of them will hold any grudges against him.

For while he may have ultimately been proved wanting as a manager, he remained universally liked by fans and all those within the game of football alike.

Whereas Hoddle - his former England team-mate and another of the biggest footballing idols of the late 1970s and early '80s - saw his popularity plummet after he ended his playing days, Keegan became even more adored since hanging up his boots.

Hoddle always appeared aloof as a manager and ultimately paid the price for a string of communication breakdowns.


Keegan, though, was worshipped by the Newcastle faithful and won the hearts of neutrals everywhere, turning his United side into the most flamboyant, devil-may-care team seen in the English game for years.

But, ultimately, that was what seemed to cost Newcastle the success that they craved.

His passion for the game and determination to do it 'his way' was never better exemplified than in his remarkable outburst during the mind-games of the 1996 title race.

After some well-judged words from Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson, Keegan lost his cool live on TV, furiously pointing at the screen as he proclaimed: "I would love it if we beat them."

From Scunthorpe to superstardom

Keegan at Hamburg
At Hamburg he was twice European Footballer of the Year
While not the most naturally talented player, Keegan became one of the success stories of the '70s, combining hard graft with bloody-minded ambition to twice become European Footballer of the Year.

His trademark perm launched a thousand haircuts on every terrace and made him one of the most recognisable figures of the decade.

After starting with lowly Scunthorpe and hitting the big-time with Liverpool and Hamburg, he made the first of what was to become a succession of "I come as your saviour" arrivals at unfancied clubs, with a successful stint at Southampton.

Then, in 1982, the love affair with Newcastle began.

The veteran striker helped the Magpies win promotion to the old First Division, before cementing his god-like status with a departure laced in symbolism. After his final game Keegan disappeared into the clouds, whisked away by helicopter from the centre of the St James' Park pitch.

An eight-year break spent working on his golf handicap in Spain ended in 1992 with his return to Newcastle, this time as manager, as he led the slumbering north-east giants from the brink of the Second Division to runners-up in the Premier League.

But just as Keegan has stunned the football world with his sudden departure from the England fold, so he left the Newcastle faithful dumbstruck when he quit St James' Park in 1997 following a boardroom row over the club's planned share flotation.

Back with Fulham

But any ideas that this would be the end of a remarkable career were soon dispelled when he turned his recuperative powers to Fulham.

Keegan was unable to do for Fulham what he had done at St James' Park before his country came calling.

His time as a manager may now be over for good, but it would not be a surprise if Keegan were to stay in football as a television pundit.

And while he has always been a popular TV expert, he has been known to make the odd blunder.

During England's match with Romania in the last World Cup he told ITV viewers "only one team can win win this now - England", just moments before Dan Petrescu scored to condemn Hoddle's team to a 2-1 defeat.

Keegan at Liverpool
Keegan was King of the Kop during his six years at Liverpool
Then in the penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final against Argentina, commentator Brian Moore asked him if David Batty would score his spot-kick. "Yes," replied Keegan, only to see the midfielder fluff his penalty and send England crashing out.

But it is this sense of fallibility, along with his passionate belief in the way the game should be played, that has made him so popular with fans and press alike.

"The day I don't get emotional about football, I'll be back playing golf again in Spain," Keegan said after his appointment as England coach.

Keegan may now be heading back to the Costa del Sol, but in the end it is probably because he was just too emotional about the game he loves.

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