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banner Saturday, 7 October, 2000, 18:57 GMT 19:57 UK
Keegan's reign of error
Kevin Keegan
Kevin Keegan stood accused of tactical naivety
Kevin Keegan's resignation came as the worst fears about his international management pedigree had been realised. BBC Sport Online Chief Soccer Writer Phil McNulty examines his reign.

Kevin Keegan's resignation proved his sense of timing is never perfect - but his sense of foreboding was finely tuned on the day he became England manager.

Keegan's tongue was not necessarily drilling a hole in his cheek when he announced at his appointment that he was not the man to rely on to get his country a goal-less draw.

And even that small crumb of comfort from the Wembley shambles against Germany may not have persuaded him to extend a reign which has seemingly teetered on the edge for months.

Keegan's prophetic words flagged up his off the cuff managerial philosophy to the nation.

It was, in many ways, a coded message that told the fans who clamoured for his appointment they had got what they wished for - but they might not like it.


Gareth Southgate suffered more German misery
And his abdication speech in the bowels of a Wembley - which like Keegan's football career is now consigned to history - read like a list of crimes his worst critics would put forward as the case for his prosecution.

Keegan admitted he had come up short when faced with the unique complexities of international management.

He found his intuitive, and ultra-attack minded, style that worked with a degree of success at Newcastle United and Fulham was ill-fitting when placed on the international stage.

Keegan was not so much interested in formations as footballers, more concerned with skill levels as opposed to systems.

It was an approach that was tolerated at first, but then ridiculed after Keegan was exposed as tactical novice when thrown in against the cream of Europe's coaches in Euro 2000.

Gareth Southgate's association with Germany would have been forever linked to a Euro 96 penalty miss before their latest Wembley visit - but he may now find himself decorated as a monument to Keegan's managerial reign of error.

Southgate's selection against Germany bordered on the nonsensical, a fact virtually admitted by the coach himself through a half-time reshuffe.

Weapons

It was also against Keegan's better nature, against his true instincts, a containing and negative measure from a man who would once demand his teams take ten steps forward before taking one step back.

Every sentence uttered in criticism of Keegan is always prefaced by a reference to his popularity, and rightly so as he remains a wonderful example of honesty and straight-talking in a game short on those assets.

But it is a quality that never acts as a shield against the lethal weapons of poor results and shambolic performances.

Keegan has been beaten into submission, and then resignation, by his own shortcomings.

And let's not forget, by the shortcomings of the alleged cream of England's current crop of footballers.

Keegan will carry the can. But what of those who now appear so technically and tactically inept?

Terry Venables
Terry Venables is touted again
They will, as always, carry on regardless, blissfully unaware of their own shameful efforts as long as everyone keeps telling them they are playing in the best league in the world.

Germany were equally shameful in Euro 2000, but they were swiftly regrouped and redirected.

England's players still act and posture as if Euro 2000 had not happened.

They have learned nothing and neither, it appeared, did their former coach - but at least Keegan has had the decency to admit it and walk away.

The clamour, with all the tedious inevitability at the nation's command, has started for the re-instatement of Terry Venables.

Fervour

Venables, with more than a little help from his friends, has benefitted from a stunning re-write of history, and especially Euro 96.

England rode a bandwagon of national fervour and rich good fortune in that tournament, with one undoubtedly excellent performance against a Holland side riddled with internal strife put forward at the head of his c.v.

It should not make him an automatic choice - and there would have be some hard swallowing and Road to Damascus style conversions inside FA headquarters, especially by power broker Noel White, before his name is mentioned seriously.

The usual suspects will be rounded up and mostly dismissed.

But if the FA have any shred of imagination - you decide on that one - they should make at least one phone call to Old Trafford and Sir Alex Ferguson before making their move anywhere.

Noel White
Noel White will help decide
England history will judge Kevin Keegan harshly - and rightly so - but he is not the only villain of this piece.

He was the choice of most to take the job. He, like most of the players under his command, was not up to it.

They move on to Finland, and will presumably trot out the predictable "we did it for Kevin" soundbites if they win.

Fat lot of good it does Keegan now.

England's football is deep and crisis and despair, and Keegan will probably feel he is well out of it by kick-off time on Wednesday.

The history book will say Kevin Keegan was out of his depth as England coach - and it is to his credit that he has admitted as much himself.

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