Everybody likes Kevin Keegan, you just can’t help it. He was a fantastic player for Scunthorpe, Liverpool, Newcastle, Southampton, Hamburg and England and has worn his heart on his sleeve as a manager.
The memories of him scoring in front of the Kop or walking out for England at the old Wembley will always be there. The only blot on a glorious playing career being perhaps that crucial missed header in the 1982 World Cup in Spain, but apart from that most would be fond memories of king Kev.
The trouble is when you come to Keegan in his managerial career, you are left with a totally different opinion of the man. Yes, we all loved it when he said ‘I’d love it if we beat them’, how could you not he was striking out for you and I, the underdog.
However, throughout his time in management there is one thing king Kev has done consistently and one thing alone, and that’s quit.
In 1992 Keegan came home to his beloved Newcastle, eight years after his playing career had ended at the Toon. The Magpies were in trouble and they reached out for their prodigal son. They needed some Keegan magic, but this time from Keegan as a manager, who had never managed before. Surely enough the magic begun, Keegan steered Newcastle away from the unthinkable reality of relegation to the old third tier of English football. Step one of the spell woven. However, not before Keegan threatened to quit, amidst reports of the Newcastle board not fulfilling promises they made
So this first attempt at quitting ended in failure for Keegan, but he would get better with time. The Newcastle board persuading him to stay and work some more magic to help get them into what had now become the Premier League.
Duly enough Keegan obliged. Everything was different the North East club was back where it belonged in the heart’s of it’s fans, in the Premier League. They finished third in the Premier League the next season and qualified for the UEFA Cup, king Kev had done this in two years. The Messiah had surely returned, there was a buzz around St James’ Park, Keegan was weaving his magic.
Next season was even better, Newcastle won their first six games and were a long way ahead in the Premiership, but then the board got involved again, by selling Andy Cole to Manchester United in January of 1995, which must surely have got the Keegan quit-o-meter ticking away. Newcastle finished 6th and the cracks were appearing in Keegan.
Next season saw a similar pattern Newcastle and Manchester United fighting it out for the title. This was when Keegan was to utter those famous words ‘I’d love it if we beat them, love it’. The beginning of the legend of the serial quitter. Newcastle lost the title race to United on the final day of the season and Keegan the manager, would never be the same again.
Keegan quit Newcastle the following January in 1997, citing that he could not take his beloved Magpies any further. In truth losing that title race to Sir Alex Ferguson broke him, never to be fixed.
Keegan returned to management the same year with Fulham, who had just got their own mini-Abramovic in Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed. Keegan worked his magic again and got them to what is now The Championship, and then quit. Though we can let him have this one as it was to take over from Glenn Hoddle as England boss in 1999.
After a short honeymoon period in the England job Keegan quit in 2000, after defeat by all people the Germans in the final game at the old Wembley. All of a sudden his magic had waned and his tactical naivety began to become more apparent. Keegan was now a serial quitter, or maybe just good at avoiding the sack.
King Kev returned to manage Manchester City in 2001 and enjoyed moderate success during four years at the North West side, quite a while for Keegan to have survived anywhere really, without being found wanting as a manager. Well it would never last, Keegan quit in March 2005, citing that he would now do the king quit and leave football altogether. Or would he?
Of course he couldn’t, king Kev the prodigal son was needed by Newcastle again in 2008, they were in trouble, needed some of that magic that only Keegan could supply. Never mind that he had been playing golf and working on his tan for the last three years and even admitted to not having watched that much football since he left City.
But surely enough, Keegan dragged himself off his sun lounger and headed for the Premier League once more. Had they not been here before? Worked last time for a while didn’t it? This time it did not start in the same manner as their first marriage, but once again king Kev steered the Magpies to safety. So what will happen next?
Well just as the transfer window is due to close in September 2008, the board think it will be a good idea if they sign players for Keegan’s beloved Toon, players he has not even seen play. Which leads to heated discussions and Keegan leaving. The Newcastle board say he was not sacked. So I think we might just be able to figure out what he did.