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Rediff.com  » Sports » Keegan rides off into the sunset

Keegan rides off into the sunset

March 11, 2005 19:13 IST

Kevin Keegan completed the last hat-trick of his illustrious career on Friday when he quit as Manchester City manager and walked away from football for the final time.

While his decisions to step down as Newcastle United and England manager prompted widespread shock, Keegan's departure from City surprised no-one.

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A world-class striker in his playing days, Keegan will be remembered as a manager who inspired his teams to play passionate, attacking football but lacked the tactical acumen to achieve consistent success at the highest level.

Keegan won 63 international caps for England, nearly half as captain, and enjoyed a glittering club career with Liverpool, Hamburg, Southampton and Newcastle.

Forming a lethal little-and-large partnership with John Toshack, the diminutive Keegan won three league titles with Liverpool, two UEFA Cups and the 1977 European Cup.

He moved to Germany with Hamburg in 1977 and was twice named European Footballer of the Year before being lured back to England by Southampton manager Lawrie McMenemy in 1980.

Keegan spent two successful years on the south coast before ending his playing days at Newcastle, where he enjoyed hero's status as his boundless energy and goals fired the north-east club back into the top flight in 1984.

Few English players have been idolised like Keegan at Newcastle and his god-like status was exemplified by his departure after his final match -- by helicopter from the centre of the pitch into the clouds.

Keegan walked away from football completely but after eight years in the wilderness was tempted back as manager of his beloved Newcastle.

Just one year later he led them into the English Premier League and in 1994 signed a 10-year contract, charged with bringing the league title to St James' Park for the first time since 1927.

Playing at times scintillating football, Newcastle opened up a nine-point lead at the top of the Premier League in March 1996, the high point of Keegan's managerial career.

Suddenly, however, his failings were exposed as his team stuttered and Manchester United ruthlessly hunted them down and pipped them to the title.

EMOTIONAL ATTACK

Keegan struggled to handle the pressure, famously launching an emotional attack on United manager Alex Ferguson during a live television interview.

Weighed down by the huge expectations at the club, Keegan resigned in January 1997 before joining Fulham as chief operating officer later that year.

He was appointed manager of the London club in 1998 following the sacking of Ray Wilkins and led them to promotion before taking over as England coach in 1999 after the departure of Glenn Hoddle.

England scraped into Euro 2000 via the playoffs and Keegan's tactical shortcomings were exposed in his side's first match of the tournament against Portugal which they lost 2-3 after roaring into an early 2-0 lead.

That loss set the tone for a poor campaign which ended at the group stage and a home defeat by Germany in the team's opening World Cup qualifier in 2000 prompted Keegan to quit.

He took over at Manchester City in 2001 and led them to the Premier League in his first season.

Despite spending big money on international strikers Robbie Fowler and Nicolas Anelka, however, City never looked like breaking out of a cycle of mid-table obscurity.

Another mediocre campaign has left them 12th in the standings with nine games left and Monday's limp 1-0 home defeat by Bolton Wanderers persuaded Keegan to quit, rather than see out the remaining 15 months of his contract.

He said only last week that he intended to honour his final contract but the 54-year-old clearly experienced a sudden change of heart.

Honest, committed and blessed with infectious enthusiasm which inspired those around him, Keegan will be remembered as a shining light in English football for more than 30 years.

 

Ed Osmond
Source:
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