Joseph Kevin Keegan is one of Yorkshire’s most famous footballers, whose glittering career throughout the 70s and 80s saw him become one of the best and distinctive characters of the era. He then turned his hand to management, where he oversaw five rollercoaster years as Newcastle United manager through the 1990s and had a go at the England job. Although most of his success lay outside the boundaries of Yorkshire he has never forgotten his roots.
Kevin Keegan was born in Armthorpe; Doncaster on 14th February 1951 and on leaving school got a job for the local Pegler brass works. As a boy he did not stand out as a future England International or European Cup winner and had been rejected by both Doncaster Rovers and Coventry City at the age of sixteen. He had to work hard at his game in order to become the player in which he was to be in the future.
Eventually he was spotted by Scunthorpe United, then only one of two professional clubs in the old English Fourth Division. He was turning out for the Pegler reserve team at the time and was signed for the Iron instantly in 1967. As a youth player he had to clean the first team player’s boots, paint the turnstiles and help clean the stadium. Keegan was known to the Scunthorpe coaching staff for his hard work and willingness to develop his game. The following year he made his league debut against Peterborough United and went on to make 120 appearances for Scunthorpe, mainly playing in midfield.
His performances caught the eye of Liverpool. Manager, Bill Shankly, always on the look out for a bargain from the lower leagues, bought the young Keegan for £35,000 in 1971, something which the wily boss later described as “robbery with violence.” He made his debut for the Reds against Nottingham Forest and scored after twelve minutes. in a 3-1 win. Not a bad way to start a career, which would endear him to Liverpool supporters for many seasons to come.
Under Shankly, Keegan was moved further forward into an attacking midfield role, just behind John Toshack. The two would become known as “The Dynamic Duo,” which destroyed defences throughout the decade, both at home and abroad.”
The following season he helped the Anfield Club to both the league title and UEFA Cup. He scored a memorable brace in the first leg of the final against German team, Borussia Monchengladbach. His performances for Liverpool, where he scored 22 times in 64 appearances, soon attracted the attention of England. He made his senior international debut in November 1972 and helped them to a 1-0 win over Wales.
Probably one of the most memorable incidents of Keegan’s playing career to the Yorkshire public was his clash with Leeds United captain, Billy Bremner in the Charity Sheild, which resulted in them both being sent off and banned for eleven matches. It was also the start of Brian Clough’s ill-fated tenure as Leeds United boss.
The 1975-76 season was the best season for the Yorkshireman in a Liverpool shirt as he guided them to another league and European cup double, most notably with a brace against Bruges in the final. Off the field, Keegan’s celebrity status rose, becoming the first English player to be the focus of media attention. He appeared on game show, “Superstars” and famously fell off his bike. He also grew his famous bubble perm and released a single called “Head over heels in love,” in 1979. His status in world football, along with his hair, was growing too.
In 1977, Kevin Keegan sent Merseyside into a state of shock. He announced that he was leaving the club to sign for…Hamburg. The German club seemed a surprise choice, but the £500,000 transfer fee (a lot in those days) was too good to turn down.
After initial difficulties in settling into the new team he set about replicating his form for Liverpool at Hamburg. The Yorkshireman abroad helped them win a domestic league title in 1978, earning him the first of his consecutive Ballon d’ors. The semi had seen Keegan and his team mates produce one of the best attacking displays in European football when they overcame a 2-0 first leg deficit to overturn Real Madrid 5-3 on aggregate. By now, Keegan had already made noises that he wanted to move on and so his Hamburg swansong came against old adversaries, Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest in the UEFA Cup final. Unfortunately for Keegan his team lost 1-0, meaning that his Hamburg career ended in defeat.
Despite this there were still several top European clubs after his signature, but he instead chose the stripes of mid-table Southampton, under the management of Lawrie McMenemy. He spent two seasons here, making 68 appearances. In 1982 and in the autumn of his playing career, Keegan moved up to the North East to play for Newcastle United. The Magpies were then a Second Division club, but Keegan helped them win promotion with 48 goals in 78 appearances. It was then that his love affair with the Tyneside club began.
On the England front, Keegan had a mixed international career. The mid to late Seventies was a fallow period in England’s history, when they failed to qualify for both the ’74 and ’78 World Cups in Germany and Argentina respectively. He had made his debut as England captain in 1976 and forged a great understanding with fellow midfielder, Trevor Brooking. The first major tournament he played in was not until 1980 at the European Championships in Italy, where they went out in the group stages. Under manager, Ron Greenwood he was officially made captain, as England finally qualified for a World cup for the first time in twelve years. Aged 31, he was finally going to play on the biggest stage of all..
However, a back injury, which had been troubling him in the domestic season for Southampton flared up just before the tournament. Despite this, manager, Ron Greenwood included him in the squad with a view playing the forward for the second round of group games. In those days the World Cup second round was a group of three teams who had qualified from the previous stage.
Keegan’s one and only World Cup appearance famously came in a make-or break game against the hosts, Spain. Brought on as a late substitute he flashed a header just wide of the post, which would have sent England through to the Quarter finals. Keegan was famously never selected for England again and his international career was over after 63 caps and 21 goals.
Two years later, aged 33, during the 1983-4 season he announced his retirement from the game and spent the rest of the 1980s in Spain playing golf and making the occasional appearance as a football pundit… He swore never to go into management….
But this is not the end of the story….
During his career, Keegan always knew how to spring a surprise or two and in 1992, just eight years after playing his last game for the club, Newcastle United came calling.
By now the Toon had once more fallen out of the top flight and were looking for somebody to restore the ailing club back to the big time. Having done this as a player, the board felt he could also do it as a manager. Keegan joined the club in February 1992, but promptly walked out again, after promised monies to revitalise the squad did not materialise (there were no transfer windows in those days).
The chairman, Sir John Hall managed to persuade him back to the club, with his first job to ensure the club’s status in the 2nd Division, which he managed to achieve.
With the promised money now in hand, the Keegan era at Newcastle had begun. He splashed out on several new players, including £1m on Andy Cole from Bristol City. This new team stormed to the 2nd Division title in May 1993.
The following years are considered by many Geordie fans to be some of the most exciting years in recent memory as they challenged the big teams for the newly formed Premiership title. During his management reign he was not afraid to splash the cash, which was illustrated when Newcastle paid a record £15m to buy Alan Shearer from Blackburn.
In the new year of 1996 Newcastle had opened up a 12 point gap at the top of the league over Manchester United. However, as the second half of the season played out, the Red Devils caught up with Keegan’s men and threatened to spoil the Geordie’s party. A 1-0 defeat at the hands of their title rivals in March 1996 closed the gap to just one point.
By the final weeks of the season, Keegan was beginning to feel the heat. In a now famous interview on Sky sports he ranted about Manchester United and comments that had been made by Alex Ferguson about smaller teams trying harder against his side than Newcastle. Game over. As we know, Manchester United won the title yet again that year and the FA Cup.. Keegan would get some revenge on his old foes when they demolished Manchester United 5-0 in October 1996. Three months later, the Keegan era at Newcastle was over when he sprung yet another surprise and resigned suddenly in January 1997.
This was not the last we would hear of King Kevin. He returned to manage 2nd Division (nowadays League 1) Fulham, rich with the investment of Mohammed Al-Fayed. His money and Keegan’s stewardship would ensure a progression into the 1st Division (Championship) and eventually the big time.
By then, Keegan had moved onto the biggest job of them all- the England manager in 1999, replacing the disgraced Glenn Hoddle.
He finished off qualification for the European Championships in 2000 with a 2-1 aggregate win over Scotland in the playoffs. Then the rollercoaster began. Having been 2-0 up inside 17 minutes in the first match against Portugal, they lost 3-2. In the second game, a dour 1-0 win over Germany, brought England their first competitive win against them since 1966. A 3-2 defeat to Romania, after failure to hold a 2-1 lead saw Keegan’s England crash out of the tournament.
More drama was to follow in the Autumn. A World Cup qualifier against the Germans in October 2000, which also marked the final game at the old Wembley stadium before its demolition, saw one of the most bizarre resignations in sporting history.
After a poor 1-0 defeat he resigned in front of the nation during a post-match interview. He would never set foot in the old, or new Wembley as England manager again.
His management career was not finished yet, however. In 2001 he was hired the manager of an ailing Manchester City, still on their way back up to the big time after a spell in the 2nd division doldrums.
Like with Newcastle and Fulham before him, he managed to win promotion with the flair and style associated with a Keegan team, scoring 108 goals and notching 99 points in the process.
After four years at the club he took the decision to retire from football in 2005. He worked for some time on developing his own “Soccer circus” football school in Glasgow and took some well-earned time out of the game..Until..
In 2008 Kevin Keegan, much to the delight of the Geordie faithful, made his second return to the club as manager. Unfortunately he could not produce the miracles of 1990s, and ended up resigning once again in October of the same year, after a clash with tycoon owner Mike Ashley over transfers. Times had indeed changed.
Nowadays, Kevin Keegan has kept out of the spotlight, appearing as a pundit on both ITV and ESPN during subsequent World Cup
The boy from Armthorpe has achieved such a lot in his career. His hard work, dedication and tenacity has got him to the pinnacle of his sport and is somebody who is respected highly by all in the world of football.