Your questions answered by football's biggest legends
From the April 2007 issue
Kevin Keegan is a whirlwind. Meeting FourFourTwo at his interactive football attraction Soccer Circus – which sits incongruously in the middle of a Glaswegian shopping centre – he can barely stand still. Impressively lean for his 55 years, he gurns and japes merrily through our photoshoot, pausing only to bellow “perm or mullet?” at a duo of passing Paisley housewives, who’d probably only popped out for a pint of milk and certainly weren’t expecting to be harangued about haircuts by an English football legend.
Witnessing Keegan’s relentless energy first hand, it’s easy to comprehend how he managed to shoehorn so much into his rollercoaster career, and also, perhaps, why he was never content to settle in one place. “I’ve always liked to try out new things and new places,” says Keegan, who has recently moved to Scotland to oversee his project. “I’ve not got a single regret about anything. I like to look forwards, not back.” He’s agreed, however, to a brief period of enforced nostalgia in order to answer your questions. With the candid honesty that characterised his managerial career immediately evident, we begin…
You were rejected as a youth by Doncaster for being too small. What would you be doing today if you hadn’t been picked up by Scunthorpe?And did rejection as a schoolboy fuel your famous determination?
Glenn Poore, Dartford
I’d be making taps. I know that because I took a job at Pegler before I got signed up to play football. You know when you go into a public toilet and push down the taps, and a bit of water comes out, and just as you put your hands underneath, the water stops? Annoying, isn’t it? We made those taps. So I’d have been tap dancing.
And yes, rejection drove me on. I got rejected by Coventry City as well as Doncaster. A few people close to me said: “now you’ll have to concentrate on your school work.” They didn’t think I was good enough, and I used it as a spur. I think most of the top players have been rejected somewhere along the line, and most top business people have problems before they get to the top. Edison had failures before he got the lightbulb going! You try to turn these minuses into a plus and prove people wrong.
I heard a story about you and Tommy Smith arguing about a pair of white boots at Anfield. Can you enlighten us?
Ian McDougall, Glasgow
I got offered white boots by Hummel for quite a lot of money, and I asked Tommy what he thought, because I respected him – he was like a father figure to me. Hardly anyone wore them back in those days, and he said I’d look like a prat. Alan Ball was wearing them, but Tommy said they looked OK with white socks, but daft with red ones.
But a week or two later, Tommy himself was wearing the same boots! He said to me “I can’t turn down that money at my age. They’ll all come knocking at your door, Kevin – Adidas, Puma, Gola – but I need to take this offer.” In the end his white boots ended up a bit red. I was never sure if he dyed them, or whether it was blood…
When and where were you happiest?
Mike Clarke, Waterloo, Liverpool
Everywhere! Liverpool: wow. Hamburg: fantastic. Newcastle to finish my career: unbelievable. Southampton was exhilarating, because we were a load of old guys coming to the end of our careers, and still beating people. Great fun! Scunthorpe was great, too. You look back on your schooldays as the happiest days of your life, and they probably were. I’ve been happy everywhere.
What’s your greatest memory as Newcastle manager? Lots of people still want to see a Keegan statue up here…
Kelly Munro, South Shields
Phillippe Albert beating Peter Schmeichel to seal that 5-0 win over Manchester United. If you beat Man Utd that’s great, if you beat them 5-0 it’s fantastic, and if you’ve just lost a league to them the season before, it’s even better.
I shook Alex Ferguson’s hand, but Cantona was the only one that spoke to me. He shook my hand and said: “f**king great team”. The crowd were really proud of those players because they were cobbled together, really. We didn’t sign top, top players until later on. We were signing players who still had something to prove, the Beresfords and Lees, and fortunately for me, and for Newcastle, they still wanted to achieve things.
Fog On The Tyne (Paul Gascoigne). Diamond Lights (Chris Waddle and Glenn Hoddle). Head Over Heels In Love (you). Rank them in order of awfulness.
Damian Hall, via email
Mine’s the best. The other two can be joint second. I’m not saying they’re awful though. But I hardly ever listen to music these days. I still like Bread from the '70s.
Shankly vs Paisley. Who's the daddy?
Kevin Hopper, Doncaster
Shankly. The bar here [at Keegan’s Soccer Circus attraction] is even called Shankly’s. Bob Paisley was very influential, but he was a number two when I was there. Shanks was my manager, and although Bob can in many ways be considered more successful than Bill, he built on Bill’s legacy. Liverpool were in the second division when Shankly came to the club. You can’t argue with the amazing transformation he oversaw. Bob was great and I really liked him as a person, too – he was a Geordie and reminded me of my dad. But Shankly was the best.
How close to did you come to being Doncaster Rovers boss?
Lance, via email
Nowhere near. It was a garbage story written by a garbage newspaper. Typical of the media now: 20 years ago, they would have rung me and asked if there was any truth in it, and I would have said no. Now they don’t ring, because it kills the story. They never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
When did you first encounter Gazza, and what were your first impressions of him?
The Scatman, York
He was my boot boy at Newcastle. I can hardly remember him, other than he lost my boots one day. He left one on the bus. And I was having a great season so I wanted to stick with the same boots. So my first impressions were: a bit careless. But he emerged after I left the club. I can’t say I saw his potential.
Who’s the best player you played with and against?
Olly, via email
Johan Cruyff was the best player I played with. He was the cleverest player ever. When he was playing well he would run the show, and when he wasn’t playing well – which was rare – he would stick to the mundane things and work for the team. He could be a soldier and he could be a general. He had no ego, and that is a sign of greatness to me.
The best players I ever faced? I’d put Pele and Maradona in there together. I played against Pele when he was 38 and Maradona when he was 17. The fact that I link them together tells you how much I think about the Brazilian. Pele would have the edge in life, because he’s handled himself so well.
Do you still read John Toshack's poetry and smile?
Ha ha! No, although The Bard is back in Wales now, so he’ll probably be writing some poetry again shortly. He always liked to sing and write, as a Welshman. I think Tosh’s probably too busy trying to get the Welsh national team sorted out at the moment, and he’s starting to turn things around there.
Is it true you spent most of Spain 82 playing tennis with Trevor Brooking? If so, who was Borg and who was McEnroe?
Piers Newbury, Margate
It wasn’t in Spain, because we were injured. But we did play each other a lot – we were roommates and great friends. He was a clever tennis player, but he’s got no pace. I’d just drop shot him, then lob him, and it’s over. I liked to see him run about because he never looked like he was in a hurry on the football pitch. On a tennis court, sometimes, you could make it look like he was almost running around.
In 1977 you could have moved to any club in the world. Why Germany, and why Hamburg? Didn’t you fancy Spain or Italy?
Mike Shepherd, Colchester
I’d dispute that I could have moved to any club in the world. In 1977 there were no English players abroad and they weren’t perceived as a good investment. Only John Charles had done really well. Hamburg was the only offer I got, and that’s where I went. They phoned me up. I said I wanted to leave Liverpool. I felt I was stagnating there, even though I loved the club, the fans and the players. I needed a change, I’m not a character who stays at one club for all his life.
Hamburg offered me four times the salary that I was on, which was incredible. So financially it was right, and my wife spoke German, which was a great start. I thought, that’s the challenge I want.
Did you enjoy the sausages in Germany, and which was your favourite variety?
The French Dogg, via email
I don’t like sausages. Unfortunately I couldn’t get away from them in Germany. I loved the cakes over there though, to my coach’s disdain. There was a fantastic patisserie next to the training ground. But I’ve never been a sausage fan.
You had a great club career but it never quite happened on the international stage. Why was that?
Alex Hammond, Jutland
England weren’t good enough as a nation at the time. It doesn’t matter if I thought we were unlucky or whatever, we just didn’t have enough good players. I obviously wasn’t good enough, either. People say myself and Trevor Brooking were the main reason we got to Spain [for the 1982 World Cup], but both of us got injured and played about 20 minutes each.
It doesn’t help when you play a lot of league games. We weren’t playing with 24-man squads. We won the European Cup, league and FA Cup [at Liverpool] with 16 players in the squad. It was tiring.
Have you and Jean still got those ankle-length brown leather coats you sported in your 1978 annual?
I believe they’re probably in storage somewhere. My daughters, who are 24 and 28, have asked us where they are, because they would look fantastic on them now. But I don’t know where they are. Maybe they went to charity. I should get them on eBay.
Could you and Kenny Dalglish have played together for Liverpool?
Leo Moynihan, Surrey
Yes. I think anyone could play with Kenny Dalglish. Any player can play with great players, clever players. We would have adapted to each other, given the chance. But Liverpool wouldn’t have signed Kenny if I’d left, and I don’t think Celtic would have tried to sign me to play with Kenny. Managers don’t go for two players who have similar positions in the same team – national teams often struggle with similar players – but I think we would have worked each other out.
Footballers today would never get involved in something daft like Superstars. Do you think some of the fun has been sucked out of the game because of the money involved?
I think footballers would love to get involved if they were allowed to! I’m sure what happened to me [Keegan fell off his bike on the show and spent four days in hospital] changed the way that people looked at it. Someone probably should have been sued over that.
But it was fun. I took on boxers, skiers, table tennis players. It was a fantastic couple of days but the sad thing for me was that I was ill afterwards and missed the final, in America. I’d have loved to have gone – I’d have been the first footballer to win one, but my wife wouldn’t let me go. She said: “you nearly killed yourself once, that’s it!”
Spain 82 – your header sails wide. As you’re kneeling on the ground, what were you thinking? Could we have won that tournament?
Snipsy, South London
As I headed it, I thought “goal!” because I don’t usually miss from there. In people’s memories, it cost us a World Cup. In reality, we were put on with 20 minutes to go, and we needed to score two goals to get through to the next round. I’d been injured with my back and hadn’t trained. It shows that even if you’re a great header of a football, which I think I was, if your preparation is not 100%, you can catch yourself out. Trevor Brooking and I weren’t fit, and we would have needed another goal anyway.
I don’t think we’d have won the World Cup if we’d gone through, because we weren’t the strongest side there, but obviously if we had gone through, there would have been a chance. But it’s all hypothetical.
Have you forgiven Bobby Robson for not telling you he was dropping you from the England squad?
Eric, via email
I’ve forgiven him in terms that we talk to each other. Do I think it was right what he did? No. But we get on well now. I know he’s not been well and I hope he makes a full recovery. He’s certainly got a lot of guts and he’s gone back to the Ireland job probably quicker than he should have. But that’s Bobby Robson, that’s determination.
What was the attraction of playing for Southampton? Did Liverpool not try to get you back?
Sam the Saint, Southampton
Liverpool didn’t try and get me back, and I wouldn’t have gone back. I don’t believe you can ever go back somewhere and be the same. I could have gone to Barcelona, Juventus or anywhere at that time. I chose Southampton because I was thinking about enjoying my football. My best friend Mick Channon was there, [Alan] Bally was there, Dave Watson. I knew Chris Nicholl and how determined he was to do well. People forget how well we did – we came second and third, which is incredible for Southampton. There were 18,000 people crammed into The Dell, and we were turning over the Man Uniteds and Liverpools on a regular basis.
Was the helicopter out of St James' Park your idea?
It was the club’s idea – not really my style. I think the police were annoyed about the helicopter. Words were said afterwards, I’m not sure it was quite legit. It was ruled out happening again – so Shearer and Beardsley missed out on the chopper. But it was fantastic symbolically, that great stadium getting smaller and smaller, then gone. It was also the only time I left that ground without signing any autographs.
You and Ruud Gullit: who had the best bubble perm?
Paul Winslow, Grimsby
Ruud. His was more natural. He copied me though, I was there first [laughs].
What on earth went on with you getting attacked with that baseball bat?
I’d driven back from Spain, 1,500 miles or so. I was on the M25 and fell asleep at the wheel, I nearly hit the central reservation. I was only an hour away from home, but I couldn’t make it. So I pulled off and went to sleep in the car. Some guys threw a brick through the window and hit me with a baseball bat.
Some people said it was Everton supporters and some said it was Portsmouth because you played for Southampton, you know all these things. But it was nothing like that. It was pretty dark. They were on a drug run, they needed money, they saw an opportunity. They even pinched my clothes. That’s how they caught them, you know. It was horrible.
How much did you dislike Alex Ferguson when you did that ‘I'd love it’ outburst?
Richard Birch, Birmingham
For a day or two I really disliked him. I wouldn’t say we’re close now, but we have talked a lot. I’ve sold players to him, he’s sold players to me, I’ve done charity things for him, he’s done them for me. But if you’re asking me do I love him [laughs]... I totally respect him. He’s managed a huge club for 20 years.
I’ve got a terrific record against Alex Ferguson compared with most people, too. It probably isn’t level, but I’ve managed teams that have beaten his teams 5-0, 4-1, 3-1. Two Manchester derbies. So I would say I’ve come out relatively well against him.
Is it true you used to let Tino Asprilla have a glass of red wine before games, and what was he like to manage?
I’d never be so unprofessional to let him do that every game. But the day we signed him, he flew in to Middlesbrough airport on a Saturday, and we introduced him to the players at a local hotel. He was having a small glass of wine with his lunch and I asked him if he would like to sit on the bench that afternoon. He said yeah, and he came on as a sub. But that was not the norm.
He was a great player to manage. He’s been scapegoated because we lost the league after he signed, but he performed fantastically. It’s like Carlos Tevez being blamed for West Ham’s troubles now – nonsense.
You’ve been criticised for letting your passion get the better of you at times; Sven was criticised for not having enough passion. Is this fair, and does it really make that much difference?
Rod, via email
Some people in this country seem to think that having passion is a bad thing. I think football without passion is like strawberries without ice cream. Everyone is different, but there’s a lot of passion in this game still. Arsene Wenger gets called unemotional, but I saw a lot of emotion between him and Alan Pardew on the touchline at West Ham. [FFT: You were never afraid to front up the critics when people had a go at you, either – like when you sold Andy Cole. That’s rare.] Well, that’s right. I believed I was right to sell Andy Cole. I was at St James’ Park and the board said there was a crowd of people outside upset with the decision, and that perhaps I should sneak out the back exit. But I went out on to the steps and defended my decision.
I’ve never seen a public figure be as honest as you were at that press conference after you resigned the England job. Do you think you’re too honest sometimes?
Hugh Jones, Ipswich
Not at all. Remember, I never applied for the England job – I was the fans’ choice, so the FA gave it to me. At the end of the Germany game, a lot of fans let me know that they didn’t want me in that job any more. We’d lost two games on the trot at Wembley and they were rightly unhappy. I thought, the fans appointed me and now they want me out. So I went. I could have stayed another match and got massive compensation, but I don’t regret the decision.
What are you up to these days?
I’m here at Soccer Circus [Glasgow-based, interactive football attraction] every day. It’s an idea I’ve had for 20 years and been developing for 10 years, so it’s great to have it up and running. I’ve moved up to Scotland and we have players training here every day, some really good young Scottish lads. I chose Glasgow because it’s such a huge football city. I’d like to open one in Newcastle, London and Manchester, too.
There are loads of kids in Newcastle with the first name Keegan. Do you feel guilty about that?
Keegan Davenport, North Shields
Ha ha! There are lots of kids called Keegan, I’ve met many of them. Lots of dogs too. There’s not much you can do about it, although I suppose you don’t have to keep your name if you don’t want to. My first name is Joseph, but I used my middle name, Kevin.
From the April 2007 issue. Interview Nick Moore, portraits David Glen Walker
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010