Those of us who grew up watching Keegan remember him as much for the impact he made on us and everyone else as a result of his non-playing activities as his brilliance as a footballer, including his weekly articles in ‘Shoot !’ magazine, his appearance on ‘Top of the Pops’ in 1979 with ‘Head over Heels in Love’ (which went higher in the German pop charts than in England) his much-admired performances on ‘The Superstars’ TV programme, especially his famous bicycle crash, the TV advertisements he made for ‘Brut‘ men’s perfume, his TV appearances in ‘On Safari’ in 1983 and ‘Baywatch’ in 1991, that scuffle with Billy Bremner and shirt-removal in the 1974 Charity Shield: he didn’t do things in the way England was used to, a fearless bucker of trends, an innovator, continuous creator and deliverer of new ways of doing things, these were the measures of this man, which complemented his outstanding ability as a footballer and carried over into his managerial career, notably at Newcastle.
Joseph Kevin Keegan, OBE, was born on February 14th 1951 in Amthorpe, on the edge of Doncaster in South Yorkshire. As a player he was widely-admired by the supporters of his clubs and neutrals alike for his dynamic, creative, never-say-die approach both to the game itself and to his activities beyond football.
Keegan joined Enfield House YC, the Scunthorpe United academy, at sixteen and played for them for a season before moving on to the club’s 1st XI in season 1968, before Liverpool manager Bill Shankly took him to the club in 1971 where he would establish himself as one of England’s all-time great inside rights.
Shorter than most players - five foot eight - Keegan’s low centre of gravity generated acceleration which few other players could match and which, combined with his stamina and strength, made him one of the most impressive athletes in the world game in the nineteen seventies.
Within a year of joining Liverpool Keegan made his England debut and was a regular for the national team for ten seasons, until 1982, winning sixty three international caps and scoring twenty one goals.
His time at Liverpool resulted in individual honours that were unparallelled at the time, including First Division titles in seasons 1972–73, 1975–76 and 1976–77, the FA Cup in 1973–74, the FA Charity Shield in 1974 and 1976 the European Cup in 1976–77 and the UEFA Cup in 1972–73 and 1975–76. He was elected FWA Footballer of the Year in season 1975-75 and PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 1981-82. During his career in Germany at Hamburger SV he was named European Footballer of the Year in 1978 and 1979 and won the Bundesliga Titel in 1978–79.
Liverpool’s European Cup victory in 1977 against Borossia Muenchengladbach began a period of domestic- and European success for the club that has taken them to five European Cup / Champions League victories since then.
In whatever he did, on and off the pitch, Keegan retained the ability to surprise the English public, including his transfer from Liverpool to Hamburg in 1977, where, in three seasons he became an even firmer favourite with the Hamburgers than he had with the Liverpuddlians: Anglo-German relations made significant strides as a result of his time in what was then West Germany.
Nineteen eighty and the start of the group qualification stage for what would be Keegan’s only appearance in the World Cup Finals, in Spain in 1982, saw him return to England to join Southampton, then managed by Lawrie McMenemy, and where his popularity at the Dell mirrored that at his previous clubs. Even more so, perhaps, with his transfer in 1982 to Newcastle United, then in the English second division, and whom Keegan, in a side that included Peter Beardsley, Chris Waddle and Terry McDermott, helped win promotion to the top flight in his second season there.
A typically unconventional finale to his playing career involved a move in 1985 to Australia, where Keegan played, briefly, for Blacktown City in New South Wales, before retiring from the game and settling with his family in Spain. He continued to make appearances as an analyst on British terrestrial TV coverage of international football, but he said when asked that he was determined not to go into management.
Seven years after retiring as a player he finally reneged on this and returned to the club - Newcastle United - where he had combined with several other world-class players to bring the club success, as manager in 1992. Unusually for Keegan, he will be remembered by neutrals best for his failure, in 1995-6, to maintain Newcastle’s title challenge against an increasingly-dominant Manchester United, to whom they finished runners-up in the recently-formed Premier League.
A hat-trick of managerial achievements was achieved in the clubs that Keegan went on to manage subsequently - he took them from second- to top tier in his first full season with Newcastle, Fulham and Manchester City - before a brief return to the Newcastle job in 2008 and with a similarly brief spell as manager of the England team in season 1999-2000.
Keegan continues to be the generous-spirited and famously-generous-with-his-time man he has been as player, manager and now fearless expressor of opinions, acknowledging and spending time with his clubs’ fans and supporting charitable causes.
Newcastle fans still refer to the club’s training sessions, which Keegan held at Maiden Castle on the edge of Durham, when they were given access to watch live. He embodies the qualities which the English admire most, combining excellence at his profession with down-to-earth fearlessness and a generosity of spirit towards the people who follow the game.
Capture a piece of Kevin Keegan's legacy with this iconic signed shirt from VintageSports.com
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