Football: A chance for Keegan to bury his past

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The Independent Online
AS KEVIN KEEGAN prepares for his first match as national coach, England supporters will be hoping that he does not seek inspiration from his days as the team's captain.

The Independent has carried out a statistical analysis of the results of every England match since 1950 in order to assess the national team's form over the past five decades. One of the study's conclusions is that the lowest point reached in the national team's fortunes came with a 2- 1 capitulation to Switzerland in Basle in 1981 - and the captain that day was one Kevin Keegan.

The study gives England a form rating after every match, taking into account the game in question and the previous seven matches. The 1981 result in Basle capped an eight-match run that comprised five defeats (including three at Wembley), two draws and one win.

To be fair to Keegan, who was an inspirational figure during one of the least illustrious periods in England's footballing history, he captained the team in only two of those eight matches. Moreover, it was under his leadership that England went on to beat Hungary twice to secure their place in the 1982 World Cup finals.

The manager at the time was Ron Greenwood, who in our analysis is in second place behind the World Cup-winning Alf Ramsey as England's most successful manager. Our study takes into account the results of every game, the strength of the opposition and the venues. Recognition is also given to the importance of matches in World Cup and European Championship finals.

Although Greenwood never took England beyond the second round of the World Cup, he was undefeated in Spain in 1982 and his sides were generally successful. Ramsey and Greenwood also occupy first and second places in a table based purely on three points for a win and one for a draw.

Terry Venables, who took England to the semi-finals of Euro 96, is third in our list. The much-maligned Graham Taylor is in fourth place - a reflection, perhaps, of the fact that his stewardship was not quite as appalling as the collective memory leads us to believe. But for one different result against the Netherlands in late 1993 he could have led the side to the World Cup finals in 1994.

Glenn Hoddle is fifth, despite his achievement in qualifying for the 1998 World Cup. Indifferent performances in France and since last summer have dragged him down the table.

Bobby Robson, who has a World Cup semi-final on his CV, is second to bottom, a reflection of the tough times he endured before Italia 90. Results were not good between the 1986 and 1990 World Cups and although England qualified for the 1988 European Championship finals they lost all three of their games when they got there.

The huge margin by which Don Revie trails the rest is remarkable. Failing to qualify for the 1978 World Cup did not help his record, but is not the full explanation.

The best decade for England was the 1960s, followed by the 1950s and the 1990s. Lest England supporters get too excited that the current national side is not as bad as they might have thought, our statistics show that the performance of Glenn Hoddle's team in France last summer was statistically the worst of any England team to reach the World Cup finals.

The 1980s was, by the same measure, England's worst post-war decade. Although the national team failed to qualify for two World Cups in the 1970s, other results in that period lifted the record above that of the 1980s in our study.

Keegan's trail, pages 28 and 29


(3pts for a win, 1 for a draw) (Independent ratings)

Pts per game Pts per game 1 Ramsey (1963-74) 2.07 1 Ramsey 2.78

2 Greenwood (1977-82) 2.02 2 Greenwood 2.76

3 Hoddle (1996-99) 1.96 3 Venables 2.3

4 Venables (1994-96) 1.91 4 Taylor 2.1

5 Robson (1982-90) 1.79 5 Hoddle 1.96

6 Revie (1974-77) 1.77 6 Robson 1.88

7 Taylor (1990-94) 1.76 7 Revie 1.17

Walter Winterbottom (who never had full team control as manager), Joe Mercer (caretaker for seven matches in 1974) and Howard Wilkinson (caretaker for one match in 1999) not included


(England performances, assessed by Independent ratings)

Decade Played Pts Pts

per game

60s 100 328 3.28

50s 84 264 3.14

90s 101 263 2.60

70s 99 207 2.09

80s 116 197 1.70