Football: Keegan could `stay on'

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The Independent Online
KEVIN KEEGAN admitted for the first time last night that he could be persuaded to extend his stay as England's part-time coach.

Keegan revealed in a radio interview that he would review his position after the initial four-game period in which England hope to qualify for Euro 2000.

Fulham's chief operating officer said: "If the part-time thing works I could have another look at it and maybe continue. There would only be two qualifying games after that and then the finals at the end of the season.

"I'm glad I was not asked that question directly at the press conference [to confirm his appointment on Thursday], I don't think I could have given an answer too easily. But, remember, I was fetched to Fulham as chief operations officer not as the manager. I do think we've got to stick with the four games at the moment and see how it pans out. I may be fudging there."

Keegan's latest shift will hearten the Football Association, who had already seen his stance change from disinterest into acceptance of a part- time role.

He also revealed that he wants to change some England procedures and reduce the time players spend on press interviews and with sponsors, particularly leading players like captain Alan Shearer and Michael Owen.

On the subject of a long-term successor, Keegan put the former England coach, Terry Venables, at the head of his list of candidates. However, the likelihood of Keegan carrying on in both jobs is increasing on a daily basis.

In the meantime, the FA will not shrink from treading foreign shores in an effort to find a permanent England coach. Senior sources at Lancaster Gate gave strong indications yesterday that even if the best man for the job is not English, he will still receive serious consideration.

The FA's acting chief executive, David Davies, not surprisingly found himself still defending the decision to employ Keegan as a stop-gap.

"In the circumstances, we had to give the players the best chance of qualifying for the Euro 2000 finals," he said. "We also believe that, come the end of the season, the choice in terms of who to go for may be significantly wider than it is at the moment."

The obvious implication of that statement is that individuals have already been targeted but are under contract.

Bryan Robson has asked Keegan to visit Middlesbrough to watch Paul Gascoigne. Keegan's announcement that Gazza could be welcomed back into the England fold during his reign was greeted favourably on Teesside.

"Gazza's coming on quite strongly with his fitness and with his game," Robson said. "Kevin should have a look at him."

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