Football: Keegan raps the big clubs

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The Independent Online
KEVIN KEEGAN yesterday launched a plea for football's big clubs to not forget the teams in the lower leagues in their desire to grab more millions from the game.

The former Liverpool player and Newcastle United manager is now devoting his energies towards guiding Fulham towards the big time.

Having witnessed his Second Division promotion chasers give Liverpool a testing time before finally losing 3-1 at Anfield in the Worthington Cup on Tuesday, Keegan said: "In football generally, there has to be a feeling - especially now when it is probably in its strongest-ever position - that the big boys do have to look after the little boys a bit.

"If the big clubs are all going to go off in their own massive world way above us, then smaller clubs will suffer."

Keegan's side matched Liverpool for an hour before class finally told. But he said: "I know a lot of people think this competition is second- rate, but for teams like us and the Hartlepools, Northamptons and Cambridges of this world, it gives us a lot of things.

"The chance to pit our wits against the very best, the chance to go into great stadiums and play, the chance to play against great players on great surfaces. It's wonderful for us, and our fans, who thoroughly enjoyed the night."

Keegan agrees that clubs playing in Europe should be excused the early rounds, saying: "This was Liverpool's first game in the competition, which is right because of Europe. But it needs the big clubs in it, the romance of football is teams like Fulham at Anfield with a chance of winning the game.

"We had that chance and didn't take it. But it's a good competition for us and it's one that the big clubs should look on favourably.

"When I was at Newcastle, we put forward the motion that the sides who are in Europe shouldn't come into the Worthington Cup until this round.

"That's common sense because they can't go into Europe and do us proud and then come into games like this in the earlier rounds at the same time.

"They should field strong sides. Liverpool did just that and I'm pleased by that. They had the chance to give youngsters like David Thompson and Danny Murphy the opportunity to play in the first team. That can only be of benefit to them."

Keegan took his new charges back to the scene of his greatest glories, determined not to miss out despite being in pain following a recent neck operation. "I have struggled a bit," he admitted. "I was OK earlier in the week and I didn't want to miss the chance to take my team to Anfield.

"I feel it will be a month before I can do anything physical, but I wanted to be at Liverpool, and I will be at Blackpool on Saturday, no fear."

n Leicester City are ready to reward Tony Cottee with an extended contract after he booked the Filbert Street club a place in the last 16 of the Worthington Cup.

The former West Ham and Everton striker scored twice last night to knock out Charlton, taking his total this season to six.

His manager, Martin O'Neill, is delighted with Cottee's form and said: "We are trying to extend his contract by a year."

But Cottee is aware that O'Neill ultimately needs to recruit a new striker to strengthen the team. "I'm a realist and I know I can't go on forever," he said. "Leicester can't think short term, they've got to look ahead and bring someone in."