Football: Keegan sets new agendas

Euro 2000: Caretaker's success will raise clamour for Fayed's man to lead England beyond the qualifying stages

ONE DOWN, three to go. Kevin Keegan's reign as England's coach began with such a satisfactory result at Wembley on Saturday that the clamour for his appointment on a permanent basis will soon be loud enough to drown even the sound ofFINAL wars.

His full-time employer, Mohamed Al Fayed, descended from the Royal Box after England's 3-1 victory over Poland to announce that he is prepared to bequeath Keegan to the nation. "If the nation wants Kevin and the FA wants Kevin," the chairman of Fulham FC proclaimed, "then I will give him to England. No problem." He has said this before, but the words took on a new relevance after England had made progress up the Group Five table in the Euro 2000 qualifying tournament. They now lie second behind Sweden, who beat Luxembourg 2-0 in Gothenburg and hold a two-point lead, with a game in hand.

Noel White, the chairman of the Football Association's international committee, responded by saying that there had been no contact with Fayed on the matter of releasing Keegan from his contract. The committee had drawn up a short list of candidates for a full-time replacement, but were still hopeful that success would tempt him to change his mind. "The fans can be very influential," White said, "and Kevin is a passionate man. But the final decision is his. We can't twist his arm."

Whether Keegan himself will welcome Fayed's gesture is a moot point. After manoeuvring himself with great skill into a position of maximum visibility and minimum risk, he is not yet ready to compromise his personal strategy by hinting at a willingness to reconsider the very clear terms under which he accepted the job. "It's been one of the best weeks of my life," he said in the wake of victory. "I'm very pleased. All I wanted was a win. You might think it's not a lot to ask, but we did what we had to do, and there were some heroic performances. So I enjoyed it. But I've said all along that I'll do the four games and try to leave the next manager in the position that I would want to be in." He added that, whoever his successor might be, he hoped he could stay on in a reduced capacity, to help coach the forwards.

He also paid tribute to the man who, he said, had made it possible. "Mr Fayed has been very good about all this. He had the right to say no, but he gave me the chance to manage England for four matches. I've still got to finish what we're doing at Fulham - not because I've got a contract or five per cent of the club but because I like the man and he trusted me with something at a time when I'd lost a bit of faith in people in football."

All sorts of agendas are at work here, and it may be that two of them - Fayed's interest in generating enough goodwill to persuade the Home Secretary (who was at Saturday's match) to grant him a British passport, and Keegan's reluctance to cut himself free from the Egyptian shopkeeper's payroll for an adventure that might suddenly turn sour - are in temporary conflict. But should England's results continue in Saturday's vein, it is inconceivable the FA would fail to devise a method of satisfying the perfectly understandable desire of the Yorkshire miner's son to maximise his earnings, thereby keeping him in the job.

He certainly fulfilled every conceivable requirement of the part-time role last week, reinvigorating the players and flattering the media, integrating old and new elements of the coaching staff, doing and saying lots of sensible things in that engagingly frank way of his and then, at the end of it all, producing the only thing that really mattered. As he intimated, the result counted for more than the performance, although the balance of those priorities may change even during his brief allotted span.

If Keegan's team do well against Hungary in their forthcoming friendly match, and against Sweden and Bulgaria in the Euro 2000 fixtures which complete his term of office, voices will be raised in support of continuing the present arrangement, under which the coach splits his time between England and his duties as Fulham's chief operating officer. But whatever results he coaxes from England in the three matches between now and 9 June, he cannot avoid the truth of the observation made by Bobby Robson last week, that it is no job for a part-timer. Confronting the world's best teams on a bigger stage requires all the resources that can be mustered, with no room for half-measures.

In that respect, beating the present-day Poland at home in a qualifying tournament proves very little. Since Poland had failed to beat England in seven previous visits to Wembley, the victory itself hardly came as a surprise - although, given the defeats in recent times by Germany, Italy, Chile and France beneath the twin towers, it was certainly a relief. Janusz Wojcik's side arrived with a nine-game unbeaten run behind them, but they turned out to be distinguished by little more than their size and strength. At times their physical build and agricultural instincts made them look like an Upper Silesian Farm Boys' XI hastily called to their country's colours. Only Jerzy Brzeczek, the little No 10 from Maccabi Haifa, appeared to have been pressed from a different mould, as we saw when he skilfully guided Miroslaw Trzeciak's cut-back past David Seaman's left hand on the half-hour.

That goal brought Poland back into the game at 2-1, and for the next 40 minutes England showed signs of unease. Not until Paul Scholes completed his hat-trick with the best of his goals, applying a firm and well directed header to Alan Shearer's flick from Gary Neville's long throw-in, did the England supporters among the crowd of 73,836 feel confident enough to express their support with the sort of fervour Keegan had requested.

Scholes's earlier goals were the fruit of his own opportunism and of

the ability of Alan Shearer and Andy Cole to work hard enough to occupy not just their man-markers but the third defender sweeping behind them. "We created the gaps," Shearer said, "and he came into them."

The ability of Shearer and Cole to function close to each other created the double ricochet from which Scholes struck the opening goal, while Cole's underrated awareness could be seen in the reverse-angle pass to David Beckham which prompted the superlative cross leading to the second goal, scored with a dubious combination of Scholes's body parts.

It was by pure coincidence that the clinching goal arrived only a few seconds after Keegan had made the first of his substitutions, replacing Steve McManaman with Ray Parlour. But it seemed somehow typical of the coach's famous luck, and seven minutes later he showed his common sense with another adjustment. Taking off David Beckham, who had hurt his lower back when falling in a goal-line challenge some time earlier, he moved Parlour across to the right wing and and sent on Philip Neville to occupy McManaman's space on the left.

Sadly, occupying space was all that McManaman had done during his 69 minutes on the field. Even making allowances for the fact that he was being asked to play out of position in order to maintain the team's geometry, and that he has played few games in recent weeks, he showed no sense of purpose or notion of how to combine with his colleagues. Do Real Madrid really consider him to be fit to put on the famous white shirt worn by the likes of Puskas and Di Stefano? On Saturday's evidence, their plan to pay him a salary of pounds 14m over five years could be taken for a particularly brazen piece of money-laundering.

Whereas the partnership of Beckham and Gary Neville on the right offers England a stable platform and occasional moments of inspiration, the left side presents Keegan with nothing but headaches. Graeme Le Saux's all- round limitations suggest that Philip Neville should be allowed to take over, while Lee Hendrie - such a promising debutant as a substitute against the Czech Republic - will come back into consideration for the friendly against Hungary in Budapest on 28 April, as the domestic season nears its climax. "I can see us having a weakened squad for that one," Keegan said, "and having to give some of the younger players a chance."

Victory over Poland has successfully launched Keegan's career as an international coach in the minds of the players, the public and, for whatever it may be worth, the press. To put it into a wider perspective, however, it was necessary only to spend Saturday night watching the telecast of France playing Ukraine in St-Denis, in another vital group match.

For a goalless draw, this was a game of absorbing technical and strategic quality, ceaseless in its ebb and flow, notable for the way players in all positions on both sides were given options by their team-mates. Compared to the stirring but rudimentary events at Wembley, here was football from another planet.

Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
The number of GP practices with 10 or more doctors has grown by 75 per cent
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey


Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game