Football: Keegan should heed catalogue of unhappy departures

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The Independent Online
EVERY ENGLAND manager, except Ron Greenwood in 1982, has left the job in unhappy circumstances.

The first full-time manager, Walter Winterbottom, moved on to the Sports Council after being overlooked in favour of Denis Follows for the Football Association secretary's position in 1963, although at that time personal criticism of the manager was restrained. Winterbottom certainly had a lot to do. He led FA coaching schemes, handled all the team's travel arrangements personally and, on tour, was even obliged to minister to sick council members. Though possessing a faintly professorial demeanour, he enjoyed the players' respect.

The 1966 World Cup winning manager, Alf Ramsey, saw his England side lose a two-goal lead over West Germany to go out of the Mexico finals four years later, but his stock remained high until the 1974 World Cup campaign. When England were eliminated after failing to beat Poland at Wembley, the FA initially gave Ramsey a vote of confidence. Six months later, following mounting press criticism of the manager's tactics and aloofness, Sir Andrew Stephen and Sir Harold Thompson, chairman and vice- chairman respectively of the FA, persuaded their colleagues not to give Ramsey a new contract.

"You must be off your heads," the crusty Football League secretary, Alan Hardaker, told the FA when it appointed the successful Leeds United manager, Don Revie, to succeed Alf Ramsey. Hardaker saw Revie as a manipulative whinger, thus he no doubt felt just a little smug on Revie's defection to the desert to coach the United Arab Emirates after the manager tried to persuade the FA to pay up his contract when England failed to qualify for the 1978 World Cup finals.

Revie's legal team easily proved bias on the part of Harold Thompson and succeeded in overturning the FA's 10-year ban on his client. "Tommy", a forthright Yorkshireman, was never one to conceal his feelings.

Bobby Robson's low point came with a visit to Saudi Arabia not long after a dismal showing in the 1988 European Championship finals. "In the name of Allah, go," screamed the headlines; reporters' views on the 1-1 draw in Riyadh may have been coloured by the FA's refusal to invite them to share Concorde with the team.

Robson, in fact, stayed. He took England to a semi-final penalty shoot- out defeat by Germany in Italia 90, but not before he had announced his decision to accept an offer to coach PSV Eindhoven. The manager undoubtedly wanted to stay, but the FA chairman, Bert Millichip, had unsettled him with comments to the press to the effect that he was not guaranteed a new contract.

Robson tried to delay the news release of his departure, but a newspaper jumped to mistaken conclusions about the reasons for his leaving. A press conference was held at which Robson was almost too angry to speak and he successfully brought defamation proceedings.

When England lost a World Cup qualifier to Norway in Oslo, then succumbed to the USA in Boston in 1993, the press hounded Graham Taylor and hapless FA officials across America in search of a sensation. It did not come, but England went out of the World Cup with a whimper in Rotterdam and Taylor submitted the expected resignation shortly over a year after the FA international committee chairman, Peter Swales, had lauded him to the heavens in preference to Bobby Robson. The son of a football reporter himself, Graham Taylor's considerable experience of the media cut no ice whatsoever when important results went against him.

Half the press loved Terry Venables for his engaging personality and tactical acumen; the other half scorned him for his questionable business record. Although Millichip had originally said Venables would get the job over his dead body, he was the keenest advocate for giving the manager a new contract in advance of Euro 96. He wanted to keep him until 1999. Sadly, Terry's court cases upset other council members and he decided not to carry on, saying they had "gone wobbly" on him. I sometimes feel I erred, not in recommending Terry's appointment in 1993-94, but in failing to advance his claims earlier.

Glenn Hoddle's fall from grace was dramatic. The press were alienated by his claims on behalf of faith healing and by the disclosure in his book that he had not been straight with them in the World Cup. Dodgy results against Sweden and Bulgaria meant that, when the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, intervened over his careless comments about reincarnation, a Football Association readily embracing the more traditional teachings of the technical director, Howard Wilkinson, was not prepared to protect him.

Kevin Keegan, bruised and bewildered, has little time to mould a cohesive unit for next year's Euro finals. Even players he drinks with will have to raise their performance if they are to produce the only thing that will enable him to buck the trend: results.

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