Football: Keegan the talisman shows way to Euphoria 2000

European Championships: With a charismatic caretaker manager, England strike a positive note as Scholes delivers the goals to paper over the tactical cracks against weak Poles

WHATEVER HIS tactical naivete, there is nothing wrong with Kevin Keegan's hotline to higher forces. No one could argue with England's victory and Keegan duly left his debut as England coach basking in the sunshine of a matchless afternoon and the adulation of a fervent home crowd. It seemed churlish to point out, after all the brouhaha of Glenn Hoddle's departure and the reincarnation of one of football's favourite sons as England saviour, that England are still languishing in a group they should have dominated from the start.

Poland's encounter with Sweden in Katowice on Wednesday will be critical to England's fate in qualifying directly from the group. But there was no mistaking the remarkable transformation in mood and deed worked by the charismatic new caretaker. Short-term thinking is in vogue at Lancaster Gate and there is no more popular purveyor of magical potions than Kevin Keegan. It might also be pointed out, as television counted down to "Keegan kick-off", that Paul Scholes played a significant part in lending a touch of Brasso to Keegan's halo. His rediscovery of the goal-scoring form which first brought him to attention in the pre-World Cup tournament in France gave Keegan's debut a flattering final scoreline and papered over the considerable cracks in England's tactics and technique. A more accomplished side than Poland would surely have punished England's defensive frailties more severely.

But nothing could spoil Keegan's day, from the moment his name was uttered from the loudspeakers to the hugathon at the final whistle. And to think it could have been an away day to Walsall instead, had Glenn Hoddle kept his views on reincarnation to himself. "It's a big thrill if you walk out at Wembley as a ballboy," he said. "When you're England manager, it's very, very special. It's a privilege few people get to enjoy."

Equally, few players get to savour the memories of a hat-trick at Wembley. With Keegan's blessing, Scholes popped up three times within the six-yard box to flick, nudge and head home a priceless international hat-trick. A suspicion of handball for the middle goal of the three did not diminish the achievement, though Hoddle, in the ITV studio, might have questioned the spiritual significance of shifting fortunes. England had taken the field, their ears ringing with Keegan's demands that they enjoy themselves. Enjoyment had not been much of a force in Hoddle's England. Nor had entertainment been at the top of the list after a drab 0-0 draw with Bulgaria.

England's positive attitude was apparent from the first move of the game. A long ball to Alan Shearer came to nothing, but both Andy Cole and Scholes had made runs into the penalty area to profit from any flick. It was thoroughly appropriate that a player made in Keegan's bustling, combative mould should open the account of a bright, if potentially brief, new era.

Still, the enduring image of a joyous afternoon will be the greying figure in the England hot seat, peering into the sunshine, his face betraying every nuance of a game which England came to dominate only as the shadows reached the half-way line. Gone was Hoddle's stony face, in its place a jack-in-the-box coach living each kick, tackle and pass. A stunning Shearer volley in the early minutes prompted momentary despair. He did not have to wait long for the full monty. A goal fashioned by the partnership of Shearer and Cole allowed Scholes to beat the keeper, Adam Matysek, to a dainty through ball. Keegan leapt to his feet in celebration. What followed was a flashing video of Keegan's quixotic managerial life: three goals in 30 minutes, plenty of entertainment, some imaginative attacking and a game nicely under control pitched into limbo by some neurotic defending recognisable to the regulars at St James' Park. "I know you'll say `typical'. I'd have liked to keep a clean sheet, but we did what we had to do."

Keegan's bubbly persona allied to the tabloids' perception of public mood had lent a happy air to the preparations all week. Where Hoddle had laboured through press conferences, Keegan was on home ground, bulldozing his way through questions with a series of soundbites from his extensive selection of US-style management motivation books. It was Venables without the side. Even the players seemed to take their cue from the top. But the real questions had yet to be asked.

Would Keegan's old-fashioned appeal to the qualities of pride and passion mask his lack of international coaching experience? Shankly's motivational techniques worked wonders at club level, but the game has moved on since Liverpool occupied Europe's centre-stage. To be fair to the third England coach in the last three games, Keegan has had no time to impose any sophisticated international masterplan on his side, even if he had devised one on his off-days at Fulham, nor to transform a demoralised squad into a coherent force. So seat of the pants it had to be. Forward thinking might not be his strong point, but thinking forward is his prime asset and the game was ready-made for the positive. The reintroduction of Steve McManaman stemmed in part from thinning reserves but also from Keegan's essential beliefs. McManaman enjoyed his best spell just after the break, but only spasmodically provided the creative dribbling and the width Keegan required.

Yet not all the long-term concerns were addressed by Keegan's new England. Shearer had made no secret of his pleasure in working for his old mentor at Newcastle, but failed to answer questions about his goal- scoring prowess. A difficult game for strikers, Keegan said. Tim Sherwood, in contrast, brought an extra attacking dimension to his defensive midfield duties and lent composure at times when England were stretched. "Four games," said Keegan later. "I'm going to enjoy every one of them. I want to leave the next England manager in the position I'd like to be in if I was coming in. Then I'm going back to Fulham". One down, three to go. Given the ovation he received at the final whistle, Keegan might find public opinion makes his departure harder than he imagines. At present, Keegan has no need of a faith healer; he can do the job himself.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most