Football: Keegan winds his way to place in Room 101

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The Independent Online
THAT BATTY Batty moment was as depressing as England's failure to score on Wednesday night. Perhaps it was just me, but I could have sworn, as he scythed through his Polish opponent, that I could glimpse a piece of metal in the midfielder's back - a large key with Kevin Keegan's fingerprints all over it.

A bad case of overwinding, I think. The same kind of thing sent blood rushing to the head of young Mr Scholes a little earlier in England's Euro 2000 campaign.

As I have not yet been invited on to Paul Merton's Room 101 show - it is surely a matter of time, perhaps 50 years - I have decided to host myself. So, item number one for despatch to oblivion - Kevin Keegan.

Wait a minute. I'm getting a bit of an argument here. A voice in my head is saying that I can't possibly dispense with a manager who got Newcastle United to take fire with Messrs Ginola, Gillespie and Beardsley playing to their full, thrilling potential.

In, out, in, out, shake the England manager all about. And leave him out. But hang on, other contenders for the bin are here.

Manchester United's dramatic victory over Bayern Munich in last season's European Cup final was one in the eye for Germany, those habitual penalisers of the England team. But it also performed another important function by penalising those people who decide they are clever enough not to need to see the final minutes of a football match and leave early - temporarily blocking the view of the poor saps who don't realise how it is all going to end.

On this occasion, unfortunately, that number included the man whose brilliance turned the 1968 European Cup final United's way, George Best, who left the stadium before his old team turned 1-0 down into 2-1 up in the closing minutes.

Best was not the only one to fall into this particular trap. I've heard more than one story of people watching in pubs and clubs who, once Sheringham's equaliser went in, went off to get another round in for extra-time and missed the winning goal. Pints of bitter all round, no doubt.

But it is the people who make a habit of this, week in, week out, that really get up my nose. If it's so important to beat the crowd in the car park, why not take matters to the logical extreme and never leave home? That way you'll be hours ahead of the other suckers.

Hang on, here comes another contender. It's a man on television, informing me in a husky voice that a triple-blade razor can shave my stubble right down to the epidermis with one clean sweep, closer than ever before. Why stop there? What about the quadruple-blade razor - "Cuts clean to the bone." Go to that place, husky-voiced nonsense monger! Sorry. Lost it a bit there. Let's get back to the sporting theme.

Someone put a large, metaphorical key in my back and wound it at the recent World Athletics Championships in Seville. It was Romania's supercharged waif Gabriela Szabo, who celebrated winning the 5,000 metres title by making a call on her mobile phone before she left the track. For God's sake.

"Hi mum, yes... I've won... mmm, no, I'm on my lap of honour right now. Sorry about the noise..." It can't be long, surely, before athletes dial up on their sponsored phones to provide last-lap commentaries.

Szabo can be joined in the dark place by another wind-up merchant in Seville, the PR man with the wolf-like grin who greeted British reporters assembling for a shoe com-pany press conference with the news that the decathlon silver medallist Dean Macey had agreed a three-year deal with his company.

As we had just heard Macey himself declare that he was going to go back home to Essex to consider all his options before putting pen to paper, something he had definitively not done yet, we were at something of a loss to understand this new information.

One of my senior colleagues, who shall remain Colin Hart of The Sun, expressed this apparent disjunction in concrete terms. The result was a shame-faced admission that the "deal" was only something which had been agreed in principle, and that, yes, obviously all the big players would be out waving fat cheque-books at the boy now he had done good. Move over, Gabriela.

On a larger scale, a selection of International Olympic Committee members should join the party for their cynical failure to provide ongoing funding for a research project which has established a test to detect illegal use of human growth hormone by athletes. They deserve to be.

The rest of this article has been held over due to pressure of space.