Football: One day at a time, one team at a time

Steve Tongue finds Kevin Keegan juggling his dual roles with relish

ON TUESDAY evening, after a Second Division fixture at Stoke, Kevin Keegan will pull off his Fulham bobble-hat and, metaphorically at least, don an England topper to finalise his first squad as chief operating officer - sorry, manager - of the national team, to be announced on Thursday afternoon. Friday morning will find him track-suited and football-booted again, doing what he loves best at Fulham's training ground in Roehampton (once, coincidentally, used by England), before another Nationwide League fixture, at home to Blackpool on Saturday.

In his own words: "You've got to have your Fulham head-on, then as far as I'm concerned, it's England all the way, with the get-together on Sunday and six days together before the Poland game." By then, the FA's technical director, Howard Wilkinson, backed up by his assistant Les Reed, Derek Fazackerley and Arthur Cox, hopes to have undertaken all the preparation, and more, that a full-time manager would have been involved with.

"The intention was that Kevin's Fulham time would be affected as little as possible," Wilkinson said. "We've been to Poland, organised scouting, looked at tapes and we're hopefully making sure that by the time he arrives, before he wants an answer, we've anticipated the question."

The good news to report, after a week of Fulham-watching, is that the Keegan head is firmly screwed on and as yet shows no sign whatever either of swelling with importance or bursting from the pressure inside it. If there is any bad news, as clues are sought to his eventual intentions regarding the England position, it is that the level of job satisfaction he finds at Fulham Football Club is clearly high enough - and the level of aggravation low enough - to render any other employment undesirable the moment it becomes too stressful. Asked in a radio interview last week if he was enjoying himself, he replied, a little ominously: "The day I stop enjoying things is the day I usually move on."

His club are certainly on the move. Last Tuesday's 4-0 victory at Luton, followed by a 3-2 win at Bristol Rovers on Friday, virtually ensured that the most expensive squad ever to muddy their knees in the Second Division, at pounds 8.5m, will win automatic promotion, rather than having to risk repeating last season's indignity of losing in the play-offs, when Grimsby proved too strong.

Since then, every area of the team has been strengthened with the chairman Mohamed Al Fayed's money and Keegan's judgement. A combination of Paul Peschisolido, the aggressive German Dirk Lehmann and Peter Beardsley might have seemed good enough to unhinge most Second Division defences, yet last autumn Fulham splashed out another pounds 2m on Barry Hayles of Bristol Rovers and a more modest pounds 350,000 on Halifax Town's Geoff Horsfield. At Luton, the new striking partners demolished the home team, Hayles' pace forcing a penalty (and consequent sending off), then the fourth goal, while Horsfield scored two astonishing goals - a dribble through the defence and a fizzing first-time drive from a low cross - to give him eight in five games. By Friday night, in the driving rain of Bristol, it was nine in six.

Apart from "Keegan for Fulham", the most popular chant at the west London club's games is now "Horsfield for England". At first, this was assumed to be satirical, as was the Evening Standard headline "Horsfield to keep England waiting" above his quote: "I can't see it coming off yet, maybe in the future. We'll just have to wait and see." Now nobody is quite so sure. What seems certain is that Keegan will take no greater pleasure from working with the best players in the land than he does from seeing the likes of Horsfield and Hayles develop. "They've got that little bit of hunger and I like that," he said. "They listen to you and want to learn. Don't forget they were both playing Conference football two years ago. You've got to look at how much they will improve with proper training, diet and, hopefully, even better coaching.

"I'm getting a real buzz out of working with all these players. They've got a lot of character but a lot of ability too and that excites me."

In his new dual role, taking one team at a time, as well as one game, might seem essential. Keegan, however, is already envisaging Fulham's step up to a higher level next season: "With the players we've got and the way we play our football, the First Division would suit us even better. And there's proof of that in the Cup runs where we've played Premiership opposition - Southampton four times, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Manchester United - we've had a little taste and come out quite well, so all the signs are that we shouldn't be afraid of going one division higher."

Note the use of "we" not "they". Will he go with them? As with Horsfield's international prospects, only time will tell, for in the next breath, the irrepressible enthusiast in Keegan is sounding just as excited about England: "I know a lot of people are sceptical about it working, but I'm not. The FA obviously aren't, or they wouldn't have appointed me, and I'm sure the players will respond in the way you'd expect them to.

"If the result is right against Poland, maybe a few people might look at the situation and say, `Hey, maybe it can work', and the sceptics might be proved wrong."

Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Sport
Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
Sport
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Developer (ASP.NET, F#, SQL, MVC, Bootstrap, JavaScript)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?