Sport on TV: The long journey from Scunthorpe to Sofia

IF CHANNEL 5 aren't careful, they are going to make a name for themselves as producers of high-quality sports documentaries.

On Tuesday, the eve of their first England game, they put out Kevin Keegan - Football Messiah? As it turned out, the question mark was highly appropriate given that the film was sandwiched by two England performances about as exciting as a dead dog.

It was far better than anything ITV would have come up with, and wouldn't even have looked out of place on BBC2. Though it had a bold style, it was not art-directed by a colour-blind acid-head and not edited by a veteran of late-60s pop promos. There was no irritating early-70s porn-film music playing under the interviews, the titles were not ripped off from a bar- b-q restaurant menu and, best of all, the script was not written by someone sacked from Sunday Sport for being too downmarket.

As a bonus, the voice-over by Craig Brown (the Scouse actor, that is, rather than the Scotland football coach or the dotty-looking columnist) was delivered in a manner that was dramatic without being melodramatic. The interviews were all letter-boxed, with nicely stylised backdrops. The quality of what was said was faultless, and the makers showed a bit of imagination in getting hold of people.

So, for example, there was Tom Taylor, local journalist and Graham's dad, commenting on Keegan's time at Scunthorpe, salad days when fans turned up just to watch him train.

My favourite sequence was from those humble beginnings - a beautiful piece of film in crisp monochrome, presumably from a regional magazine programme, of Keegan on the training ground. It looked like a kitchen- sink drama, and when they interviewed the young lad, he was the role model for young Billy Casper in Kes.

There were also contributions from his Hamburg team-mates, most of whom were sufficiently jealous of him at first to keep him starved of the ball. In a presumably related development, they also advised him to put out his magnificently bad pop single in Germany (the programme's credits were over footage of him performing his magnum opus over Tales of the Unexpected visuals).

Another smart move was enlisting the journalist Patrick Barclay, who is always good to have on programmes like these. He was certainly value for money this time round, doing an Alf Ramsay for Keegan. He declared boldly at the beginning: "If Keegan stays with England three years, then England will win the World Cup under him." Quite remarkable.

The last word was left to Barclay, too, by way of explaining his opening salvo: "It's acknowledged by experts all over the world - " i.e. Barclay and one or two of his foreign journo chums - "that between the ages of 18 and 25, England have the best players in the world. So the man who reaps that at full national level is going to be a very lucky boy - a knight, probably a peer, maybe even the first president of the republic. It's going to be a very exciting phase, and... I have reason to believe that Kevin Keegan wants to be around to be that man."

I wonder if Barclay felt quite as confident after the Bulgaria game. The honeymoon was only going to last as long as England kept on winning, of course, and journalist Steve Curry, who's clearly not a Keegan fan and is well versed in the ancient art of handing out serious stick to England managers, did a bit of anticipatory sticking the boot in.

"Just as he walked away from football and went to Spain for seven years to play golf" - as if that somehow disqualifies him to coach England - "so he can walk out again."

Of a similar viewpoint was Mark Hardy of the Newcastle Sunday Sun, who drew on past experience. "Somewhere along the way there'll be bad results," Hardy said. "The grief will come his way and he'll revert to type, as he did at Newcastle." Ouch.

There's not a lot of bad stuff to rake up, but the programme was no hagiography. There was evidence of his willfulness, for example, Ray Clemence revealing that at Anfield, if Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan wanted Keegan to play, say, slightly deeper than usual, they would simply tell him to play as far forward as possible.

His lack of regard for tactics carried over into management, and it was interesting to be given a few insights into how he operates. He's not a great tactician, it seems, appearing to follow the Matt Busby Coaching Manual.

"He puts no restrictions on the player," David Batty says. "He can go where he wants and everyone else has to fill in."

That last bit's slightly worrying, don't you think? But then, as Kevin Keegan discovered on Wednesday night, there is nothing to fear but Sofia itself.

Judging by the performance of his pygmies last Tuesday and Saturday, what Keegan needs is a giant of a man, a Colossus to bestride the Low Countries next year. What he needs is football's equivalent of Plugger Lockett.

Lockett - real name Tony - will be familiar to Aussie Rules fans as the baobab of a man who kicks goals like Rupert Murdoch buys up football rights. He just can't stop himself, and in the early hours of Thursday morning, Channel 5 showed the Sydney Swan's record-breaking achievement in scoring 1,300 of them in his career.

The delicacy with which this huge bloke plucks the ball out of the air is miraculous; his eye for goal seemingly infallible. He needed to score three against Collingwood to break the record; he scored nine. We need a bit of that spirit here, I reckon, before Keegan can start thinking about trips to Buck House.

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

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Health & Safety Consultant

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic and exciting opport...

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic