Keegan quits football as England lose

Cole Moreton
Sunday 08 October 2000 00:00

The England football coach, Kevin Keegan, shocked his players as well as the fans last night by resigning after his team's dismal performance against Germany in the opening match of the campaign to qualify for the 2002 World Cup.

The England football coach, Kevin Keegan, shocked his players as well as the fans last night by resigning after his team's dismal performance against Germany in the opening match of the campaign to qualify for the 2002 World Cup.

Supporters were making their way home in the rain from the last-ever game at Wembley Stadium when the man once hailed as the people's choice to manage England emerged from the dressing room and announced he was finished.

His timing was surprising, with the England camp due to travel to Helsinki for another qualifier against Finland on Wednesday night. But the 1-0 defeat against traditional rivals Germany had brought back memories of England's chronic under-achievement in Euro 2000 over the summer. As he left the sodden pitch, Keegan looked miserable. Moments later, he declared his intention to walk away from football completely.

Keegan refused to criticise either the players or the press, with whom a succession of England managers before him had fallen out. "It was 1,000 per cent my decision," Keegan said. "Please don't think anyone has put a gun to my head. I have always been a man who knows when the time is right. I don't want to outstay my welcome."

The former coach, Terry Venables, was immediately installed as 4-1 favourite to regain his old job. The Leicester manager, Peter Taylor, was 6-1, with Arsenal's French coach, Arsene Wenger, at 12-1. England's technical director, Howard Wilkinson, is expected to act as caretaker on Wednesday, as he has already done once before.

Keegan denied rumours that he had fallen out with Wilkinson. "I have had all the help I have needed to do my job properly," he said, "but I've not been quite good enough."

The chief executive of the FA, Adam Crozier, insisted that Keegan had been a terrific manager who retained the support of a close-knit squad of players. "I admire him very much as a man. He has shown great dignity at all times. We tried very hard to persuade him to stay on, even if only for Wednesday."

The coach himself was adamant. "I felt I would be doing it for all the wrong reasons. I know it's not great timing but there's never a good time." He became the third England coach in the last five years to leave the job after losing a match to Germany.

Alan Shearer, who resigned as Keegan's captain after Euro 2000, said he was "amazed" by the timing but understood Keegan's reasons for going. The England team had not performed to the expected standards over the summer, or on Saturday afternoon. "He's hurt and he's very disappointed. As players, we failed. We let him down and let our country down."

Those fans who lingered outside Wembley shared the surprise. "I am not very happy about it," said Laurie Deimel, 23, from Studley, Warwickshire. "I think after just one game of a qualifying campaign it's a bit sudden. You need stability to get success."

Terry Venables said Keegan had "made a very brave move". But he wondered whether the former Newcastle manager had been right to accept the challenge in the first place.

"The fans got him the job. He said the fans wanted him to take it. You do get caught up in these things. Sometimes you don't make the right decision."

Asked whether he expected an approach from the FA, Venables said: "There is no come on and there hasn't been for a long while."

Venables was the last England coach to enjoy anything like success, guiding the team to the semi-final of Euro 96 at Wembley. They lost on penalties, to Germany.

Venables remained popular with the public but resigned to fight a legal battle unrelated to the England job. His successor, Glenn Hoddle, appeared to build on the progress that had been made, but clumsy man-management, a cold personal style and reliance on a faith-healer, Eileen Drewery, led to criticism, which grew after a disappointing exit from the World Cup in 1998. Even the Prime Minister said Hoddle's departure was inevitable when he made ill-advised comments about the disabled and karma.

Howard Wilkinson held the reins for a 2-0 defeat by the world champions, France, before Kevin Keegan was enticed into the job early last year.

The son of a Yorkshire miner, he had played for Liverpool during their best years under his great hero, Bill Shankly, before moving to Hamburg, where the Germans nicknamed him "Mighty Mouse".

His last act as a player was to take Newcastle back into the top division, before retiring to play golf in Spain.

He returned to "the Toon" eight years later as manager - the only job that he said could have ended his retirement. Keegan took them from strugglers in the old Second Division to second place in the Premiership but his adventurous side lacked the defensive strength needed to win the title. He resigned unexpectedly again, although he continued to live in a luxurious house on Sir John Hall's estate, Wynyard.

Mohammed Al Fayed persuaded him out of retirement a second time to lead Fulham, then bowed to overwhelming public opinion in allowing him to take control of the national side early last year. Under Keegan, England won seven games, drew seven and lost four.

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