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Five Aside

The eleven ages of King Kevin Keegan

Valentine's Day marks the 58th birthday of a man who we at Soccernet miss having around. It seems longer than five months ago when Kevin Keegan staged his latest tearful departure; Newcastle is that kind of club. Here's the 11 reasons why we want to wish KK best wishes and many happy returns. Love it!

1) From zero to hero:

Kev's hopes of a professional playing career looked sunk when he was rejected by Jimmy Hill at Coventry City. Hometown club Doncaster Rovers also didn't fancy him on account of his squat stature and the teenage Keegan was reduced to playing amateur football for his employer's team before Scunthorpe took a chance on him.

Four years earlier, Ray Clemence had made his bones at the Iron before being signed by Bill Shankly. "Shanks" went back to South Yorkshire to sign Keegan, then playing as a midfielder. The 21-year-old was signed on the day Liverpool lost the 1971 FA Cup Final to Arsenal.

2) Hello, Tosh, got a new partner:

Shankly showed typical keen judgement in deciding that Keegan's all-action style would make him a better forward than midfielder. An even better move was to pair him with tall but cerebral centre-forward John Toshack.

Many a Toshack flick-on was smashed in by Keegan and the phrase "telepathic understanding" became so well used that a Granada TV programme decided to put it to the test.

Avuncular presenter Bob Greaves looked on as the pair tried to guess what was on the card the other was holding up. They did OK too, though Toshack later admitted he could see Keegan's cards in the reflection of the camera.

3) Auf wiedersehen, Kev:

After six glorious years winning trophy after trophy, Keegan decided he wanted pastures new. After announcing his intentions halfway through the 1976-77 season, he left in style and was instrumental in Liverpool's push for a unique treble haul of trophies. They fell short, just, with Manchester United denying them the FA Cup.

Yet Keegan, who had previously inspired two UEFA Cup wins, propelled the Reds to their first ever European Cup by running Borussia Monchengladbach ragged in Rome. He didn't score but man-marker Berti Vogts eventually snapped and gave away the penalty that decided matters. Keegan then joined SV Hamburg for a £500,000 fee. Liverpool fans needn't have felt too bitter; they got Kenny Dalglish in to replace him.

4) Mighty Mouse to save the day:

Moving to West Germany was a risk, though a lucrative one as the tax regime was far more lax in the FRG than Britain. The highest paid player in the Bundesliga initially found it hard in Germany, his salary meeting with disquiet from opponents and even team-mates, who, it is alleged, didn't want to pass to him.

In true style, he proved them all wrong and by the end of the 1977-8 season he was as good as he'd ever been, if not better. He was granted France Football's Ballon D'Or, the first Englishman to be so honoured since Bobby Charlton. His diminutive stature and powerful running saw him acquire the nickname "Mighty Mouse", after a popular cartoon of the time.

5) I'm a celebrity:

Keegan was perhaps the first British footballer to appreciate his financial potential. Whereas George Best blew his bucks on grog, gambling and gals, Keegan made sure he was the go-to guy for endorsements and sponsorships.

As well as boot deals and the like, Keegan's pairing with British boxing legend Henry Cooper gave rise to a legendary series of Brut commercials, featuring the half-naked pair indulging in some friendly joshing in a changing room.

Not only that, there was the release of "Head Over Heels", a pot-boiling single that reached number 31 in the UK charts but rose as far as number 10 in the German charts. While still at Liverpool, the summer of 1976 saw Keegan stage a Lazarus-like comeback in the televised multi-sports celebrity challenger Superstars. After lacerating himself in the cycling challenge, Kev ploughed on regardless and won his heat.

Last but not least comes his choice of hairdo; "the Keegan perm" spawned millions of imitators in Britain and Germany, where "Kevin" became a popular first name for the first time.

6) Saint Kev:

After losing the European Cup Final of 1980 to Nottingham Forest, Keegan, now captain of his country of four-years standing, was tempted back to home shores by Lawrie McMenemy, joining Alan Ball, Mick Channon, Peter Shilton and Mick Mills in an England captain's club at Southampton.

Two seasons of flowing football followed with Keegan in peak form and enjoying himself. He was granted the personal honour of PFA Player of the Year for 1981-1982 and handed an OBE by the Queen.

7) Howay, the lad:

A falling-out with McMenemy meant Keegan needed to find a new club. Having suffered the disappointment of marking his only major international tournament - the 1982 World Cup - with an injury and a horror miss against Spain, Kev needed some love.

Newcastle United, the team his dad supported, was just the place for that. Newcastle were down on their luck, deluded by fading grandeur, in the Second Division, but in rode Sir Kevin to save the day. As club secretary Russell Cushing put it at the unveiling: "We're in heaven, we've got Kevin."

Two years of hero worship followed before the Geordie messiah led the club back into Division 1. On his retirement in May 1984, Keegan quit St James' and football by leaving the stadium via a helicopter while still wearing his kit.

8) The second coming:

After spending nearly eight years in Spanish exile lowering his golf handicap on the Costa Del Sol, Keegan broke a promise not to go into management when the Toon came calling.

In five years he took a club again languishing at the bottom of Division Two to the brink of a Premiership title. Famously, they imploded when it was within their grasp. Manchester United stole in on the Magpies while Keegan publicly exploded against Alex Ferguson in British TV sport's most infamous post-match interview.

The following season, having bequeathed the club a "Howay 5-0" revenge win over United, Keegan flounced out on January 7 1997, saying that he had "taken the club as far as I can".

9) There's no future in England's dreaming:

KK's third exile did not last long. Phoney Pharaoah Mohammed Al-Fayed lured him to help out at Fulham, and, after shuffling Ray "Super" Wilkins out of the door, Keegan soon took the managerial reins.

After Glenn Hoddle committed career hari kari with some ill-judged comments on the disabled at the beginning of 1999, Keegan came in as Red Adair to rescue England's hopes of qualifying for Euro 2000. Mission accomplished, Keegan got the full-time gig. Disaster followed at the finals, a first-round exit was all England deserved. A World Cup qualifier defeat to Germany at a sodden Wembley signalled the end of the affair. Keegan quit in a toilet.

10) Manchester Rave On:

What now for Keegan? His managerial career had failed to match his playing achievements in a catalogue of bathetic endings.

What better match than Manchester City? It looked an ideal marriage of chaos when he arrived at Maine Road in 2001. As at Newcastle and Fulham, he lifted the club into the Premier League and had them playing attacking football. European football was soon his, via the back door of the UEFA Fair Play league. City had a new stadium too. As Keegan so sweetly put it: "Maine Road was a great football stadium but as time moved on it stayed where it is."

He even arrested City's woeful record against neighbours United. Yet, Polish unknowns Groclin ended the UEFA Cup run and rot began to set in. For the first time since that extended golfing holiday, Keegan began to look disinterested in football. As City achieved little other than mediocrity, the thrill had gone and as soon as Keegan confirmed his intention to quit football at the end of the 2004-5 season, he was asked to leave. A damp squib by previous form, he left with a whimper.

11) Never go back:

You've bought a football club, you don't like the incumbent manager and you want to prove your Geordie credentials. You are Mike Ashley and you have tempted Kevin Keegan to run away from his Football Circus to, well, you know the rest...

January 2008 felt like 1996 all over again. Take That topped the charts and Keegan was in the Newcastle dug-out alongside hang-dog faithful companion Terry McDermott. In bringing back Keegan, Ashley, notwithstanding all the beers he had bought on the Bigg Market for the fans, was suddenly everyone's favourite adopted Geordie... until he brought in pal Dennis Wise to be Kev's immediate boss and in control of transfers.

Civil war began between one faction of Keegan and the fans versus a cabal of Ashley, Wise and their "cockney mafia". Against Keegan's wishes, came the signings of invisible men Xisco and Ignacio María González, the attempted sale of Joey Barton, Michael Owen and the loss of James Milner to Aston Villa.

It was time to say goodbye again. And this time it felt final. He quit amid scenes of Tyneside insurrection and anger. Ashley was forced to stay away for months and retire his No.7 "Keegan" replica shirt. He's back now, though barely welcome in his own stadium. Keegan has maintained radio silence ever since.

With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel: Where did you go, Kevin Keegan? A Geordie nation turns its lonely eyes to you.


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