This work tracks the progress of Keegan, the players and the bureaucrats, on the pitch and behind closed doors. It asks such questions as "why did he fail to produce a satisfactory win in early European qualification games?"
"I failed to get the best out of the players I chose and that is down to me", he said. Then he said something that perhaps is the biggest self-condemnation of any England manager there has been. "I wasn't able to get my team to do what I wanted them to do", he said.Poor Kevin Keegan. Once the bubble-permed Mighty Mouse of English football, champion of Liverpool's Kop, European footballer of the year, a national hero who was living the Roy of the Rovers dream. And then he tried his hand at management.
In Poisoned Chalice Sun journalist Brian Woolnough joins the roller-coaster ride as the FA waves a tearless goodbye to the gifted, though simply too eccentric god-botherer Glenn Hoddle and heralds the Keegan era--from the qualified optimism of his appointment to the lingering sense of disappointment as his side returned defeated from Euro 2000. It wasn't long after this book was written that a broken Keegan publicly fell on his sword.
Woolnough has reported on the fluctuating fortunes of England's national team for 30 years--the momentary highs, the interminable lows and the gallery of once-hopeful helmsman who have steered England from one set of rocks to another--and he brings that perspective to bear on the questions of why Hoddle, Keegan et al. so consistently fail to meet the expectations of England's supporters, and whether there is something so fundamentally wrong with the way the national game functions that failure is the only possible outcome.
Of course, Woolnough and the newspaper for which he writes are dominant voices in the persecuting chorus that follows every England manager--at times it reads like a hyena's account of the disappointing struggle put up by its latest kill, and raises familiar questions about the vested interest the media has in chivvying their subjects from one page-filling crisis to another.
A fascinating book, which goes below decks of the good ship Keegan and brings back at rat's eye view as it slips inexorably beneath the waves. --Alex Hankin