Keegan didn’t have the happiest of times as England manager and it still seems he harbours some bitterness about that period in his career. In fact, he has said that he’d urge tipped Capello successor Harry Redknapp not to bother:
“I didn’t enjoy it. Simple as that. It was not a job I applied for. I was at Fulham and took over part-time. It was probably me getting carried away on an idea.
“If Harry Redknapp phoned me up and asked me what I thought about him taking it, I’d say, ‘Don’t take it unless you want a lot of free time’. I really would.“
Keegan then goes on the bemoan the lack of English talent and how he found the national manager’s job to be a ‘soulless’ one:
“I would go to Highbury and see Aime Jacquet [then manager of France] watching about 15 players of his and I would have one. I wouldn’t mind if I could have gone to see Paris St Germain v Nantes and watched 15 English lads. But it wasn’t like that.
“I found the job soulless. It was hard to fill in the time. I found myself going and training the blind team, the deaf team, working with the ladies’ team.
“It’s very difficult and it saddens me to say it but it’s a better job for a foreigner than an Englishman at the moment.“
Finally, the former Toon supremo expresses his deep distrust of the media and cautions against saying anything ‘off the record’:
“The media are the media. The one who had the easiest ride was Terry Venables, because they were all his friends. I never had one friend in the press. Nobody was getting inside information from me. I don’t have that sort of relationship with any press guy.
“That’s because I don’t trust the press. Some of the guys are OK. But if they ask me something off the record, I won’t tell them anything. There is no such thing as ‘off the record’. If there was, why would they ask?
“I’ve worked with them all. I’ve worked with some of them since they were young lads, so I probably know more about them than they do about me. But trust them? No.
“I don’t need a press man to do me a favour. That’s where I am in the game. It’s annoyed some of them. I know how the press work: they’ve written the story and they just want you to give them the headline.
“When you’re England manager, it’s like being Prime Minister. They are trying to get a certain answer out of you.“
Well I’d certainly agree about the media. They print stories to sell papers and we should always bear in mind that that motivation is often more important to them than things like truth and balance.
My own opinion on the England side isn’t as dire as Keegan’s when it comes to ability. We generally seem to qualify for these competitions fairly well (McLaren’s spell notwithstanding) but then go to pieces in the actual competition finals. We seem to unaccountably change our game for the finals – altering what was a winning pattern in the qualifiers – and our heads never seem to be in the right place.
We may not have the necessary talent to actually win these competitions but we under-perform in comparison to the talent we do have, as evidenced by the so-called ‘golden generation’ at the last World Cup.