The Observer football correspondent Leslie Duxbury spoke to Liverpool and England striker Kevin Keegan, ‘The most exciting player on the current soccer scene’, for a new coaching series for Young Observers starting on 21 January 1973 (‘What makes Kevin Keegan King of the Kop’).
The cover (which you could order as a poster for 25p) features those long locks and staggering sideburns before his famous bubble perm appeared. Keegan was my first footballing hero as a young kid until Kenny Dalglish replaced him as Liverpool’s No 7 in 1977 (when King Kevin made way for King Kenny). My most treasured item was the Grandstand Kevin Keegan electronic action game. Imagine a handheld football version of Pong – yup, that sophisticated.
It was a mark of Keegan’s progress that, wrote Duxbury, ‘as tea boy in the office of a Yorkshire brass works he was only rated good enough to appear for the firm’s reserve team’. Keegan was humble – ‘I enjoyed myself playing for Scunthorpe – what more can you ask for?’ – and when Bill Shankly bought him for Liverpool for just £33,000 he thought, ‘If they’ve only paid that much for me, they only want me for the reserves.’
Part one of his course was ‘how he foils defenders far taller than himself’ (he was 5ft 8in) in heading the ball. As ever with Keegan, he made a virtue out of a necessity: ‘There’s less of me for him to see.’ He also picked up more speed than his opponent as he approached on his blind side. ‘Height depends on the speed of your run up,’ he said. ‘I used to chase buses when I was a kid.’
In a dread phrase to turn your blood to ice, Keegan ‘recently decided to make a pop record specially for his young fans’ – It Ain’t Easy by the Fourmost. He said recording it was the most exhausting thing he’d ever done. He obviously never tried listening to it.