Kevin Keegan was a good player. In fact, he is one of the greatest British players of all time.
Often underrated within the realms of footballing history; the Liverpool, Hamburg and England cult hero was incredibly talented. Keegan went on to more than proved his abilities domestically within the English game, was honoured on the Europe stage and shone at international level during a time when his nation team were failing to qualify for major tournaments!
Keegan was also a good player because was technically gifted and performed consistently at the highest level of the game.
7 Reasons Why Kevin Keegan Was A Good Player
Even during his career's infancy, Kevin Keegan was widely touted and highly praised for his astounding work ethic.
“His enthusiasm and energy were fantastic from the off,” recalls Legendary Liverpool midfielder Ian Callaghan. “He was a very fit young guy and he gave everything - you could see how much he wanted it.”
However often being labelled as a player who ‘gave it his all,’ this image sometimes erodes parts of Keegan’s legacy. A lasting impression remains to this day, that his rise to the summit of the game was more down to hard work than natural talent. However this couldn't be further from the truth.
Power And Dynamism
A study of Keegan’s highlights reel immediately reveals the power he possessed as a forward player.
The Englishman was accustomed to making relentless yet clever runs down field and into the penalty box. His direct and aggressive nature meant he strived to take up fantastic positions in order to hurt the opposition.
During his time in Germany, Keegan was given the name ‘Mighty Mouse’ by Hamburg teammate Manfred Kaltz because of his stocky yet sturdy frame.
Understanding Of The Game
Keegan’s understanding of the game was perhaps his biggest asset.
He always seemed to have a picture in his head of play and where best to mount an attack. For all of the Englishman’s bullishness, it was his movement and forward thinking that set him apart from fellow players of the era.
His anticipation in front of goal only added to Keegan’s effectiveness with many of his close range finishes coming from ‘tap ins’ as he pounced on defensive mistakes or goalkeeper spills.
A defining characteristic of Keegan’s playing career was his dogged determination and an endless desire to win.
He was fiercely competitive. A prime example of which came during the 1974 Charity Shield at Wembley, when Keegan engaged in a fist fight with Leeds Captain Billy Bremner, resulting in both men being sent off and each receiving an eleven match ban.
Yet by controlling the competitive edge it created an intensity that served him well. Keegan would never give up and displayed true commitment through to the final whistle.
Kevin Keegan had all types of goals in his skillset.
He typically struck the ball with force from all different angles and ranges. The Englishman would often bravely bundle the ball into the net through a crowd of defenders, drive shots from inside the box and power headers past helpless goalkeepers. Each time he’d raise both arms aloft and puff out his chest to the adoring masses.
During his six seasons at Liverpool Keegan scored 100 times in 321 appearances. Following his move to Hamburg, he netted forty times in just 111 games across three hugely successful Bundesliga campaigns. His record for England generally goes unnoticed but it’s impressive. Over a ten year period Keegan registered on 21 occasions whilst earning only 63 caps and finished an impressive 20th on England’s all time goal scoring list.
Keegan was very adaptable in terms of both playing style and career progression.
He could more than hold his own in a midfield role or excel as a forward. Keegan’s pace was generally underrated and his close control when dribbling was exceptional. He had superb aerial ability and could contribute defensively to great effect.
Keegan also showed an adaptability on a personal level following his move to Hamburg.
Making that transition from the comfort of North West England to one of Germany’s largest Port Cities was potentially daunting and yet Keegan seemed to adjust quickly.
"He put in a lot of effort and learned German very quickly," explains former teammate and right back Manfred Kaltz. "He needed a bit of time to settle but soon fitted in extremely well. In terms of commitment, attitude and ambition, everyone acknowledged that Kevin really was something special."
Keegan was consistent in both standards and success.
He completed his transfer to Hamburg in 1978 for a club record fee of £500,000. The move came with enormous pressure and an expectation that he would help the club win their first league title in nearly twenty years.
Yet Keegan rose above the grandeur of his transfer and grew into an immensely consistent performer, in his debut season scoring twelve goals and providing dazzling displays that wowed those in European football.
He went on to win the Ballon d'Or, then the following campaign helped Hamburg to secure the Bundesliga title, again being named European Footballer Of The Year in 1979.
Keegan is one of only ten players in the game’s history to have won two or more Ballon d'Or honours and was the first British player since Bobby Charlton to claim the award in 1966.
In his final season in Germany he propelled Hamburg to the 1980 European cup final.
He even managed to score regularly over the course of a decade as part of an England side who were generally considered mediocre and serial underachievers.