Keegan finds that his horse is no stayer

 

OH, it's a stressful business, this football management lark. "HOW MUCH?" we regularly shriek in horror when we hear what these people earn, but judging by the stress levels some of them displayed on telly last week they could never earn enough.

Kevin Keegan seems fairly stress free these days, but that's only because he got out of the managerial business a few weeks ago. Ever since he quit Newcastle United, TV reporters have been searching high up and low down for him, to have a chat, but it was the Racing Channel that finally grabbed the scoop last week when Kev turned up at the Catterick Races on Friday.

`Probing' isn't quite the term one would use to describe the interview, but Kev did have an `ask-me-why-I-quit-Newcastle-and-I'll-punch-you-in-the-gob' expression on his face. "I'll always follow Newcastle - you know, all the players I bought are still there," he said, sounding a little astonished that Pavel Srnicek, Darren Peacock and Warren Barton had survived into the second calendar month of the new regime.

That was as much as Kev would say about football; he wanted to talk about his horses' prospects under trainer, and former England team mate, Mick Channon's guidance., The analogy between this horsespeak and what he left behind at Newcastle was, however, a little striking.

"Mickey's doing a great job. I know when I send my horses to him he'll be honest with me and he'll give them every chance and when they've got no chance he won't keep them in the yard for another three or four months, sort of stringing me along," he said ... which probably left his former chairman, Sir John Hall, wondering why the hell Kev had kept Pavel, Darren and Warren in the Newcastle yard for as long as he did, stringing him along into thinking they might help win the Premiership.

(By the way Kev's runner at Catterick that day, Matching Colour, failed to finish his race, which led to a flood of unkind comments and puns from every television sportsnews reader on Friday. Most cruel.)

Meanwhile, back at St James's Park, Keegan's successor, Kenny Dalglish, seems to have aged 20 years in his first month in charge of what Kev left behind. He also appeared to have mislaid his legendary sense of humour at a press conference last Monday when he was asked to explain why his team had been dumped out of the FA Cup by struggling Nottingham Forest. He tried to explain, but it wasn't easy to understand.

"Every team needs a bit of luck and certainly in the last two games we've not had any luck. But we've explained that to you before, but seemingly you don't want to accept that - but there's no point me changing my mind just because you keep asking the question ... that's what I believe," he said. Welcome back Kenny, we missed you.

Joe Royle was another struggling manager in a grumpy mood last week as rumours began to circulate that his job at Everton was under threat. "Tell us about your problems - how bad are they," asked Sky Sports Saturday's Rob Palmer. "Well obviously after six league defeats in a row and a Cup defeat at the hands of a lower league side we're not good at the moment," replied Honest Joe.

"At the start of the season you were looking at Europe and a top five place - what are your aims now," enquired Rob. "Well, what we've got to do is a win a game - as quickly as possible," answered Joe. `Target re-evaluation' they call that). And what about Joe's critics? "Emptiest vessels make the most noise

I've marked one or two cards," he said. Gulp.

Back in the Sky studio Rodney Marsh offered his thoughts on Joe's problems. "Well, Joe Royle is a very intelligent, sensitive man and he will take personally the criticism that has been put his way the past few weeks. I will say this - there's an old North American Indian saying..."

At this point fellow guests Tony Gale, Alan Brazil and Clive Allen collapsed in to peels of laughter, because Rodney has been coming out with lots of `old North American Indian sayings' over the past few weeks and the lads just think they're a bit silly. "No there is," insisted a hurt Rodney. "It's not how a tribe wins together, it's how they lose together - at the moment Everton are not losing well together." (By now tears were streaming down the faces of Tony, Alan and Clive - they just don't appreciate he quality of Rodney's contributions).

Speaking of losing tribes. Two words - West and Ham. Leading scorer this season? Left back Julian Dicks with five goals. Say no more. Still, under-fire manager Harry Redknapp was in fighting form on Match of the Day. "It'll be nice when we turn it around at the end of the year and we can say to one or two people `up yours'," he proclaimed. (Somebody should tell Harry that the `end of the year' is too late - the season ends in just over three months).

George Graham is also trying to turn things around at Elland Road these days, but he still found time on Sky Sports Centre to say some very nice things about Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, but added a stinging proviso: "He'll be judged by what he has won at the end of the season." Hopefully, for George's sake, the same criteria won't be used by the Leeds board when they pass judgement on him in May.

The one thing you can say about George is that he's always good for a laugh. Take his comments on Match of the Day after Leeds had had three `goals' ruled offside against Arsenal. "If there's an element of doubt keep the flag ....... give the advantage to the attacking team and we'll get a much better game," said the man who had his players doing a new version of the Hokey-Cokey in his time at Arsenal: "Put your right arm up, shake it all about - leave it there for 90 minutes and scream `THAT'S OFFSIDE REF WITHOUT A DOUBT'."