England manager Kevin Keegan is becoming less and less
convincing a month ahead of England's last chances to keep alive their
qualification for the Euro 2000 finals. Keegan is quoted in today's papers as saying: "I thought we
would win those games against Sweden and Bulgaria. I really did. But
we still have it in our hands to qualify, and I'm the eternal
optimist." Last week he was talking up the possibility of a
resurrected Paul Gascoigne furnishing the spark missing from England's
midfield. This week he's bubbling about England's young prospects and
particularly 17-year-old midfielder Joe Cole, who has yet to break into West Ham
United's first team.
That what Keegan chooses to focus on
after leading England to the brink of a devastating failure to qualify is a
faded and jaded star who hasn't played for England since before World Cup 1998
and young players who are untried at the international level and inexperienced
even at the club level should be cause for concern. Keegan's pitches to
the press resemble the proverbial drowning man clutching at straws, at the
opposite pole from the image he imagines he casts as an optimist brimming with
confidence and enthusiasm. Most of the English football media, largely
responsible for getting rid of Glenn Hoddle and installing Keegan as his
successor, continue to swallow Keegan's babblings without serious question.
England fans are left to clinging to straw hopes that what Keegan talks about
and what he thinks about are different things.