LFC Advent Calendar 7 – Kevin Keegan
Everyone knows the story of King Kenny, but the man he replaced was also a famous #7.
Kevin Keegan arrived from Scunthorpe in 1971 as a 20 year old for 35,000 pounds. He would score on his debut against Peterborough after 12 minutes, and score 100 goals in 323 games for the Reds.
Originally signed to replace an aging Ian Callaghan on the right wing, it was in a full-scale practice match at Melwood that began Keegan’s rise toward superstardom. He would go on to score three goals in his opening five league games, and, despite a run in the reserves being commonplace at the time for newcomers, Keegan never played a reserve game in his seven year stint at Anfield.
The Reds came up short of winning the title by way of a loss against Derby and a controversial draw against Arsenal in Keegan’s first year as a Red, but he wouldn’t have to wait long to get his revenge, as Liverpool won the league title in the 72/73 season and added to it a UEFA Cup winners medal, beating Borussia Monchengladbach in a two legged tie that began a long and storied friendship between the clubs.
Keegan would score two goals in the first leg that was rearranged from the previous day after the match was rescheduled due to torrential rain. Manager Bill Shankly would make one change from the 27 minutes played before the rain hit, as John Toshack replaced Brian Hall up front behind Keegan to exploit Gladbach’s vulnerability in the air. It was Toshack that set Keegan up for his double as Shanks’ men ran out 3-0 winners on the day, and though they lost the away leg 2-0, would win the Cup 3-2 on aggregate.
The Toshack-Keegan pair was one of many storied partnerships throughout the history of LFC, and at the time was so deadly that the BBC featured them on a TV show back to back to test if the two of them could actually read each other’s thoughts.
After losing the title in 73/74, the Reds lifted the FA Cup, which set the stage for the now infamous fight with Billy Bremner in the 1974/75 Charity Shield. Both players were given lengthy bans, perhaps both for causing the scene at the first match of the annual event played at England’s national ground, and for removing their shirts after the altercation was over. Keegan returned to play 33 league games that year, but was perhaps crucial to their second place finish.
1975/76 was one of great personal success for him. In addition to Liverpool’s League and UEFA Cup double, Keegan won the Football Writers’ Association’s Player of the Year award, after which he gave the club and fans a warning ahead of time that he would be leaving at the end of the next season for Hamburg.
He went out with a bang, helping his club win our first European Cup as his final bow, leaving for Germany for a then-record fee of 500,000.
He went on to win the Bundesliga in his second season, securing two European Footballer of the Year awards after finishing runner up in his last season with Liverpool, making him one of the only players to leave the club for “better things”. Liverpool then used the money they earned to buy Kenny Dalglish, who wrote his own name into Anfield folklore despite the faithful wondering at the time how in the world they would replace Keegan’s appetite for goals.
Kevin Keegan would return to England at age 29 with Southampton before moving to Newcastle, where he would retire as a player and then go on to manage in two stints. Time at the helm of Fulham, Manchester City, and England would follow. The man they affectionately called “Mighty Mouse” would also have time as a pundit while also releasing a handful of singles as a Musician.
A true great of the game, Kevin Keegan was Liverpool’s first real superstar, and though his contribution to Liverpool’s illustrious history is someone overshadowed by the man that came after him, he too made the #7 shirt special for the Reds.