Updated: Friday, 24th November 2017 @ 8:08am

'Another level': Ex-Man City boss Keegan laughs off club's supposed failure this season

'Another level': Ex-Man City boss Keegan laughs off club's supposed failure this season

| By Tom Pilcher – sports editor

Don’t hint at a possible failure by Manchester City this season to their former manager and twice footballer of the year Kevin Keegan.

True, last year’s champions and League Cup winners haven’t added to their trophy cabinet under Manuel Pellegrini in 2015 yet they still lie second – with the best goal difference in the top flight.

And City’s tilt at Champions League football next season, their community work and expanding fan base point to a long and prosperous future says Keegan, who  knows how hard keeping the league title is.

“Winning the title is one thing, it’s a very difficult thing retaining it,” the former England international told MM at last week’s BIBA conference and exhibition in Manchester Central.

“We never did it in my time at Liverpool and we were a great side. So it’s no major surprise City haven’t won it two-three years on the trot.

“City are now at another level and they’re a club that wants to be bettering themselves.”

City were famously transformed from one of English football’s biggest underachievers just over a decade ago to FA Cup winners in 2011, the start of a glorious run for a side used to playing second fiddle in Manchester.

A first league title in 44 years the following season in the most dramatic of circumstances, then the top flight and League Cup double in 2013/14 – Pellegrini’s first season in charge – were further signs of City’s astonishing transformation.

Yet despite the success, some City fans would almost prefer to wind back the clock. Keegan, one of English football’s most adored figures of the last few decades, understands this mentality but urges fans to live in the present and to cherish it.

 

 

“Some Man City fans would still like to be going to Maine Road. That’s where they went with their Dad and Granddad so there are memories there,” said the 64-year-old, nodding understandingly.

“Or the fans who look back and say ‘Oh, those days when we played with more freedom and teams liked us more because we weren’t successful whereas now they don’t like us because we’ve got money’.

“I get that, but the game’s moved on and they’ve now got a beautiful stadium. You’ve got to live in the present and it’s a great club to be a fan of.

“I understand why some supporters think the days of everything going wrong and somehow getting away with it were better, but where they are now as a football club is right at the pinnacle.”

Keegan – who managed City from 2001-05 – said City fans need only remind themselves of the uncertainty of days gone by to realise they’re better off now.

“The expectation is so different now. When I went in it was to get promotion, then it was to stay in that division because before I went in they’d been in five different divisions in five seasons,” he said.

“When I asked David Bernstein what he wanted from me he said ‘Can we just stay in the same division for a year?’ So City have come a long way from that. It wasn’t that long ago in football terms.”

 

 

With new and more demanding ownership at City, Chilean Pellegrini has been under pressure this season after a brilliant first year in charge.

“Football is constantly evolving. Managers don’t stay for 20 years anymore,” said Keegan, who also managed Newcastle United (twice), Fulham and England.

“It’s going to be two or three years, in and out, good job bad job, average job, you won’t get many players staying at one club like Gerrard’s just done at Liverpool.

“That can be hard to get your head around at times, ‘is he our player?’ He is for three years, but that’s not a long time for supporters.” 

Main image courtesy of BIBA, with thanks.