Interview: Former Liverpool and England striker Kevin Keegan

Kevin Keegan
© PA Photos
Former England manager Kevin Keegan talks exclusively to Sports Mole about all things Liverpool, Andy Carroll and the Premier League title race.

Kevin Keegan is one of the most famous names in English football.

Having played for and managed some of the biggest clubs in the country, there is very little that the 61-year-old has not seen within the game.

Sports Mole caught up with the former England international to talk Robin van Persie, the season ahead for Liverpool, the title race and the future of Andy Carroll.

What do you make of Manchester United stealing a march on rivals Manchester City by striking a deal to sign Robin van Persie?
"I think it's a masterstroke from Sir Alex Ferguson. It has made me think that instead of saying 'Man City will win it again,' United now have Rooney, Van Persie, Valencia, Young, Kagawa and they've still got Cleverley to come back. If they don't get the injuries at the back this year and can wheel out Ferdinand and Vidic for another year, that will be a big plus. There is also Jones and Smalling, who have had another year and understand the club a bit more so they'll be dangerous. It is between the two Manchester clubs."

Would you say that the acquisition of Van Persie has left title race at 50/50?
"Yes I do. I think it's thrown it right back in the mix again."

Man City boss Roberto Mancini has recently expressed his disappointment at a lack of transfer activity at his club. With such a big squad at his disposal, do you still understand his frustration?
"It's an embarrassment of riches but I know what Mancini means and I think I would be the same. Don't rest on your laurels or ever stop because the moment that you do in the Premier League you start to go backwards. You don't stay where you are because others catch you up. I think it's more just to freshen them up. But you're right he's got two great left-backs, two great right-backs, he's got four good centre-backs and two very good goalkeepers. Hart is outstanding. There's people like Milner and Johnson who can play for England, but when you are picking your best 11 at City they probably don't get in it. He has got a tremendously strong squad. He doesn't need players to strengthen his squad, he's just trying to send messages out."

One of the big talking points this summer has been what, if anything, can football learn from the Olympics and the athletes that competed? Are there any elements from the Games that football could implement?
"There is loads we can learn. You've got to learn from all sports. You've got to understand though that the Olympics was a different event. It happens over two or three weeks and you've got people in minority sports that don't get exposure so they are very fresh. Whereas, football is 24/7, so you are trying to feed a monster there. If you gave some athletes a year in the spotlight, not just getting praise but criticism and stuff like that, you might find they cannot take it. In that way it is an unfair comparison. But where it is fair, can we get players not wearing headphones and communicating? I think yes. The Olympics was refreshing and fantastic. I didn't think it would be that good and I think it exceeded everyone's expectations."

One player that earned a number of plaudits for Team GB was Joe Allen, who has recently swapped Swansea City for your former club Liverpool. How do you rate that signing?
"I'm looking forward to seeing him more than anyone. I always say to people if you want to know who the best player is at a club, watch who a manager goes back for when he leaves. So, of all what Swansea achieved last year, Rodgers has gone back for him. He's paid a big fee for him, that's a lot of money to pay for a player with limited experience. But he knows and believes fully that he is better than that and has more to offer. He's going to improve by playing with better players like Gerrard. He'll be very interesting to watch."

Was some of the criticism aimed at Kenny Dalglish last season a little harsh?
"People did criticise Kenny but they won the League Cup and got to the final of the FA Cup. They actually hit the woodwork 33 times so you could say that they were nearly-men last year."

And what about his replacement Brendan Rodgers? Is he the right man to take the club forward?
"If you did a survey before he was appointed I don't think he will have come on hardly anybody's list. However, Liverpool fans are sensible enough to say, right, what's he done? He's got experience with Mourinho at Chelsea so he knows the Premier League. He knows what it is like to struggle because he struggled a bit at Watford. Then, he has gone to Swansea and fetched them up and has kept them up. More importantly from a Liverpool point of view, they played a type of football that Liverpool fans would like to see. The fans will be thinking with the players that we have got here, if we can play that type of football, it's going to get better and better. That's just common sense."

Can that style of football see Liverpool return to the top four and Champions League football by the time May 2013 comes around?
"I've got my doubts. But they are one of seven teams that can. Man United and Man City - give them a top four place. Chelsea, Arsenal - probably 75% them. But if any of them slip up, Liverpool, I think, if he hits the ground running will have the momentum that maybe Spurs and Newcastle can't keep."

One player whose future seems uncertain is Andy Carroll. Would you rather see him stay at Liverpool, or return to another of your old clubs, Newcastle United?
"I don't see why he would want to go back to Newcastle because they have Ba and Cisse. I'm not sure Newcastle need Andy Carroll back. I thought Andy was just finding his Premier League feet and Liverpool feet towards the end of last season. It took him a while because I don't think he was fit enough when he first arrived. He thought Newcastle was a big club, and it is, but Liverpool is a step up in terms of expectation because they are used to winning things. They are used to seeing Ian Rush scoring goals and Kenny Dalglish scoring goals and winning titles and European Cups. Suddenly they are looking at him and thinking £35m, come on he must be great, but he is still pretty raw. I would like to see him stay and fight for his place. But it looks as though Brendan Rodgers has already made his mind up when they are prepared to loan him out."

Kevin Keegan writes exclusively for ESPNFC.com, the new football website. ESPN has live coverage of the Barclays Premier League this season. For details visit espn.co.uk/tv.

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