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Thursday, 29 October 2009

image for Exclusive: Keegan speaks! World Class: Keegan in his heyday

Each week sports writer Gary Puddle meets a sporting legend. This week it's KEVIN KEEGAN, beloved footballer and legend of the Kop. Here Puddle lays bare the man behind the hair.

I'm not sure what to expect. I meet Keegan at his bungalow just outside Walthamstow. I've been told he can be testy sometimes. I don't want to get off on the wrong foot with one of Britain's best-loved footballers, so I'll try and play it cool.

I needn't have worried. Keegan's open and honest. There's no point in him being anything else, everyone knows the story.

Four years ago he lost a fortune when he went into the dictionary business. As he now ruefully says: "It was a really bad spell."

But, he bounced back and now runs a Soccer Sunday School for young boys.

Today Keegan looks visibly aged. He is shorn of the hair that made his name and he's got dark circles under his eyes.

He blames them on his wife. "Too many late nights Gary" he says nudging me and winking.

Keegan has recently married and is obviously happy.

"I tell you Gary. It's the best thing. I get me clothes washed, a hot meal and a warm bed. It's like prison only there's a bit of sex every now and again."

It's good to see 'Our Kev' in such a buoyant mood. He's always been a hero to soccer fans. True it went bit pear-shaped when he ventured into management but he's always been a fighter.

He acknowledges those difficult years: "Yeah Gal, it wasn't great. Management wasn't for me. I tried my best but I always wanted to be out on the pitch not sat in the dug-out chewing gum like that useless old beetlebum Alex Ferguson.

"When I started losing my hair, I knew I had to throw in the towel. Too much stress. I'm much happier now. I've got Teena (Keegan's wife) and my pigeons. And I still get a taste of it with my Soccer Sunday School."

Aah yes, the Soccer Sunday School or SSS as it's known. Keegan credits it with saving his life after the dictionary debacle.

Keegan concedes: "Yeah, I weren't too clever after that" he admits tapping his temple.

Explaining how it all began, he says he'd met a guy outside his son's school who was flogging dictionaries. At the time Keegan needed a few quid so befriended the man hoping for some tips.

Keegan takes up the story: "He seemed friendly enough. He said his name was Bob. I had an uncle called Bob so I felt I could trust him.

"He told me about the dictionaires and said all I would need do is invest £20K up-front and he'd take the rest from there.

"If only I'd known. I gave him £30K because dictionaries seemed like a good idea, plus the man was called Bob like my uncle. How could I lose?"

But lose he did.

'Bob' turned out to be a former electrician called Barry Pork who, it was later discovered, had conned other celebrities to part with their cash.

"I lost the lot" says Keegan. And although Pork was jailed for 12 years, Keegan has never recovered his money.

At that point he says, he would have gone under were it not for Teena. She was the one who gave him the idea to play with the local lads at a Soccer Sunday School.

Teena has been sitting in on the interview. She's a quiet brunette in her late 40s. She reminds me of Tony Blackburn, but it is obvious that Keegan is deeply attracted to her.

"This woman saved my life. She's a dove from above."

The interview is drawing to a close. I'm pleased to see Keegan doing so well. He's got his little house outside Walthamstow with all mod-cons including, as he excitely tells me: "a bidet Gal!"

He's found a woman and he gets to play with young boys every weekend at his Soccer Sunday School.

"They're my rod in life." says Keegan. And I for one don't doubt it.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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