As a player in the 1970s and 1980s, he has been described as "arguably the first superstar English player to attract the modern media spotlight". He began his playing career at Scunthorpe United in 1968, before moving to Liverpool in 1971. At Liverpool, Keegan won three First Division titles, the UEFA Cup twice, the FA Cup and the European Cup. He also gained his first England cap in 1972, and moved to West German club Hamburger SV in the summer of 1977. At Hamburg, he was named European Footballer of the Year in 1978 and 1979, won the Bundesliga title in 1978–79, and reached the European Cup final in 1980. Keegan moved to Southampton that summer, and spent two seasons at the club before a transfer to Newcastle United in the English second division in 1982. He helped Newcastle to promotion in his second season, and retired from football in 1984, having been capped 63 times for England, scoring 21 goals.
He moved into management at Newcastle in 1992, winning promotion as First Division champions. Newcastle then finished second in the Premier League in 1995–96, after leading for most of the season. After a spell at Fulham, he took charge of the England team in February 1999, but resigned in October 2000, following a 1–0 loss against Germany in qualification for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. He then became manager of Manchester City in 2001 and spent four years at the club before resigning in 2005. He had been out of football for almost three years when he returned to Newcastle United for a second spell as manager in January 2008. This spell lasted only eight months, however, as Keegan resigned on 4 September 2008 following speculation regarding a dispute with the club's directors.
Keegan was born in Armthorpe in Doncaster to English parents of part Irish ancestry and attended his local school, St. Peter's High School, in nearby Cantley. As a schoolboy, Keegan had a trial for Coventry City, under manager Jimmy Hill. Despite being one of two players kept on for an extra six-week period, the club did not offer Keegan a contract. He also had a trial with Doncaster Rovers, who felt he was too short.
At the age of 16, Keegan was spotted playing at amateur level for Pegler, his employer at the time, and signed by fourth division Scunthorpe United – one of just two professional sides in the division.
Keegan made his debut against Peterborough United at the age of 17, making 29 league starts in his first season. He became a regular in the first team by the 1969–70 season, playing all 46 league games for the club. This season saw the team reach the fifth-round of the FA Cup, beating Football League First Division side Sheffield Wednesday along the way. Keegan played regularly in a creative right midfield role for the Scunthorpe United first team despite his age – he scored 18 goals in 124 games for the club. In 1971, he attracted the attention of Liverpool's head scout Geoff Twentyman, whose opinion was held in high regard by manager Bill Shankly. He was thus transferred to Liverpool for £35,000 in 1971, at the age of 20.
On 14 August 1971, Keegan made his Liverpool debut against Nottingham Forest at Anfield, scoring after 12 minutes. Although originally signed as a midfielder, his ability soon prompted manager Bill Shankly to employ Keegan upfront as a partner for John Toshack. His move to Liverpool also alerted England to his presence, and the forward made his debut at under-23 level later in 1971. His full debut came 12 months after arriving in Liverpool, in a World Cup qualifier against Wales at Ninian Park. Keegan's first goal for his country also came in a game against Wales in Cardiff. This time it was a British Home Championship match that England won 2–0 on 11 May 1974, his third full cap.
In 1973, Keegan won his first domestic honours. Playing alongside Toshack, Keegan helped Liverpool win their first League championship in seven years, as well as the UEFA Cup. Keegan scored twice in the first leg of the final as Liverpool overcame Borussia Mönchengladbach 3–2 on aggregate.
The following year, Keegan was again a frequent scorer but Liverpool lost the League title to a Leeds United team who had gone unbeaten for a then-record 29 games at the start of the season. Liverpool, however, progressed to the FA Cup final. Their campaign in the competition had started with a tie against the club which had rejected Keegan, Doncaster Rovers, and it was Keegan who scored both Liverpool goals in a 2–2 draw. Liverpool won the replay and Keegan scored twice more on the way to Wembley Stadium, including a lob-volley over the head of England colleague Peter Shilton in the semi-final against Leicester City at Villa Park. In the final, Keegan scored two as Liverpool beat Newcastle United 3–0. It was the first brace in an FA Cup final since Mike Trebilcock scored twice for Everton in 1966.
Keegan's next visit to Wembley was three months later in the Charity Shield game, the traditional curtain-raiser to a new season between the League champions and the FA Cup winners. Keegan was sent off, however, along with Leeds captain Billy Bremner, after a scuffle on the pitch. Both players removed their shirts in protest, with Keegan visibly shaken by the decision. The fight was shown that night on BBC television and both were fined £500, with Keegan being suspended for three games and Bremner eight.
The next year saw Keegan scoring goals and representing his club and country, but 1975 was a trophyless season for Liverpool and England failed to qualify for the 1976 European Championships. There were numerous honours for Keegan over the next two years, however, as Liverpool again won the League championship and UEFA Cup. Keegan scored in both legs of the UEFA Cup final against FC Bruges, although he had only scored once previously during Liverpool's run in the competition.
In 1977, Keegan helped Liverpool progress towards an unprecedented "treble" of League championship, League Cup and European Cup, though midway through the season he announced his intention to leave in the summer to play abroad. Nevertheless, Keegan was irrepressible as Liverpool clinched the title and reached the finals of both Cup competitions. Keegan's last appearance in a Liverpool shirt on home soil, however, saw Liverpool lose the FA Cup final to bitter rivals Manchester United, ending the possibility of the treble. The European Cup final in Rome against Borussia Mönchengladbach was four days later. Keegan did not score, but he did make a late run which led to a foul inside the penalty area by Berti Vogts. This led to a penalty which was successfully converted by Phil Neal, sealing a 3–1 win.
After 323 appearances and exactly 100 goals, Keegan left Liverpool as promised. He had been made offers from clubs across Europe, and chose to join Hamburger SV in the West German Bundesliga for £500,000. Liverpool replaced him with Kenny Dalglish. Of his time in Liverpool, Keegan later said, "The only thing I fear is missing an open goal in front of the Kop. I would die if that were to happen. When they start singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' my eyes start to water. There have been times when I've actually been crying while I've been playing."
Keegan's transfer to Hamburg was agreed between the FA Cup final and the European Cup final of 1977, although Keegan had negotiated a maximum transfer fee the season before. On his arrival in Germany, Keegan was the highest paid player in the country, and was built up by the press and club as the "saviour" of Hamburg. He scored in pre-season friendlies against Barcelona and former club Liverpool, but the club suffered defeat in the European Super Cup against the Merseysiders, and Keegan was sent off in a mid-season friendly against VfB Lübeck after knocking out an opposition player with a punch. An unhappy first few months at the club gave way to a more successful season. Although the club finished tenth in the league in 1977–78, Keegan's 12 goals helped him pick up a personal honour, the France Football European Footballer of the Year award for 1978.
The 1978–79 season saw a vast improvement on the club's 1978 finish. New manager Branko Zebec imposed a tough training regime, and Keegan's increasing grasp of the German language, coupled with the newly imposed discipline meant that Hamburg finished as league champions for the first time in nineteen years. The club's success also translated into individual recognition for Keegan, who picked up the European Footballer of the Year award for a second consecutive year, as well as the nickname Mighty Mouse from the fans, after the cartoon superhero.
Hamburg's European campaign of 1979–80 saw Keegan score two goals to help Hamburg past Dinamo Tbilisi, Soviet champions who had beaten Liverpool to reach the latter stages. The club lost to Nottingham Forest in the final in Madrid, however, and this was coupled domestically with being beaten to the Bundesliga title by Bayern Munich. Having negotiated a maximum transfer fee of £500,000 in his contract the year before and agreeing a move in February, Keegan left Hamburg for Southampton in the summer of 1980.
On 10 February 1980, Lawrie McMenemy called a press conference at the Potters Heron hotel, Ampfield to announce that the European Footballer of the Year would be joining Southampton in the forthcoming summer. The news caused surprise throughout the world of football and around the city of Southampton, as Southampton were a relatively small club. The club were beginning to become established in the top division, but this signing showed how persuasive their manager could be, especially when Keegan captained England in the 1980 European Championships in Italy.
Keegan had a clause inserted into his contract when he joined Hamburg in 1977, giving Liverpool the option to buy him back. Liverpool, however, opted not to exercise this clause when he returned to England three years later. As late as November 2011, Keegan has stated, "I was with Lawrie [McMenemy] at a charity event the other day, and he said he phoned up Peter Robinson because he wanted me, but Liverpool had a clause. Peter said, 'No, we won’t be signing him, definitely, we don't need him.'" It was therefore Southampton boss Lawrie McMenemy who snapped him up for £420,000, and Keegan made his Southampton debut at Lansdowne Road in a pre-season friendly against Shamrock Rovers on 23 July 1980.
Keegan's two seasons at The Dell saw him as part of a flamboyant team also containing Alan Ball, Phil Boyer, Mick Channon and Charlie George and in 1980–81 Saints scored 76 goals, finishing in sixth place, then their highest league finish.
In the following season, Keegan was able to produce some of his best form and at the end of January 1982 Southampton sat at the top of the First Division table, but a run of only three wins from the end of February meant a rather disappointing seventh-place finish. Despite this, Keegan was voted the PFA Player of the Year and awarded the OBE for services to Association Football. Keegan had scored 26 of the team's 72 goals and was voted the club's Player of the Year.
Keegan had fallen out with McMenemy over the manager's failure to strengthen Southampton's defence (which conceded 67 goals in 1981–82) while the team was at the top of the table. There were also rumours that McMenemy had charged the whole team of cheating after a 3–0 defeat by Aston Villa in April 1982 to which Keegan took great exception. Although Keegan joined Saints' next pre–season tour, he had already decided to move on to seek a new challenge, and a few days before the start of the 1982–83 season he signed for Second Division Newcastle United for a fee of £100,000.
Keegan joined Newcastle United and spent two seasons there, during which time he was extremely popular with the supporters. He played 78 times, scored 48 goals and helped them to promotion from the Second Division in 1984, within a team which also contained Peter Beardsley, Chris Waddle and Terry McDermott. His contribution to Newcastle's promotion, which ended their six-year absence from the First Division, earned him hero status on Tyneside. The move of a player of his stature to a Second Division Club was unheard of, which caused euphoria on Tyneside.
Keegan announced his retirement prior to the end of the 1983–1984 season, with his last league game against Brighton & Hove Albion scoring in a 3–1 victory. His final appearance for Newcastle came in a friendly against Liverpool some days later, leaving the pitch in a helicopter while still dressed in his kit.
Keegan moved with his family to Spain stating that he would never enter football management, although he did carry out occasional work as a football pundit for British television.
Keegan made his England debut on 15 November 1972 in a 1–0 World Cup qualifying win over Wales. Keegan appeared in only the two matches against Wales during this campaign as England failed to qualify for the 1974 FIFA World Cup.
He scored his first international goal in his third appearance, also against Wales, on 11 May 1974. He was given the captaincy by manager Don Revie in 1976 after Gerry Francis fell from favour. He went on to captain England 31 times, retaining the captain's armband until his international retirement after the 1982 World Cup.
Keegan captained England at the 1980 Euros. England failed to progress from the group stage after finishing third in their group behind Italy and Belgium.
He managed only one World Cup appearance though, after England failed to qualify for both the 1974 and 1978 tournaments. He finally reached a World Cup in 1982 when England got to the finals in Spain. He was duly named in the squad for the tournament but was suffering from a chronic back injury and was unfit to play in all of England's group games. In a last, desperate effort to play in a World Cup (he knew that he would not be around for the 1986 competition) he secretly hired a car and drove from Spain to a specialist he knew in Germany for intensive treatment. He recovered sufficiently to appear as a substitute for the last 26 minutes of England's final Second Round game against hosts Spain. Unfortunately, though, his brief experience of World Cup football saw him miss a point-blank header which would have broken the deadlock, in a game England needed to win to progress to the semi-finals. England drew the game 0-0 and were eliminated from the competition.
Following the successful start to the 1982–83 season with Newcastle United, there was much controversy when newly appointed England manager Bobby Robson did not select Keegan for his first squad, a decision Keegan learned of from the media rather than Robson himself. Keegan publicly expressed his displeasure at not being given the courtesy of a phonecall from Robson, and never played for his country again. He had won a total of 63 caps and scored 21 goals.
On 5 February 1992, almost eight years after his final game as a player, Keegan returned to football as manager of Newcastle United. They had been relegated from the top flight in 1989 and narrowly missed out on promotion in 1990 after losing in the playoffs to arch-rivals Sunderland, but in 1991 they had failed to make the playoffs and at several stages in 1991–92 they had occupied bottom place in the Second Division. Following the dismissal of previous manager Ossie Ardiles, Keegan was appointed to prevent Newcastle from being relegated to the third tier of English football for the first time.
Survival was achieved and Newcastle would be playing in the new Division One for the 1992–93 season, with chairman John Hall promising millions of pounds to spend on new players after Keegan almost walked out on the club after a match at home to Swindon Town on 14 March 1992.
Keegan strengthened the defence with the acquisition of Barry Venison from Liverpool and John Beresford from Portsmouth, while striker David Kelly had arrived on Tyneside a few months before Keegan was appointed. Newcastle began the season with 11 successive wins and led the league virtually all season, and the club record signing of Bristol City striker Andy Cole in February further strengthened their side; Cole netted 12 goals in his first 12 games for the club. The addition of Charlton Athletic's Rob Lee bolstered the midfield in the autumn.
Newcastle were promoted to the Premier League as Division One champions.
Top scorer David Kelly and influential midfielder Gavin Peacock were both sold during the close season, and Keegan brought striker Peter Beardsley back to Newcastle from Everton, six years after he had been sold by Newcastle to Liverpool.
1993–94 was an enormous success for Newcastle as they finished third in the Premier League and qualified for the UEFA Cup, bringing European football to the club for the first time since the 1970s. Andy Cole was the Premier League's top scorer with 34 goals from 40 games, and managed a club record total of 41 goals in all competitions.
Keegan then strengthened his side by signing Swiss World Cup defender Marc Hottiger and Belgium's defensive midfielder Philippe Albert, while Norwich City's quick winger Ruel Fox had arrived on transfer deadline day in March 1994.
Newcastle won their first six games of the 1994–95 season to top the league and they appeared capable of winning their first league title since 1927. But the shock departure of Andy Cole to Manchester United in January weakened their attack, and finished the season sixth place in the final table; not enough for even another UEFA Cup campaign. In the meantime, autumn signing Paul Kitson partnered Beardsley in attack.
Keegan made several important additions to the Newcastle side in the summer of 1995: Reading goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, Paris Saint-Germain's French winger David Ginola, Queens Park Rangers striker Les Ferdinand and Wimbledon defender Warren Barton. Ferdinand was Newcastle's biggest signing at £6 million, while the £4 million paid for Barton was the highest fee paid for a defender in English football at the time.
Newcastle excelled in the first half of the 1995–96 season, going ten points ahead on 23 December 1995 and holding a 12-point lead from early in January to 4 February. After a 2–0 defeat at West Ham United on 21 February, the lead was cut to nine points. A 1–0 defeat at the hands of fellow title challengers Manchester United cut the gap to a single point on 4 March, and within two weeks Newcastle's lead was overhauled and they were unable to recover it. Newcastle's 4–3 defeat to Liverpool on 3 April is widely considered to be one of the classic Premier League games. With two games remaining Newcastle and Manchester United both had 76 points. Newcastle only got one point in a 1–1 drawn match against Nottingham Forest on 2 May, and with a 1–1 draw for Newcastle against Tottenham Hotspur on the final day of the season on 5 May, the title was won by United, whose 3–0 triumph at Middlesbrough would have won them the title regardless of Newcastle's result against Tottenham.
It was during the race for the 1995–96 title that Keegan famously directed remarks at the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, during a post-match interview live on Sky Sports. His outburst—"I will love it if we beat them! Love it!"—is frequently referred to when describing the relationship between the pair. In April 2003, it was named as Quote of the Decade in the Premier League 10 Seasons Awards. It also appears in Channel 4's 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.
Keegan then broke the world transfer fee record by signing Blackburn Rovers and England striker Alan Shearer in July 1996. Shearer, who had been the Premier League's top scorer in the last two seasons, was born in Newcastle and had grown up as a fan of the club. Shearer made an instant impact on his native Tyneside, despite being on the losing side on his debut, a 4–0 FA Charity Shield defeat at the hands of Manchester United, and scored two months later in a 5–0 victory against United in the Premier League. Newcastle briefly topped the league at several stages in the first half of the season and Shearer led the league scoring 25 goals.
On 8 January 1997, Keegan announced his resignation as manager. A club statement following his resignation read:
Newcastle United Football Club today announce the resignation of manager Kevin Keegan. Kevin informed the board of his wish to resign at the end of the season, having decided he no longer wishes to continue in football management at this stage in his life. Following lengthy discussions of which the board attempted to persuade Kevin to change his mind, both parties eventually agreed that the best route forward was for the club to, reluctantly, accept his resignation with immediate effect.
Keegan left the club with a short statement reading:
It was my decision and my decision alone to resign. I feel I have taken the club as far as I can, and that it would be in the best interests of all concerned if I resigned now. I wish the club and everyone concerned with it all the best for the future.
On the Newcastle United DVD Magpie Magic, it is said that chairman Sir John Hall asked for a long term commitment as manager from him which he was unwilling to give, while it also states that many still rumour that the pressure and criticism of selling Andy Cole and the failed title challenge in 1995–96 took its toll on him.
He was succeeded by Kenny Dalglish, the same man who had replaced him as a player at Liverpool 20 years earlier, but Newcastle were unable to win the title and finished second place in the same season, and in the following season finished outside the top ten in the Premier League, although they were FA Cup runners-up. They did not return to the top five of the Premier League until the 2001-02 season, when they finished fourth under Bobby Robson.
It was during this period that Keegan gained his most famous nickname, "King Kev", from admiring Newcastle fans.
Keegan returned to football on 25 September 1997 as "chief operating officer" (a similar role to a director of football) at Division Two club Fulham, with Ray Wilkins as head coach. Fulham finished sixth in the final table, but Wilkins was sacked just before the first leg of the playoff semi-final and Keegan took over as manager.
His appointment came a few months after the takeover of the club by Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed, who gave Keegan £10 million to spend on players that season as the first part of a £40 million attempt to deliver Premier League football to the Craven Cottage club, who had been outside the top flight since 1968 and had not even played in the league's second tier since 1986.
Keegan was unable to inspire Fulham to overcome Grimsby Town in the playoffs, but good form in 1998–99 – helped by the acquisition of more players who would normally have been signed by Premier League or Division one clubs – clinched them the Division Two title and promotion to Division One, but Keegan left at the end of the season to concentrate on his duties as England manager, having succeeded Glenn Hoddle in February 1999.
Fulham replaced Keegan with Paul Bracewell and reached the Premier League two years later under Bracewell's successor Jean Tigana, with a squad still featuring many of the players bought by Keegan or Wilkins.
After weeks of speculation, Keegan was named as the new England manager on 18 February 1999, succeeding Glenn Hoddle, who had been sacked two weeks earlier following a newspaper interview in which he suggested that disabled people were being punished for their sins in a previous life. He led the team to a winning start with 3–1 victory over Poland to reignite England's Euro 2000 qualifying campaign, and they entered the qualification playoff with Scotland. Two goals from Paul Scholes gave them a 2–0 win in the first leg, and despite a 1–0 defeat in the second leg, they qualified for the championships for the fourth tournament in succession (though on the third occasion, they had qualified automatically as hosts).
After an initial popular period as manager, he began to come under fire for his perceived tactical naivety. This came to a head during the unsuccessful Euro 2000 campaign, which began with a 3–2 defeat against Portugal, despite England having taken a 2–0 lead after 17 minutes. A 1–0 win in the next game over Germany, the first English victory over Germany in a competitive match since 1966, cost their opposition (the defending champions) progression to the quarter-finals, but in the final group game against Romania, England once again lost 3–2, this time after taking a 2–1 lead, and their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals were over.
Keegan resigned as England manager on 7 October 2000, after England lost to a Dietmar Hamann goal for Germany in their first 2002 World Cup qualifier, in the last game to be played at Wembley Stadium, before the old stadium was rebuilt. Keegan won only 38.9% of his games in charge, the lowest such percentage of any permanent England manager – although unlike Don Revie (1974–1977) or Steve McClaren (2006–2007), Keegan achieved qualification to a major tournament for England.
When Sven-Göran Eriksson became England manager, Eriksson appointed the 64-year-old Tord Grip as his assistant. This caused Keegan to complain that when he was England manager, the FA had told him that he could not have Arthur Cox as his assistant because at 60, Cox was too old. Keegan went on, "I wasn't allowed to bring in the people I wanted and that was wrong. Mr Eriksson was and I'm delighted for him because that's the way it should be."
On 24 May 2001, Keegan returned to football as successor to Joe Royle at Manchester City, who had just been relegated from the Premier League. Keegan signed experienced international players such as Stuart Pearce, Eyal Berkovic and Ali Benarbia. That season, City were promoted as Division One champions after scoring 108 league goals. Keegan was the first manager in the Premier League era to win the Division One title with two different clubs.
In preparation for his second season as manager (2002–03), he signed Nicolas Anelka, Peter Schmeichel and Marc-Vivien Foé. That season saw Manchester City win against Liverpool at Anfield and take four points from Manchester United (their previous win in the Manchester derby being in September 1989), but concede five goals away to Chelsea and at home to Arsenal, securing their Premier League status comfortably by finishing ninth. Keegan also guided City into the UEFA Cup, qualifying via the UEFA Fair Play ranking.
For 2003–04, the club's first season at the new City of Manchester Stadium, Keegan added Steve McManaman, Paul Bosvelt, David Seaman and Michael Tarnat to City's squad. City started well and were fifth in the league on 5 November. However, a disappointing draw, at home to Polish minnows Groclin, led to their second round elimination from the UEFA Cup, and was followed by a slump in form. City did not win again in the league until 21 February, and finished 16th in the league, although at Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup on 4 February 2004, despite going in at half time 3–0 behind and with ten men after Joey Barton was sent off; Keegan's team came back to win 4–3.
2004–05 brought better form for Manchester City, but Keegan agreed to leave as manager on 10 March 2005 after telling the chairman his desire to retire from football at the end of the season. The club went on to finish eighth under his successor Stuart Pearce, and only missed out on a UEFA Cup place when Robbie Fowler missed a penalty in stoppage time of a 1–1 draw with Middlesbrough on the last day of the season, with the last European place going to their opponents instead. Earlier that season, while still under Keegan's management, City beat Chelsea 1–0 which turned out to be the only defeat in the league that season for Chelsea, who ended up as Premier League champions.
After declaring his retirement from football in 2005, Keegan remained out of the media spotlight, working at the Soccer Circus football school in Glasgow. In October 2007, he indicated he was unlikely to manage again.
Following the dismissal of manager Sam Allardyce, Keegan made a sensational, unexpected return to Newcastle United on 16 January 2008. Thousands of Newcastle United fans attended St James' Park to welcome the manager back to the club as he arrived to see the FA Cup third round replay against Stoke City alongside owner Mike Ashley and chairman Chris Mort. He managed his first game at the club since 1997 against Bolton Wanderers on 19 January 2008. He awarded the club captaincy to Michael Owen, stating, "He's not scared to give his opinion when he's right, and he's not scared to say what he feels. He's a tremendous professional, and he trains properly every day." Keegan announced on 22 January that he and Alan Shearer held talks about the two linking up with Shearer as his assistant, but decided against the idea, leaving the door open for him to take other roles he was interested in.
Keegan had a disappointing first eight games back at Newcastle, not winning a single match. On 22 March 2008, however, Keegan achieved the first victory of his second managerial spell, a 2–0 win against his former club Fulham. This was his first win as Newcastle manager since beating Leeds United on 1 January 1997, and he followed it up with wins over Tottenham and Sunderland, maintaining his perfect record over the club's local rivals in the Tyne-Wear derby and also putting Newcastle on top of the league's form chart. This run of good form was hugely thanks to a new 4–3–3 formation which was spearheaded by the productive strike trio of Obafemi Martins, Michael Owen and Mark Viduka. The trio scored 11 of the club's 14 goals in this run, which safely secured the club from a relegation battle. Newcastle's seven-game unbeaten run came to an end in a home defeat to Chelsea, and they finished the season in 12th place.
Having signed Argentine international winger Jonás Gutiérrez, as well as Gutiérrez's Argentina teammate and defender Fabricio Coloccini from Deportivo de La Coruña, amongst others, Newcastle began the 2008–09 season with a 1–1 draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford, having lost the previous season's fixtures 6–0 and 5–1, as well as beating Bolton 1–0 the following week and Coventry City 3–2 in the second round of the League Cup on 26 August.
As the 2008 season drew to a close, rumours of tensions between the club's directors and Keegan began to surface, as he publicly criticised the board, claiming they were not providing him the financial support necessary to break into the top four of the Premier League standings. His accusations further fanned the flames for owner Mike Ashley, who was already battling reports that he had lost hundreds of millions of pounds in a disastrous stock market venture.
Following the closure of the transfer window at midnight on 1 September 2008, early on in the morning the following day, various media sources reported that Keegan had either resigned from the club or had been sacked, leading to fan protests around St James' Park. The club released statements denying that he had left the club, but stated that talks were ongoing between Keegan and members of the board. On 4 September 2008, Keegan issued a statement confirming that he had resigned the same day, stating that, "... a manager must have the right to manage and that clubs should not impose upon any manager any player that he does not want." Late on Friday 12 September 2008, it was reported Keegan met owner Mike Ashley in London in an attempt to resolve their differences, however the meeting ended without a satisfactory conclusion for either party.
Richard Bevan, chief executive of the League Managers Association (LMA), stated the following month that Keegan would consider a return to the club but only if those who hold the ownership are willing to develop a structure which he is happy with. Up until Dennis Wise's resignation as director of football at Newcastle in April 2009, many fans directed the blame of Keegan's exit at both owner Mike Ashley and Dennis Wise as a result of such a role being established and poorly used. The club was warned by the LMA on 5 September 2008 to develop a structure which would satisfy the next manager to replace Keegan to avoid a similar situation repeating itself and damaging the club's image.
In December 2008, it was reported that following Ashley's decision to withdraw the sale of Newcastle United, a legal dispute in regards to Keegan's departure of the club was in place between himself and Ashley, with Keegan claiming unfair dismissal and Ashley claiming damage to his public image. In September 2009, it was reported that Keegan had met with Ashley and the Newcastle board – including former members – in a Premier League arbitration hearing for a claim of £10 million in compensation for his shock resignation.
Keegan's dispute with the club was resolved in October 2009. The tribunal ruled in favour of Keegan, agreeing that Newcastle had constructively dismissed him by insisting on the signing of midfielder Nacho González on loan (which was against his wishes) to replace James Milner following his move to Aston Villa and a bid for Bayern Munich's Bastian Schweinsteiger being rejected.
The ruling was based around seven issues. The panel declared that Keegan had been misled to believe he had the final decision on player transfers, and was never explicitly told in writing, his contract, or word of mouth that he did not or that his role would see him essentially report to others. Given the generally understood role of a Premiership manager, the panel agreed he could reasonably expect that this was not a factor. The club's signing of González meant that they had violated his employment contract, which amounted to constructive dismissal. While González was the main issue in the panel final decision, the club's alleged mistreatment of Keegan, claiming they were in a position to sack him should he have not agreed to the terms they offered him, as well as his decision to remain at the club till the 4 September instead of resigning on 1 September, allowing the club to reach a compromise, led to the panel ruling in Keegan's favour. Keegan was awarded £2 million (plus interest accrued) according to severance clauses in his contract, which the club never paid him after his departure. Claims for more were turned down on the basis that the standard contract severance clauses covered constructive dismissal, however he happily stated afterwards that the purpose of his claim had been to restore his reputation, and was delighted with the outcome, allowing him to move forward.
In pursuit of winning the tribunal, the club admitted to misleading the media and their fans. Several key senior staff, including Dennis Wise and Derek Llambias, had publicly claimed that Keegan had "the final word"; they claimed to the tribunal that this was not in fact the case and that their claims were just "PR". It was then revealed that Director of Football Dennis Wise asked Keegan to sign González by watching him "on YouTube". On 21 October, a subsequent meeting of the same panel found that the club should pay all legal and associated costs incurred by Keegan as a result of the tribunal. They reached this conclusion based on their view that the club's "defence on the primary liability issue was, in our view, wholly without merit".
Keegan stated after the hearing he still wants to manage in the top flight of football, and would consider returning to his position at the club, but feels the fans may be exhausted from his last tenure and would prefer him not to. In June 2013, Keegan stated he would only consider a return should owner Mike Ashley leave the club. Keegan has continued to criticise Ashley, accusing him of a lack of respect for the fans.
In August 2009, nearly a year after his departure from Newcastle, Keegan resurfaced after being confirmed as the lead pundit on ESPN. During the course of the 2010 World Cup, Keegan featured as a pundit for ITV broadcasts. He was part of ESPN's live coverage of the 2011, 2012 and 2013 FA Cup finals with pitch-side build-up and post-match commentary.
Keegan has been married to Jean since 23 September 1974, having met her in 1968, and has two daughters Laura and Sarah.
In 1976, Keegan competed in the BBC's television programme Superstars. Despite suffering severe cuts after crashing his bicycle, he insisted on re-racing and secured second place in the event, before going on to win that edition of the programme. He also advertised Brut aftershave alongside boxer Henry Cooper.
Keegan became renowned for his "poodle perm" hair in the 1970s, and has regularly appeared at the top of "worst hairstyles" surveys.
His song "Head Over Heels in Love", written by Chris Norman and Pete Spencer, was released on 9 June 1979, and peaked at number 31 in the UK charts, but climbed to number 10 in Germany where Keegan was based at the time, and where Norman's band Smokie were popular. He released a second single, "England", on his return to England from Germany, but it failed to chart.
In April 1991, he was attacked while sleeping in his Range Rover by the M25 at Reigate Hill in Surrey. His assailants later admitted in court that they needed money for a drugs debt and had no idea they were attacking Keegan.
He narrated the 90-minute documentary Keegan on Keegan, released via Castle Vision on VHS cassette in 1992.
He is known for his charity appearances for the Lord's Taverners.
In early July 2008, Flybe International announced the naming of one of their new Bombardier Q400 aircraft in honour of Keegan's service to Newcastle United, both as a player and as manager. The plane is used on the regular service from Newcastle International Airport to London's Gatwick Airport.
In February 2009, Keegan had three points added to his driving licence after being caught doing 36 mph in a 30 mph zone on the A69 road in August 2008. This brought his total to 12 points and he consequently received a six-month driving ban.Liverpool
Football League First Division: 1972–73, 1975–76, 1976–77
FA Cup: 1973–74
FA Charity Shield: 1974, 1976
European Cup: 1976–77
UEFA Cup: 1972–73, 1975–76
British Home Championship: 1973, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1982
Premier League; Runner-up: 1995–96, 1996–97
Football League Division One: 1992–93
Football League Second Division: 1998–99
Football League Division One: 2001–02
Ballon d'Or: 1978, 1979
Inducted into the inaugural English Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
Named 8th on the Liverpool FC list of 100 Players who shook the Kop.
FWA Footballer of the Year: 1976
PFA Players' Player of the Year: 1982
Premier League Manager of the Month: November 1993, August 1994, February 1995, August 1995, September 1995
Scores and results list England's goal tally first.
As of match played 30 November 2013.