top of page

Kevin Keegan is entitled to his opinion on female pundits. Ultimately, it is his loss

The Female ex-pros we see dominating punditry know more about the game than people such as Keegan can stomach. Whilst the women's game has taken huge leaps in recent years, you cannot hope to change the world view of everyone.

Let’s cut through the culture war bull***t that has seeped into our political and daily life and discuss Kevin Keegan. The former Liverpool and England striker has attracted flak recently for claiming that he doesn’t like to listen to female pundits talking about men’s football. Fine. If that’s his view and it doesn’t impact anybody, then it is up to him if he expresses it. But where Keegan does deserve to be called out, is on sweeping statements that no ex-female players can have any understanding of the men’s game because they haven’t played it. As much as Keegan has the right to express his point of view, the rest of us are free to express ours: Kevin, you sound ignorant and frankly, you don’t know what you’re missing.

The problem with calling for the cancellation of those who diverge from the views of the majority, is it emboldens and arms those who seek to divide. For every time we jump on the bandwagon of collective outrage and views we don’t agree with, we play into the narrative of the “you just can’t say anything these days” Brigade.

Collective outrage has its place, and views that do impact others such as Holocaust deniers or anti-vax misinformation spreaders are rightly condemned for the potential damage and hurt they inflict. However, in the case of Keegan, surely the fact that his statement is controversial is a sure sign of the journey that female footballers have come on. Progress does not take everybody along for the ride and there will always be those left behind. That is not cause for cancellation or beratement but simply a fact of change, it isn’t for everyone, and you cannot wish it so.

But his opinion that female players are in some way lesser pundits because they haven’t been in the position of current internationals does deserve to be called out for its sheer absurdity. Speaking at an event, the former Ballon D’or winner said “The presenters we have now, some of the girls are so good, they are better than the guys. It’s a great time for the ladies. But if I see an England lady footballer saying about England against Scotland at Wembley and she’s saying, ‘If I would have been in that position, I would have done this,’ I don’t think it’s quite the same. I don’t think it crosses over that much.”

It might be the case that he truly believes that Jill Scott doesn’t know about high pressure games at Wembley against international rivals. He may not have considered that her last game was the Euro 2022 final against Germany in front of a sold-out Wembley with huge TV audience. If anything, she might have some sound advice for the men’s national side on how to react to the opposition equalising in a major European final.

Perhaps Keegan doesn’t appreciate just how much somebody such as Karen Carney can relate to a modern-day player. Her acute understanding of making in-game decisions with the weight of the potential social media backlash that accompanies failure is unique given her experiences of Twitter’s vitriol and a pressing matter for modern day players.

Maybe he hasn’t fully appreciated the shared experience of Marcus Rashford and Eni Aluko in fighting racism, facing discrimination, and making it to the top despite such barriers.

Image Credit: ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv

The point is, that for former men’s players such as Keegan and the other GB News rambling ex-pros, they are perhaps unwilling to admit, or blind to the fact that recently retired women do not know as much as they do about the modern game; they know more.

Contrast England’s tactical ineptness at Euro 2000 against a fluid, modern Portugal that preceded their group stage exit under Keegan and compare it to Alex Scott’s intricate dissection of England’s options at full-back during the Qatar World Cup last winter.

Compare the drab tactics foiled by an average German side at the last ever game at the old Wembley with the tactical understanding of Emma Hayes that has become the envy of half the managers in the Premier League. Sarina Wiegman has done what only one other England manager has done before. And if you want to understand the mindset required to lead an England side under pressure, Leah Williamson is in an select club, and did so barely breaking a sweat.

You see, whilst Keegan was an exceptional footballer and trailblazer in terms of maximising his commercial value, he played a different game to the product we see on TV most days. His was a game of extreme physicality, played on awful pitches with comparatively rudimentary tactics. That is not to pour scorn on his generation, some of whom are my heroes, but to acknowledge that times have changed, and the game has too. In doing so, it has outgrown many former pros and gender is no longer the pre-cursor it once was. It leaves them floundering, struggling to accept the fact that the game is different to the one they remember. Unfortunately, for Kevin and his ilk, when your only argument in a discussion on football expertise centres around the fact you have a set of bollocks (physically speaking), it is likely that you’re not on the winning side.

Insta: @Conorwilsonwrites

X: @ConorWilson2


Featured Image: ITV


bottom of page