Football: Keegan's Capacity for Emotion Lifts Fourth Estate ; SIX NATIONS' CHAMPIONSHIP England's Stand-In No 8 Must Stand out against Scotland in Calcutta Cup Match to Keep Mentor's Place
Rowbottom, Mike, The Independent (London, England)
YEARS AGO, when I used to work for The Guardian (can I say that?), I became wary of introducing myself. The reason - before anyone leaps in to say something along the lines of "That's not hard to understand" or "Who could blame you?" - was professional, rather than personal.
Once I told any would-be interviewee which paper I represented, they would pause for a moment with an irritating smile playing about their lips. "Ah," they would say archly. "The Grauniad".
I'm sure they weren't all readers of Private Eye, the organ which I believe coined that jumbled name to honour the paper's distinguished record of printing errors. "The Grauniad" had already passed into the common argot.
The point was that by the time these knowing social observers had sorted out their gag, the newspaper concerned had dispensed with the hot metal printing method which had created literals with such amusing regularity.
If, however, rather than smiling waxenly, I had offered my interviewees black-and-white evidence that their criticism was outdated, they would not have thanked me for it.
Being surprised, even pleasantly surprised, is all well and good. But people much prefer to have their expectations, or prejudices, confirmed.
Take the case of Kevin Keegan. After last Sunday's visit to Ipswich Town, when his Manchester City side won 4-1 to reach the FA Cup fifth round, the former England manager was immediately burdened with the news that City had been drawn away to Newcastle, the team he took to the brink of the Premiership title in 1996.
A tricky case of divided loyalties. More prudent characters would have spun a phrase along the lines of it promising to be a fascinating tie before retiring to consider their strategy.
But, over the years, we have come to expect better than that from Keegan. Not for nothing did his incoherent, finger-stabbing rant at Manchester United's manager, Alex Ferguson, as the 1996 title slipped away, figure in the recent top 100 favourite sporting moments on Channel 4.
As he arrived at the podium in the Ipswich press room, oyster- eyed with emotion, a hush of expectation descended - expectation that was to be swiftly and gloriously rewarded.
"I'm not sure if it's a good draw or not," he said, a little huskily. "Because I love Newcastle United FC, and I'm getting to love Manchester City."
Hear that, City? …