Keegan and Dalglish

by Richard T Kelly, Simon and Schuster, £20

Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish are “football royalty, sporting kings”, throwbacks to the days when football was truly a “working-class calling”, meaning there are lots of miners and sons-of-miners in this book.

Dalglish, the Glasgow Protestant, and Keegan, a Catholic from Doncaster, were hard-working and single-minded. Their careers intersected continually, most notably at Liverpool and Newcastle.

Dalglish was in the stands on the day of the Ibrox disaster, on the pitch for Heysel and in the dugout at Hillsborough. The part he played in the aftermath of the latter tragedy, particularly during the funerals, means he is revered on Merseyside. Richard T Kelly prefers him, I think, to cocky Keegan, carefully unstitching, while not quite destroying, the Glaswegian’s reputation as a bit of a sourpuss.

Dalglish loved Rangers as a boy, but his attitude to playing for Celtic reveals something of the gulf between football as an inflamer of passions among fans and as a matter of pragmatism among players. “My dream was to become a professional footballer. The location was just a detail,” said deadpan Dalglish. This decision reflects well on Dalglish and his family, who set aside sectarianism to get on with life. It is also a tribute to Celtic’s longstanding ecumenical approach to recruitment. Meanwhile, one of Keegan’s first coaches was Sister Mary Oliver, principal of his primary school, who liked a kickabout, “her habit whipping around her knees”.

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