Kevin Keegan’s female pundit comments illustrate size of fight facing women in football

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The Newcastle United and Liverpool legend has caused controversy with his latest comments on female pundits in the men’s game

Imagine, if you will, Kevin Keegan - partway between Del Boy Trotter and a little silver gerbil - floating along the long corridor of history like a Mars Bar wrapper caught on an updraught. There he is, poe-faced and mopey at the rear of Boudicca’s guerilla mob grumbling under his breath that she’s never had to loose a slingshot in a man’s war before as the Romans bear down upon his camp. There he is, on the banks of the Thames at Tilbury, openly musing about whether or not Elizabeth Tudor has the requisite experience to comment on naval warfare as the masts of the Spanish Armada poke over the horizon. There he is, in the dank hospital tents of Crimea, gangrene stalking him like a famished wolf, brusquely asking Florence Nightingale if there is perhaps a proper doctor he could talk to, and also whether she could stop shining that bloody oil lamp directly in his eyes.

You see, Kevin isn’t comfortable with women forming an opinion on things that he has personally deemed them incapable of doing. As such, he would love it, honestly, love it, if female pundits would stop having the audacity, the gall, and the gumption to pass judgement on men’s football.

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Speaking in Bristol at one of his patented ‘An Evening With Kevin Keegan OBE’ shows (no word yet on whether or not Sue Cook pulled out), the former Newcastle United manager said: “I don’t like to listen to ladies talking about the England men’s team at the match because I don’t think it’s the same experience. I have a problem with that.

Kevin Keegan. The former manager has caused controversy with his latest comments on female pundits in football.Kevin Keegan. The former manager has caused controversy with his latest comments on female pundits in football.
Kevin Keegan. The former manager has caused controversy with his latest comments on female pundits in football. | Getty Images

“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.” He’s just Kev, he’s sick of these Barbies running the show, and all he wants is his Mojo Dojo Casa Gantry.

In his mind, Keegan probably isn’t actively pursuing the stance of a seething misogynist. How could he be? By his own admission, he actually quite likes the female game; a ‘lady footballer’ nutmegged him once, don’t you know, and he knows upwards of four women! Don’t lump him in with those blinkered chauvinists! As long as the fairer sex stay on their side of the gender divide and allow us men to get all rough and tumbly together without interference, then Kev can tuck himself up in his big racecar-shaped bed at night and sleep easy.

The concept of separate but equal in anything is, however, a fallacy. Female representation in punditry is not some kind of conspiratorial woke agenda, but rather an acknowledgement that this beautiful game on which the watching world is fixated belongs to everybody, and that anybody with the passion and understanding to study and conquer its intricacies is welcome to partake in the conversation. On a theoretical, tactical plane football is football is football; it does not discriminate on the basis of genitalia.

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And then there is the precedent that Keegan is inadvertantly advocating for here. By suggesting that professional male football may only be analysed by those who have experienced it first hand, he is essentially demanding a kind of entrenched pundit oligarchy. No longer may we have talking heads flapping their gums about escapades beyond the narrow, rigid confines of their life’s work, or fans voicing their perspectives in a public sphere. No more Ian Wright at World Cups, no more Micah Richards working Champions League knockout rounds, no more Jonathan Liew columns or David Squires cartoons. For another thing, it precludes Keegan himself from, say, discussing the maintenance of a considerable advantage in a Premier League title ever again.

Imagine how absurd that would be, and then imagine that the same unerring blockade was enforced by something as arbitrary as gender. Do you know how foolish it would be to dismiss the opinions of Emma Hayes or Sarina Wiegman purely because they have two X chromosomes? Let me tell you, Kev, that would be pretty bloody foolish.

You would hope that Keegan’s comments represent nothing more than the mutterings of a disgruntled, antiquated minority - and to that end, perhaps they do. But when you have a figure as renowned and revered as he is openly spouting dunderheaded dog-whistle bigotry, it only serves to reiterate the scale of the battle women in football still have left to fight. Assuming Kevin thinks they’re able, of course.

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