Friday, February 23, 2024

Dirk Kuyt and Kevin Keegan proving their critics (me) wrong

Graham Fisher in Editorial 26 Apr 2008


I’m going to do something now that is not very easy for any football writer to do. I’m going to admit that I have been wrong about one or two people this season and humbly eat my words. Well, I’ll eat them but I’m not so sure about being humble!

The first person to whom I think I may owe an apology is Liverpool’s Dutch striker cum wide player, Dirk Kuyt. I have watched the reds several times this year and have always failed to see what it is exactly that Kuyt brings to the team in terms of quality.

I listened to several people telling me how hard he worked but that wasn’t good enough to answer my questions. I mean, for fifty thousand a week I’d work hard. I wouldn’t be any good but you’d be hard pushed to question my attitude and commitment.

I got such a bee in my bonnet about Dirk Kuyt that in one article I wrote I actually asked the question, “is there a worse player in the Premier League?”

The fact of the matter is that I still can’t really see what is so special about Kuyt. I can’t help but feel that a side as strong as Liverpool could find someone better to play wide on their right. What I have to accept, however, is that we all see football differently and I may well just have a blind spot preventing me seeing the good that he does for the team. After all, I’ve never really rated Frank Lampard and he came second in the world player of the year award!

There are two reasons why I am beginning to eat my words about Dirk Kuyt. Firstly, I have the utmost respect for Rafa Benitez as a manager and if he has stuck by the Dutchman through thick and thin when all others have been rotated, he must be able to see something that I can’t. Whilst trusting my own judgment, I accept that Benitez may possibly know best!

Secondly, in scoring Liverpool’s goal in the semi-final against Chelsea on Tuesday evening he bagged his seventh Champions League goal of the season. That is a particularly good and strong argument against the likes of me who say he contributes little.

Maybe I have finally got to accept that Dirk Kuyt is a player capable of performing at the very top and deserving of his place at the summit of the European game. I will take back what I have said about him in the past based purely on the statistics and the facts such as they are. I shall continue to watch to see if I am able to recognise the qualities he possesses with my own eyes, but I am not hopeful due to my blind spot and stubborn nature.

If anyone can enlighten me as to what he does contribute in general play other than hard work, I would be delighted to hear from you.

The second person about whom I have been somewhat unfairly disparaging this season is Kevin Keegan. King Kev. The Geordie Messiah. I have used both of those phrases in a sarcastic manner earlier on in the year as I confidently stated, quite categorically, that Kevin Keegan would not be a success on his return to Tyneside.

I questioned the wisdom of the decision for him to go back to his spiritual home from both sides of the argument. I couldn’t see how it was anything other than a backward step for the club and I couldn’t see how it was anything but a poisoned chalice for Keegan himself.

After nine games without a win and relegation staring them in the face, I felt sorry for the Toon Army but pretty smug about the brilliance of my footballing knowledge. In fact, I even wrote another article in an “I told you so” type style.

Then what happens? King Kev absolutely transforms his dispirited , disjointed and disheveled side into world beaters and they win four out of six games, drawing the other two. Six unbeaten games to take them into a comfortable mid-table position.

The result of this total reversal of fortunes at St James’ Park is a happy Keegan, justifying all the hype surrounding his return, a joyful Toon Army wondering what would have happened if King Kev had been there all season and an embarrassed football writer with egg all over his face!

Kevin Keegan has done a remarkable job and I have been absolutely wrong about him. I still don’t think he is the man, in the long term, to bring the long awaited trophies to St James’ Park, but he has managed to float and steer what was a sinking ship towards much safer waters. For that, he should be even more of a hero at Newcastle than he was before.

So there you are. If you are an opinion writer you will sometimes get it horribly wrong. If you do, then it is right and proper to admit your errors and put the record straight.

Dirk Kuyt and Kevin Keegan, I salute you.


Graham Fisher



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