Colchester United: the Kevin Keen interview
Kevin Keen is relishing the opportunity to take on his first full-time managerial role, with Colchester United.
The 48-year-old was officially unveiled as the new U’s boss at Monday’s press conference, although his appointment had been no secret.
He had been a red-hot favourite with the bookmakers last week, to succeed previous boss Tony Humes, and was at Rochdale to watch last Saturday’s 3-1 defeat, sitting alongside chairman and owner Robbie Cowling.
Keen had a long and distinguished career as a bustling midfielder, principally with West Ham, Wolves and Stoke, and has had several coaching posts at West Ham, Liverpool, West Brom and Reading.
But now he is ready to take the big step into football management.
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“I’d like to thank the chairman for giving me this opportunity,” explained Keen.
“I’ve spent my whole life working in football. Since retiring at the age of 35, I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of different jobs, but this is the first time I have stepped up to be a manager.
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“I don’t think a lot should be made of that, this being my first time as a manager, because I’ve worked with some amazing people over the last 10 years, including Alan Pardew, Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke.
“They are people I have learnt so much from, the way they manage, the way they coach, and the way they deal with things.
“So it’s not as though I’m coming into this not being aware of the problems that managers have.
“Furthermore, I’m not young anymore. In fact, I think I’m getting a bit old to be a new manager now, at 48. Look at people like Eddie Howe (Bournemouth), who has done so many years, and is still so young (38),” added Keen.
Since reporting on Colchester United for this newspaper, since 1992, I have now welcomed 13 different managers.
A few of them, especially Paul Lambert and Aidy Boothroyd, did have money to spend on recruiting new players, following the Essex club’s move to the Weston Homes new Community Stadium in 2008.
But the earlier ones, including the likes of Roy McDonough, George Burley, Steve Wignall and Steve Whitton, all had to work within the confines of a much tighter budget.
And in more recent times, Colchester managers have had to juggle two main aims – keeping the U’s in the third tier of the Football League, and blooding young talent from the blossoming Academy.
That was the dual remit of the last two managers, Joe Dunne and Humes, and new boss Keen will be pursuing a similar path.
“I don’t think I’d be sat here, if I wasn’t supporting and happy with the way Robbie (Cowling) wants this club to go,” said Keen.
“I think it’s a fantastic philosophy.
“He wants to bring through young players, Academy players, which I think is a little bit why he has chosen me to do the role.
“I had a big part to play at West Ham in terms of bringing through players like Mark Noble, James Tomkins and Jack Collison.
“And also helping out at Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers gets a lot of credit for bringing through (Raheem) Sterling, but it was actually Kenny Dalglish who played him (first).
“I told him to play Raheem. I said – he’s only 17, play Raheem,” added Keen, who was a first-team coach at Liverpool under Dalglish in 2011-12.