Back in 1976 my Dad, before he retired, worked for British Telecom. He gets a job one day to fix a phone line just outside Mold – the name is Mr Keegan. Kevin had moved there a while after joining Liverpool.
So my Dad goes to fix the phone line, gets chatting and Kevin says pop up on Sunday with your lad. My Dad came home that night and said to me, “three o’clock Sunday afternoon, we are going to Kevin Keegan’s house”.
As a 10 year old lad I stood their and said, “I think you are joking aren’t you?”
“No,” said my Dad. “He has invited us up.”
Friday night and Saturday afternoon was a very slow weekend. I still could not believe I was going. Sunday afternoon came and just before three o’clock, we made the short 5 mile journey from Mynydd Isa to Cilcain near Mold. As we approached the driveway I could see a horse box and a sports car on the large windy drive as well as two English sheepdogs in the garden.
As we got out of the car Kevin came out of the house to meet us with his wife Jean. I must admit I was lost for words. Here I am with one of the greatest footballers of all time, about to go in his house for pop and cakes.
Once in the house we sat talking about who I liked best and did I play football, to which I replied yes I’am a goalkeeper.
Kevin asked what I thought about Ray Clemence. “Just the best,” I said,
“I ll arrange for you meet him one day maybe,” he replied. Not only was I with Kevin in his house but he has promised I get to meet my goalkeeping idol.
We spent the afternoon talking football. My dad had a lot to say about all the big matches of course. He showed us his and Jean’s wedding album. It was very surreal, like we were old family friends.
It was approaching 6 o’clock and my dad said we needed to go soon. Kevin said, “just hold on a minute before you go.” He left the room for a few minutes and came back with a pair of football boots. “These are for you, Nick.”
He asked Jean for a pen and signed them ”Best Wishes Kevin Keegan”. He carried on to say they are my training boots but I can get a new pair from the club.
He then turned to my Dad and said, “And for you, a couple of complimentary tickets for next week’s match. There will be two tickets at the players entrance every week for you.” Jean said why not pop up again next and bring the rest of your family too.
We went up a week later and Kevin gave us toy cars and sweets galore this was starting to become very relaxed.
That was the start of a great friendship Kevin got us complimentary tickets for home games. I got to meet various players who would come to the players entrance with our tickets. Clemence was first to come with the tickets (he even kept to his word that he would let me meet up with Ray), Heighway, Callaghan, Toshack, Thompson and the rest.
One particular match – a derby match with Everton – he could only get two comp tickets for my Dad and my Dad’s mate so my Dad said, “What about Nick?”
“Don’t worry he said he can come with me.”
I then was walked through the players entrance upstairs to the players lounge for food, before watching the match with Kevin Keegan’s Dad in the Directors Box 10 years of age and I am sat in the directors box with Kevin Keegans Dad watching Liverpool v Everton.
After the match we had the biggest buffet I have ever seen with all the players. I had just watched out on the pitch, security was tight though and my dad was outside for nearly half an hour asking the policeman to go and get me from the players lounge. It was only when Jean Keegan was walking past the door she recognised my Dad and got him in to get me.
But better is to come.
My dad was setting up a five a side competition and wanted to call it after his hero, The Bill Shankly Trophy.
On the organising of the final of the trophy my Dad asked Kevin if would come and present the trophy. “No problem,” he said.
One night a week before the final the phone goes. I answer it. “Hello can you speak to your dad please?”
“Yes,” I said as a polite 10 year old. “Who is speaking please?”
“It’s Bill Shankly,” was the reply.
My Dad’s mate was in the front room and I went running in to say Bill Shankly was on the phone. My Dad’s mate just laughed and said, “I don’t think so,” but it was.
One week later, the great Mr Shankly was sitting in our front room drinking a cup of tea in my Dad’s armchair… yes you did read that right – Bill Shankly was sitting in our front room drinking a cup of tea, chatting away like old friends.
We went down to Mold a mile down the road for the finals – a big night. Bill and Kevin presented the trophy to the winners, The Sensational Six. I was in the team who were runners up but actually that did not really matter.
We had tickets off Kevin for about a year or so and then he moved to SV Hamburg and he was replace by someone called Kenny Dalglish.
We went over to Bill’s house in Liverpool with pictures of the final night and to thank him personally – a very modest man and we were very lucky to have met him.
Some years on now and my little 5 year old lads middle name is Shankly. He does not know about the great Bill Shankly, but he will of course be told in due course.
What I feel sorry for him and thousands of kids these days is that what I and my Dad experienced with Kevin and Bill would never happen in today’s football with the superstar image.