John Nicholson watches Martin Keown on the TV and wonders if he’s ever mistaken for a pig farmer from the Cotswolds…
Wears Men’s Clothes. That is, clothes which offer no compromise on manliness. Nothing patterned, or with a primary colour. Nothing soft and draping. Nothing that looks like anything Robbie Savage would wear. All probably bought from Greenwoods by his wife.
Has that quaint burr to his voice that occasionally makes him sound like a pig farmer from the Cotswolds. Indeed, he has that unreconstructed, unsophisticated rural sort of look about him. When wearing a tweedy sort of jacket, he could quite easily fit in at a livestock market in 1948. Talks in a quiet manner which suggests he’s quite thoughtful. This is a notion sometimes rather quickly undermined by the words he utters, but he is at least distinctive in this regard. Doesn’t seem to get excited by football, which is admirable if it reveals heavy duty male emotional repression, but less impressive if it’s because he’s actually a bit bored by earning money merely by talking about football.
Hits and misses
When an occasion demands a modern player be criticised for general foppishness, laziness, not tracking back or being a dan who is fancy, Martin’s your man for that job. At 49 he’s the right age for a bit of “in my day, that’d never happen” as though that automatically works as an appropriate critique of the modern world. But there’s only so much mileage in that sort of viewpoint because all but the most slack-jawed realise that now is not back then and things change.
Can indulge in some of the worst “say-what-you-see” punditry on TV and while not scaling at the Olympian heights of Michael Owen’s patented stream of ceaseless cliche, he all too easily defaults to that level in moments of stress.
Anyone who talks a lot in public can recognise that moment when someone opens their mouth to talk, begins to say something, but has absolutely no idea what it is going to be about. I suspect Martin does that quite a lot.
Big club bias
You get the feeling that football is his whole life and, having little time for the flashy or glamorous things, that means he can’t be entertaining any BCB. Often saves his harshest words for players at big clubs – especially Arsenal, for obvious reasons. This is one of his strongest cards.
Loved or loathed
I doubt there is any extreme of emotion about Martin Raymond Keown. Many grumble about him being a tad flatulent, rambling on about things he doesn’t seem to know much about, being out of touch, and generally forgetting that he was one of the dirtiest defenders of his generation when criticising other players. Others enjoy his degree of bluntness and unaffected blokishness. Seems a good-natured sort, at heart. There’s definitely something to enjoy about him and he isn’t one of the grunt labour that pollute too many studios on TV. Also does a lot of radio work on 5live and in that context, is always much more enjoyable. Radio gives you the time to stretch out a bit and Keown seems to benefit from that, when encouraged by a good presenter, like Mark Chapman, to do so. Can actually be quite funny, with a dry, acerbic wit.
Proper Football Man
OK Martin, we’ve got your PFM application form here. We’ll just go through your checklist and see if your credit score is high enough. You were a really bloody dirty and ugly defender who got right up a striker’s arse in the 80s and 90s when you had to be a tough sod to survive. Full marks. 43 International caps for England counts against you, I’m afraid. A PFM must always feel his talents were not recognised in the land of his birth and be consequently bitter and paranoid. If you can’t give an exclusive to a brown-nosing journo about how being English counted against you in your career, you really can’t call yourself a PFM.
However, you get big points for being likely to blame foreigners for introducing diving into the previously unsullied, honest British game and we like that degree of mild xenophobia mixed with downright ignorance of the facts. We also like that you have a column in the Daily Mail – an august paper with a fine reputation for telling it like it is and showing footballer’s wives in bikinis – which is, as all PFMs know – a harmless bit of banter and she shouldn’t be flaunting it if she doesn’t want the lads to stare.
However, our linguistic experts tell us you sometimes do sound a little bit educated and reasonable and any PFM knows that education is to be suspicious of because it tends to undermine people who know nothing, and people who know nothing are the sort of people the PFM can easily impress and possibly con out of money.
Moving on to your social life, Martin. You’ve very little form in this regard and, given you’re nearly 50 and still very flat stomached, we fear you are barely even drinking, let alone frequenting kebab shops. If we sent Reidy around with a fire extinguisher filled with one of his special hair lacquer, absinthe and goose fat blends, we fear you could not consume the whole tank. This is an automatic disqualification. Also, you appear never to have had a drink-driving conviction, haven’t overturned a 4-wheel drive in a field, had an expensive divorce, nor even been caught on CCTV camera expunging personal waste matter in a shop doorway at 4.30am after night of banter with the boys. This is all counting against you, Martin. We also suspect you are highly unlikely to be papped leaving a nightclub called Pant-Ease in Alderley Edge with Miss Buxton 1979. And, as you know Martin, we do have high standards of low life behaviour here at the PFM emporium of vulgarity.
I’m afraid, despite clearly being a man’s man and occasionally talking about the importance of a few beers for team-bonding, we’re going to have to decline your PFM membership application. Put simply, Martin, you’re not trying hard enough.
Beyond the lighted stage
Nothing but football for MRK. When not on TV or radio he’s probably playing Subbuteo on the dining room table, much to the chagrin of Mrs K who has got the faggots and peas ready and wants to lay the table.