Imagine that Kevin Keegan and a team of mountaineers set off to conquer the South West face of Everest. The expedition would leave base camp with boundless camaraderie, conviction and confidence.
The party would advance up the mountain with spirit and optimism, until suddenly, with the summit in sight, conditions would get more difficult. Its at this point, on the verge of success, that Kevin, for no apparent reason, turns round and heads for base camp.
When asked why he didnt keep going to the top, Kevin would struggle to offer a clear explanation, but an astute commentator might observe, that if he were to make it to the top, where else is there to go?
When youve never reached the top, then the thrill of always having something to chase remains.
This behaviour is known as self-sabotage the capacity to shoot yourself in the foot, when on the verge of success. Self-sabotage has its own cycle of behaviour; it begins with boundless optimism, followed by the love of the chase, and the smell of success and the cycle is completed by an act of self-destruction.
Like the classic story cycle, Keegan has his own morphology.
Keegans managerial career has all the hallmarks of the self-saboteur at play. At Newcastle he declared, Some people think the skys the limit, but Im interested in whats beyond the sky.
The supreme optimist and believer leading an adoring Tyneside public to the elusive championship and beyond. Then when success is in sight, his emotional flaws are triggered by Fergusons cynical manipulation and self-sabotage takes its inexorable grip.
Then after another period of renewal he takes up the reins at Fulham. However, this adventure is too dull for the self-saboteur, so its not long before he is sucked into and out of the vacuum cleaner of acclimation and managing England, despite his personal reservations about his lack of technical ability.
So, the cycle has begun again.
Remember that self-sabotage is not something people do consciously. Its a potent mix of influences that resides in the sub-conscious mind, that when triggered by key events, sets off a highly charged emotional explosion within oneself.
A wet September afternoon at Wembley provokes the next bout of self-sabotage. Disillusioned fans boo the man who wants to be loved. He promptly resigns. The king has no clothes. How can he stand naked before his peers?
So almost inevitably to Manchester City. The Citizens provide a perfect vehicle for the Keegan roller coaster ride. His enthusiasm is fed by the ravenous appetite of success hungry supporters. They live in the same cocoon.
Sports Psychology Summary
But how long will it be before the seeds of self-destruction reveal themselves and another cycle of self-sabotage is completed?
Kevin Keegan is the Les Dennis of football-his personal torture acted out in the public eye. For his honesty and sincerity, the public feel for him, but you sense that the fatal flaws in his make up means that the main prize will elude him. And he knows it too.