Martin Keown

Martin Keown

Very few footballers get to win a Premier League title. Martin Keown’s won three.

The former England international defender was part of an Arsenal team that dominated England during the late nineties, trading blows with Manchester United and usually coming off the better.

We got some time with him last week while he was working with BT London Live for the Olympics to talk to him about those glory days at Arsenal, Team GB itself and moving on after you hang up your boots for the last time.


So, what have you been up to with BT at London 2012?

I’ve been down here at BT House at Hyde Park sampling the Olympic atmosphere, having a great time and I’ve just been doing a Q&A talking about how top level sports people can inspire people to do it themselves, the next generation.

There were lots of young children here, it’s the school holidays and I’m sure that there’s going to be a new Olympian in the years to come coming out of this affair because there’s so much attention and focus on these events, surely we’re going to have a whole new crop of stars for the future.

Do you think that inspiration will be the real legacy of the games, not the facilities?

Yeah, I think one of the things that happens is that it concentrates the minds. It makes the government pump more money in, and that funding’s necessary. Everyone wants to be healthy and part of education is to have good sport, competition and coaches, but you must have the arenas at the end of it all.

So it’s both areas really. It’s putting the money in at the grass roots. We talk a lot about the grass roots in football but you have to have the role models too.

Thinking back to my past, I only came into the game after watching the 1974 FA Cup final with Kevin Keegan scoring goals. And I wanted to do that, I wanted to copy that. And that’s what’s going to happening this time around.

I can’t wait myself to see the men’s 100m final, I just hope there’s a young Englishman who can run as fast as him (Usain Bolt), as it’s truly amazing to watch these guys running.

What do you think the impact of finally having a Great Britain football team at these games will be?

A lot of people have reservations about having football in the Olympics but I don’t have a problem with it. Maybe we could have embraced it a little bit, I would have liked to have seen some of the Scottish players in there, great characters as are the Northern Irish. There are one or two Welsh performing exceptionally well, so it’s a shame we didn’t see more, from the other nations. There are probably too many English players.

They’re progressing nicely, had a bit of a pre-season look about it at the beginning, people not really fit and ready, but we shouldn’t expect that and a little bit of unfair criticism coming their way. Might be a surprise medal there. (Time has since proved Martin wrong unfortunately).

Do you hope that this will be something we’ll see again?

Well, we’re only really seeing it for the first time now and it would be difficult in terms of qualification, but it’s a great experience for them in terms of being in a tournament.

We’re seeing Ryan Giggs performing in a later tournament, and if you think about what he’s achieved in the game, and a Great Britain team’s giving him the platform to be able to do that. It would be a shame if this was the only time we got to see a Great Britain team playing together.

Looking back at your career, what was like to win all those titles and trophies with Arsenal?

Well, looking back, we were spoilt really looking at that dressing room. You think of the Bergkamps, Henrys, Vieras, Overmars and another one who never gets mentioned in Pires, not to mention the defence, we were so spoilt with fantastic quality.

When you’ve got that many good players, you win trophies. Having an outstanding manager’s just the icing on the cake.

You’ve spoken before about the impact that Wenger had at Arsenal. Do you think Roy Hodgson could so something like that for England?

Having been out there in Ukraine and Poland, it surprised me received Roy Hodgson is across Europe. I mean, people love him! He has a really good reputation and I think he’s making the right steps so far. They looked very organised  throughout the tournament, I just felt maybe that we weren’t able to attack quite as much and the balance wasn’t quite right.

We were rigid tactically and it seemed that was what he’d set out to do, but I think he’s a quick learner and he’ll do well. And the players enjoyed themselves, there seemed to be harmony again between the players and the manager and above all else that was something very pleasing to see.

What was it like not only playing for England, but captaining them?

Well, it’s a dream come true playing for your country. I think my first game was the same year that Alan Shearer made his debut back in 1992. It was a great occasion, had all the family there, and it’s actually hard to then concentrate and do the job. I always like to see players get that opportunity when they’re younger, get it out of the way nice and early.

Let’s hope the next generation of England players can talk about winning something, not just about playing for England. It’s about what you can achieve in an England shirt, not just playing for them. I think there’s been a little too much of that over the years. To then go and captain England was, again, a very memorable occasion for me, I was proud to do that. It’s something you never forget.

Ultimately when you look back at your career, and it’s what you’ve won in terms of trophies that you focus on. It’s what got away that you remember than what you got.

You were voted in the top 20 Arsenal players of all time. How does that make you feel?

Wow, that’s a huge compliment from the Arsenal fans, I was surrounded by so many outstanding players. In that defence we had Tony Adams, Steve Bould, David O’Leary, along with the Dixon’s and Winterburns, so to be named in the top twenty isn’t to be taken lightly.

I’m very proud of everything I achieved at Arsenal and without the support of the Arsenal fans I wouldn’t have been half the player. I played with a lot of passion, determination and heart and that came from the fans. Maybe they identified with me when they looked back. I enjoyed every minute of it.

Many high profile sports people struggle after the end of their sporting careers. Why do you think this is?

It’s interesting. You tend to go through phases. You’ve got to keep busy, you’ve got remember that the game doesn’t owe you anything and that if you want to go into new areas, you’ve got to develop your skills. You’ve got to reach out and pick up the phone, not just wait for people to call you.

You’ve got to start again. You’re doing that though at a time in your life when most people in their late thirties and early forties are doing very well in their own industries and you’ve just been told you’re too old, you’re no good anymore.

So I can understand why so many players have problems making that adjustment. It’s probably the biggest match of your life when you stop playing, battle starts. So you keep busy, put your time into your family, I’ve got a son now who’s playing football.

I’ve also got my thing for the Daily Mail and the BBC and without that footballing fix, I think I’d end up becoming weak and then wandering back into football myself.

What was it like adapting to the world of TV?

Well, I was probably a slow starter when I first came in, a bit like my football career in fact. Now I feel much more comfortable though, and I’m able to be much more natural and do what I want to do, other than the things I don’t want to do. It’s a nice balance. I certainly enjoyed doing the Euros, doing the co-commentaries and pitch side stuff felt great.

And finally, what have you got planned after the Olympics?

Well, the new football season! Also, I’ve been asked to play for Wembley FC in the FA Cup which is something I don’t know whether I’ll be able to make, whether my body gets me there.

I’m in training at the minute trying to offer if not something on the pith maybe something behind the scenes to help those who are with Wembley FC to get to the next round.


For more information on BT London Live and to see who else is at BT House, visit

MaleExtra Cameron Smith