Martin port

By Martin Port

11 February 2022


In this special video series, former England footballer and manager Kevin Keegan gives his secrets to great leadership.

In the seventh of nine videos with BigChange founder Martin Port, Kevin explains how business leaders can cope when the pressure is on.

Watch the video or read the transcript below.


I’m sighing because I was thinking about the next subject, pressure. How do you deal with pressure? You’re positive but you’re always thinking something could go wrong.

It might be problems with the technology. Your customers need maximum uptime and if something happens you need to be able to deal with that in a very calm way. There’s pressure when you’re not bringing the sales in.

I think the biggest thing for me is calmness, steadying yourself is so important. How is it in football? I know you told me you got grey hair by 35.


Maybe 37.


Oh when you went into management? Well you can see how calm I am, I’ve got no greys.


Ah you’re in complete control. It’s difficult because everyone says people want to be calm but sometimes players need to know they’ve overstepped the line or their performance isn’t good enough.

We had it in Newcastle, when we probably should’ve won the league title.

When we started to falter the hardest part was pushing the players to perform better than they were, without them realising it was all going pear shaped.


What about that interview, when you came to Leeds? Elland Road.


Yeah, when I said “I’d love it if we beat them”. I ran into some of the players last week and they mentioned how we’d laughed about it. We did. I had earphones on that day so I couldn’t hear how loud I was shouting.

Everyone always says “At Leeds, when you lost and had your rant about Sir Alex Ferguson.” Hold on. We won at Leeds!

If you see something in football that you’ve worked so hard for – you’ve been all these places and won games – when you see that fading away it’s very hard.

For your players, for your staff, for the hierarchy above, they’re all thinking about winning the league. Then you don’t win it. You don’t achieve it.

Now you look back and think we finished second. That’s not bad. Of course people always say no one remembers who finished second, but I think you do.

What they’re talking about is the competitive world we live in; there’s lots of people doing what BigChange are doing, there’s lots of people doing what we were doing – Man United in this particular case.


You’re only as good as your next game aren’t you?


You are. The key to success is getting that out of the system before the next game. Not letting what happened Friday afternoon affect you on Monday morning. Getting a handle on it.

You are only as good as your last game too.


You know in a competition, it’s not the idea I thought of today or yesterday. It’s the next idea that set me apart.


Yeah. You’ve got to get over it at some stage. Although sometimes, whether you’re in sales or at the top of a company, you’ve got to let your feelings out sometimes.

You can’t always be the person who’s saying ‘calm down, we’ll sort this out’, sometimes it’s you. You need to accept that.

Not many people in my sport – and I’m including all the greats – have not had a moment when the frustration has got the best of them. You get it out of your system, you roll your sleeves up, and you get on with it.