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Last Updated: Friday, 18 January 2008, 06:35 GMT
Can Toon triumph under King Kev?
By Sam Lyon

Kevin Keegan's return as Newcastle boss may have caught many a football commentator off-guard on Wednesday, but few managerial appointments have prompted a more positive reaction from a club's fans.

Kevin Keegan
Keegan is adored by Newcastle fans

"God on the Tyne", "King Kev's Back" and "Return of the Geordie Messiah" were just some of the newspaper headlines that marked his appointment, while the Magpies' FA Cup win over Stoke on Wednesday was wholly overshadowed by the sight of Keegan in the stands.

However, as the dust settles on news of his selection as Sam Allardyce's successor, the question remains: 11 years after leaving St James' Park, what will Keegan bring to Newcastle this time round?

Henry Fielding once wrote: "The prudence of the best heads is often defeated by the tenderness of the best of hearts."

Newcastle chairman Mike Ashley may have given the Toon faithful what their hearts desire, but just how prudent a decision will it prove?


The foundations of Keegan's popularity in Newcastle were laid during his time there as a player, when he scored 48 times in 78 matches during a two-year period in which the club earned promotion from the old Second Division.

That swansong spell at St James' Park, his last before his retirement, ensured his appointment as manager in 1992 was warmly welcomed by Newcastle fans.

Keegan may have spent eight years out of the game in Spain prior to the appointment - his first in management - but he was an instant success, leading Newcastle into the Premier League as First Division champions in 1993.

Newcastle 1992-1997:
P251 W138 D51 L62
Fulham 1998-1999:
P61 W38 D12 L11
England 1999-2000:
P18 W7 D7 L4
Man City 2001-2005:
P176 W77 D39 L60

His most famous season of an enthralling five-year reign was 1995-1996, when his side allowed a 12-point lead at the top of the Premier League slip as they finished the campaign runners-up to Manchester United.

It was the beginning of the end for Keegan and he resigned in January 1997 with the club fourth in the table.

Spells as manager of Fulham and Manchester City - both of whom he led to promotion as champions in his first season - affirmed his status as a fine club manager, but the nature of his departure from both again brought into question his commitment to see a job through.

That, allied to his largely unsuccessful time as England boss when he resigned in tears following defeat to Germany in the last game at the old Wembley, ensure Keegan's managerial legacy has always been a source of debate.


For a side utterly bereft of form, Newcastle are suddenly abuzz again and that, as former Toon star David Ginola explains, is down to one man - Keegan.

"Certain people are made for certain clubs and Kevin knows the Newcastle fans, he knows the club and he knows what the expectations are," the Frenchman told BBC Sport.

"The fans are passionate about the club again because they see Kevin as a legend and a saviour. All of a sudden, the fans are back in love with Newcastle.

"Football is about dreams, it's about passion and it's about ambition and Kevin has brought all of that back to Newcastle."

BBC Sport pundit Alan Shearer agrees, saying: "The fans have what they want.

There is no other man in football who could have commanded the response from Newcastle fans that Kevin has

Mick Quinn on Keegan

"They want entertainment, they want passion and they want commitment and one thing they will be guaranteed with Kevin is that they will get all of those things."

And barely a week after the fans were angrily voicing their displeasure at then-manager Sam Allardyce and the team, former Magpie Mick Quinn says Keegan has already rejuvenated the club.

"There is no other man in football who could have commanded the response from Newcastle fans that Kevin has," he told BBC Sport.

"There will be a lot of people who don't quite understand the reaction but the fact is that he fits Newcastle and the fans like a glove and they know that, they adore him for it and the place is on a real high again."


So, Keegan has already buoyed the club and supporters merely by signing on the dotted line, but what happens now the real business of the job - winning matches - starts?

One thing appears to be beyond doubt; Keegan knows how to inspire his players.

"Kevin is superb with the players. He is like a brother, a father and a mentor all wrapped into one," says Ginola.

"But he also knows when to be tough - when to put an arm around you or when to be hard with you. He was very good at the psychological side of things and will absolutely get the best out of his players."


Steve Howey, who played under Keegan at Manchester City, adds: "He just has a knack of giving players a lift.

"He could give people great motivation, great belief in their own ability. We'd go out on match days and feel as though we could beat anyone."

And former Newcastle midfielder Rob Lee shrugged off suggestions Keegan would struggle to manage a reportedly divided Magpies dressing room.

"As a man-manager, he is the best ever played for, and I played under some good ones like Terry Venables and Glenn Hoddle," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"I had five great years under Kevin, and he could make you feel 10ft tall going onto the pitch. He changed me from probably an average right-winger in the old First Division to an England international."


In the past 10 years, four Newcastle managers have spent a combined 62.5m on players, and yet ask the average Toon fan and they will say the squad needs overhauling.

Allardyce alone spent 12.4m on five players during his spell in charge, and yet Keegan will almost certainly dip into the transfer market in the short time left in the current window.

Already the likes of Olof Mellberg, David Albelda, Rafael van der Vaart and Deco have been linked to the club since Keegan's arrival, and BBC Sport's Gary Lineker believes it will not take Keegan long to mould his squad.

Faustino Asprilla
Some fans claim Asprilla's signing in 1996 cost Newcastle the title

"One thing you know about Keegan is that he is very good at getting what he wants," he says.

"He makes boards listen and react in terms of the investment they put in and the people he wants and I'm sure he'll do the same now."

However, while the likes of Shearer, Philippe Albert, Nicolas Anelka and Peter Schmeichel can be heralded as successful Keegan purchases, the new Toon manager does not have a faultless record in the transfer market.

Toon fans will debate the merits of the signings of Faustino Asprilla, Warren Barton and Paul Kitson, while Keegan had to meet the fans to justify the sale of Andy Cole to Manchester United, and, at City, David Sommeil, Jon Macken and Mattias Vuoso proved uninspired purchases.

And after three years out of the game, can Keegan realistically provide the board with a list of quality targets?

"Whoever he brings in alongside him will have a role to play in identifying players because Kevin has been out of the game a while," says Quinn.

"That said, I'm sure he has his finger on the pulse more than people think."


For all his success with Newcastle, Fulham and Manchester City, Keegan's managerial reputation was undoubtedly damaged by his time as England boss.

Seven wins in 18 matches as the national coach, including an unsuccessful Euro 2000 campaign, came against increased questions over his tactical nous.

Keegan himself declared at the time of his resignation: "I have not been quite good enough," and even admirers admit tactics are not necessarily his strength.

That (tactics) is the only thing that could let Kevin down

Mick Quinn on Keegan

"Let's be honest, people don't think of his teams as tactically solid," Chris Waddle told BBC 5 Live, while BBC Sport pundit Mark Lawrenson adds: "He's not the greatest of coaches."

Quinn agrees, saying: "That is the only thing that could let Kevin down. In modern-day football, with all the systems that are used, it can be really tough."

However, while Quinn predicts Keegan "will get it right", Ginola insists his critics have been unfair, saying: "It is always easy to criticise when you look back.

"But the fact is, for example, that Newcastle were the best team in the country for three quarters of the '95-'96 season and, even though we ended up runners-up to Manchester United, it was still a fantastic campaign.

"We scored goals, played exciting football, didn't concede many and everyone loved us. Only after the season finished did people jump on Kevin's back.

"Also look at what he did for Fulham and Man City. Tactically naive? That's not fair I think."


Lastly, Keegan takes over a squad whose star player - Michael Owen - has spoken publicly about his problems under Keegan with England.

Kevin Keegan and Michael Owen
They'll get over that... it won't be a problem at all I promise you

Shearer on Keegan's relationship with Owen

In his autobiography 'Off the Record', Owen wrote: "If Kevin style was for some players, he wasn't for me.

"Looking back on that era, one main feature stands out for me; it made me question my footballing ability for the first time in my life. It was a dark phase in my career."

Not the ringing endorsement Keegan might have hoped for on his return to St James' Park.

Shearer insists the pair's relationship won't be an issue, telling BBC 5 Live: "They'll get over that. It won't be a problem at all I promise you."

But, with Owen out of contract in 2009, his future remains clouded and if and how Keegan gets the best out of him could play a big part in his success - or otherwise.


Astonishing, exciting, fascinating and inspired - all words used by analysts to describe Keegan's appointment.

For all the questions over his tactical abilities, or lack thereof, Keegan's club record stands up to pretty close scrutiny and there is little doubting that his appointment has buoyed the supporters.

A record of success, and success with style, was always going to be key to whoever took over the Newcastle hot-seat.

But the fact that Keegan brings with him an unrivalled aura and relationship with the supporters as well means he could well be best placed to get the Magpies winning again.

It's probably the best idea Newcastle have had for many, many years

David Ginola

Throw into the mix that Ashley will surely give him time - and money - to get things right, and Ginola, for example, is unwavering in his assessment of the appointment.

"I think it's probably the best idea Newcastle have had for many, many years," he said.

Newcastle fans will be praying the Frenchman is right but, whatever happens, it is sure to be a fascinating ride.

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