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Keegan’s unfinished business


The announcement of Kevin Keegan returning for the third time to Newcastle United initially shocked me, as it probably shocked quite a few number of people, but not because he returned to management again; it was because it seemed to be yet another short-term appointment by the Newcastle United board.

It kinda felt like Doc. Emmett Brown pulled up in his time-travel Delorean, grabbed the Newcastle faithful by them collectively by the arm and yelled “Yer gotta come back with me Marty! Back to the future!

I felt that Big Sam’s sacking was short-termism at it’s worst and was incredibly short-sighted, poorly timed and it looked like a knee-jerk reaction by a board that looked like it wasn’t in control. It just looked and smelled like a complete mess. Within a few weeks, Keegan’s return had us shocked because again it looked like a knee-jerk reaction by a board looking like it wasn’t in control, but I feel in the long-run his appointment may be the best thing to happen to Newcastle United.

Before I go forward, I want to say something about the rolling news approach to Newcastle United and how frustrated it got me.

Keegan’s reprisal of manager of Newcastle United also confirmed what “Southern” newspaper editors “think”, that being the theory that Newcastle United just won’t be able to move on until the “Ghost of Christmas past” (circa 1996-1997 season) is finally laid to rest under the hallow turf that is St.James Park.

The whole Southern newspapers thing got me incredibly cynical about any appointment. The worst of all media reporting was Sky Sports News, mainly because they’re on 24 hours a day – they are rolling news, and have to fill up their time with endless speculation and to this end really perpetuated several stereotypes of Newcastle United supporters, such as the fat, overweight Newcastle United Geordie who’s shirt doesn’t quite fit him and he always sounds like he’s drunk or isn’t quite intelligent enough to hold a conversation longer than 30 seconds.

Additionally the other stereotype banded about was this concept that if you lose every game 4-3, then that is somehow success, and that Geordies will accept glorious defeat over any real success (by which I mean a cup/trophy or European spot). I always has trouble with this, mainly because losing a game 4-3 is, by definition, not a success. But that’s just semantics.

There was the other myth that Newcastle United is unlike any other club in the nation. That the mindset is different, that the uniqueness of the Geordie faithful makes it unique amongst all other clubs, and that no-one outside the region “gets it”. This concept frustrates me, mainly because it gives the impression that Newcastle United are a “chosen” people, and that no other fan will ever understand what it means to go to a club to see it lose “4-3”, or win a game. Isn’t this incredibly insulting to other clubs, other fans? I’m sure the supporters of Manchester City, United, Luton Town or Scunthorpe (one of Kevin Keegan’s starting points) are also into their club. But Newcastle United fans, “the chosen one”? I personally believe SSN uses this myth to perpetuate the idea that Newcastle United is a poisoned chalice.

Finally there’s the other stereotype that SSN wields out, and that are the under 18’s, the kids who chant “Shearer” for no real reason other than he’s popular. Of course Shearer is a legend for being one of the top Premiership strikers of all-time, but his underhandedness and use of PR people to link (subvertly so) him to the vacant managerial role (or the assistant managerial role) hasn’t helped things. Shearer has no managerial experience, and his constant links to Newcastle United harm the long-term future of the club. If Shearer wants to manage, and he has a point to prove, then why doesn’t he manage a lower league side. What merit has he to manage a Premiership club, other than he was the leading goal-scorer?

Away from SSN, it is incredibly easy to be cynical with Newcastle United. They’ve been through a lot of managers – all of whom have been unable to recapture the magic of that 1996-1997 season that SSN likes to drone on about.

This cynicism also stemmed from the fact that Big Sam played incredibly conservatively, aiming to dominate a game by subterfuge rather than by cavalier. His release of course was incredibly badly timed and it gave the impression that the Newcastle board weren’t in control.

Big Sam’s failure to bring exciting football to Newcastle has haunted all previous managers. This era of instability has made it difficult to see just who, if anyone, could able to replicate the kind of success that Keegan had during the 1996-1997 season.

It’s easy to be cynical about Keegan’s return, especially considering how Keegan was running a “soccer circus” in Glasgow, only to leave it and join the “circus” that was the revolving door of the Newcastle United managerial role.

And yet, somehow – it might, just might work. The “audacity of hope” still resonates within the Newcastle faithful, and that is something I feel Mike Ashley has tapped into with his appointment.

As Keegan himself has said, he has “unfinished business” with the club, with new training facilities, new players, a new board and a new set of fans, he’s sure he can bring a brand of football to the Newcastle faithful, saying; “It is a big job and it is a great club. People outside the region don’t understand it. This is my third time here and my dad was a Geordie so I know what they want and what they don’t want as well, and as long as they are realistic and a little bit patient, I think we can try again to help them have dreams, and we could possibly win something.

I’m pretty sure Newcastle United could haul out a DVD with an action-themed title, like “Newcastle United presents – Keegan 3: Unfinished business” if Keegan is successful.

Of course there are numerous questions about the new Keegan era, most notably – will it work. Things have changed since 1997, but has Kevin Keegan? How much money has been allocated for transfers? And the question that nobody asked at the recent post-conference, what happens post-Keegan? (I really think that post-Keegan should be addressed as soon as possible).

There is no doubt that Keegan’s return has given the area, the club and its fans a buzz. The returning “Messiah” has unfinished business with the club and the Premiership is ready for the next step in the Newcastle United and Kevin Keegan era.

The “unfinished business” era, for better or for worse, has begun.

Kevin Keegan News Conference (ITN/Youtube) (Short-version)