If Newcastle United are ever to achieve their potential, they need the man in charge to stop playing at being a football chairman, stop being such a stubborn fool and to start making the correct decisions – for Mike Ashley, there is only one decision he has to make.
All Mike Ashley has to do is say sorry to Kevin Keegan. That’s it.
All of Mike Ashley’s problems in football stem from one moment: when he chose Dennis Wise over Kevin Keegan, the best damn manager this club has ever had.
He bottled it because Kevin Keegan told him how to turn Newcastle into the best team in the country; the financial risk involved following the global economic crash simply scared Ashley too much.
What if Dave Whelan is right, he thought. What if there is a club in the North and I’m not in it? Then here comes Kevin Keegan, a man Mike Ashley doesn’t know, a man the entire footballing world is crucifying him for appointing in the first place, and he’s asking for large sums of money to do it in two or three years.
He’s talking about Frank Lampard, Thierry Henry and Bastian Schweinsteiger to replace a squad of players Mike Ashley invested large sums of cash in only one year earlier. You’ve already been screwed over financially by Freddy Shepherd and Sir John Hall, and now here’s another one of that generation, that clique Mike Ashley doesn’t belong in, and he’s begging you to take a chance.
Then that snake, Dennis Wise, comes to Mike Ashley. Don’t listen to Keegan, he says. Look what the papers are saying. Too long out of the game. Tactically naïve. Can only succeed with a financial advantage. Failed at every big job he’s had, Wise whispers into Mike Ashley’s ear.
He wants how much? He wants to sign who? He’s a dreamer Mike.
Me and Tony, we’ve been in the game, not on the golf course. We have our contacts who can sign the next South American superstars for dirt-cheap. Maybe we’ll not be the best team in the country, but you know, maybe we’ll sneak top four in a few years, once these potential superstars mature into better players. These people have screwed you over before, Mike, and you’re going to let another one do the same? With my way, Wise says, we get both the riches and the glory. They call it Moneyball, Mike, and a dinosaur like Keegan knows nothing about it.
Any man who says they haven’t been charmed by a snake is a liar. Mike Ashley bought into the wrong vision, that’s all. He chose to dance with the devil, and now Newcastle are, for the second time in Mike Ashley’s short tenure, on the verge of being sucked into the abyss of lower league football.
In the moment of truth, Mike Ashley chose Dennis Wise over Kevin Keegan. He’s spent eight years trying to prove to himself he got it right.
You were wrong, Mike, and all you have to do to fix it is pick up the phone and say ‘I’m sorry, Kevin. I made a mistake. I was wrong. There’s only two men that can save this football club, and they’re talking to each other right now. That’s. All.
Sir Bobby Robson managed Newcastle until the age of 71. Kevin Keegan is 65 today. Sir Bobby managed Newcastle for 5 years. In that time, he took us from relegation certainties to Champions League qualification and competing for, if not winning, league titles.
People said Sir Bobby was too old, that he’d been away from England for too long, that football had changed. Sir Bobby proved them all wrong.
Kevin Keegan rescued Newcastle from the brink of relegation to the third tier and bankruptcy, to the brink of dominating the English game in five years, despite all the derision upon his appointment.
All those ‘experts’ that said it was ‘a gamble too far’ and despite initially walking away from the job after a few months, saying it “wasn’t what it said in the brochure”. With the money the club have indicated being available every year, is anyone really going to try and argue that Kevin Keegan would fail?
Even after witnessing Leicester’s incredible season under Claudio ‘mid-60s, perennial failure’ Ranieri? Because if you think there’s a better manager out there to spend the next five years rebuilding this godforsaken football club, then you simply don’t understand Newcastle United enough to comment.
Kevin Keegan had four club managerial jobs. We know what he did with Newcastle the first time. We know he took Fulham from Division 2 to the brink of the Premiership (a job completed by his successor).
We know he brought Manchester City back from Division 2 to the Premiership, setting them up for the mega-money sale to the oil barons. We know he came back to Newcastle and saved Sam Allardyce’s leftovers from relegation.
So tell me, please: where has Kevin Keegan failed?
England? Sod England, they are an irrelevance in the North-East. The fact is Kevin Keegan awakens sleeping giants and Newcastle have been comatose for far too long.
This is the real tragedy of the situation: Newcastle fans and Mike Ashley are more alike than either would care to admit.
Despised by the media. Mocked by fans of fellow clubs. Desperate to turn Newcastle into a successful club – even if those definitions of success are somewhat different.
Eight years, Mike. Eight years of doing it your way, of trying to prove you are ‘The Man’, some sort of football revolutionary. Well guess what Mike, you’re not. Because a visionary doesn’t choose Dennis bloody Wise over Kevin Keegan. Because a business genius doesn’t keep following the same proven-to-fail formula as you have these last eight years. You’ll never be liked by the footballing world Mike, not a chance. They hate outsiders like you.
The talk is that you take a back seat, that you leave footballing decisions to the board, that your main role is setting budgets and then leaving it to the experts.
No man is more expert on making Newcastle United – your Newcastle United, our Newcastle United – a success than Kevin Keegan. Despite his public proclamations, he would return to work for you – for us – again, if you treat him with the respect he deserves.
I look at what you’ve given Steve McClaren. A complete overhaul of the coaching staff. A place on the board. Eighty million pounds. The ability to buy proven players like Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend.
That’s all Kevin Keegan ever wanted from you. You said no, then you gave it to Steve McClaren. It makes no sense. The beauty of it all is, you don’t even have to sack McClaren. Officially, he’s our Head Coach. Keep him as that, and let him get back to being the coach he was at Manchester United – the one that played his part in a treble and three titles in three years. McClaren has qualities, but he needs a boss to work under. An authority figure. A main man. Someone like Kevin Keegan.
Imagine if, instead of McClaren, Charnley and Carr, Newcastle had a football board of Keegan, McClaren and Terry McDermott.
You don’t need a non-football man on the board, only a lawyer and an accountant to sort out contracts and budgets. Newcastle United is remarkably simple to run; it baffles belief that Mike Ashley is still making it so difficult for himself. We know his motive is primarily financial. Well, it’s this simple: the more successful the club is on the pitch, the more money you make off it. There’s no one out there – not Rafael Benitez, not Brendan Rodgers and certainly not David Moyes – that will make this club more successful than Kevin Keegan.
One simple decision, one simple word, one moment of humility; that’s all it would take.
All the venom, all the animosity, it all fades with one small admission from Mike Ashley: that he was wrong to choose Wise over Keegan.
The only obstruction to Mike Ashley’s success is Mike Ashley. We can only hope he wakes up before it’s too late and he’s kissing that multi-billion pound TV deal goodbye.
Pick up that phone Mike. Make the call. We’ve all wasted eight years, and now we’ve three months to save the club. How much longer are you going to wait?
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