I have booked up to see Kevin Keegan on the 4th October, he is appearing at a venue in Soho to do a talk-in and publicise his new book, which comes out that day. It promises to be a cracker.
When I was 10 years old my dad came into the house one day with a present.
Usually when I heard the words drift up the stairs “come down, I’ve got something for you,” I was usually greeted by a Greggs pasty on the kitchen table, or a bottle of lucozade. On this occasion though a sizeable 3ft bag stood in the kitchen. I took it out and there was a large canvas painting of Kevin Keegan, in his Newcastle shirt, celebrating his first goal for the club.
I have just turned 23 and that canvas painting still hangs above my bed.
Now I know for most readers of The Mag, who are of a certain age, I don’t have to lecture you on the importance of Kevin Keegan (if you don’t then you can YouTube him… ha ha!). Like my Dad, you lived through Keegan’s spell as a player at Newcastle when he dragged the team from the second division back into the top league. You were there as well eight years later when he returned as manager and guided us from the bottom of the second division to be one of the most exciting football teams in the world, all in the space of three or four years.
When Keegan returned as manager for a second time, I was lucky enough to be of an age to remember it. I may have only been 13 or 14 but it is a day I will never forget. The announcement before the game, the walk up to the ground, the excitement inside St James Park. On what was a freezing cold night, it could have been -50 and it wouldn’t have taken away from the heat and electric in the stadium.
I will never a forget a man at the away game against Stoke. After what had been a very very boring 0-0 draw under Fat Sam, he shouted towards Mike Ashley and his cronies who were stood a few rows back in the away end “bring back king Kev” along with a few other expletives about Fat Sam and sh.. football. I always wonder how much that slur had an effect on Ashley. While Keegan could never bring back the days of the 90s, there were some particularly great memories of winning 4-1 away to Tottenham and of course the optimism of drawing away to Man United on the opening day of the season (although he wasn’t to be there only a few weeks later). When Keegan returned, it wasn’t so much the hope that he was going to take us back to the top of the league, but the hope that the he would give you some hope.
With Kevin Keegan in charge, you were guaranteed that he was going to give it his best to make sure you went home happy.
We all know the circumstances in which he left following the Wise/Milner/Xisco/Jimenez debacle. When Keegan left the first time he told us “I have taken the club as far as I can” – he may have felt that was true at the time, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. This is because although Keegan may never have won us the cup, or the league, but with Keegan in charge, the sky was the limit for Newcastle United. He instilled a belief and hope in a football club which meant that the ambition knew no limits.
What Keegan may have meant with that comment was that he had taken this group of players as far as he could, perhaps a similar situation to one in which Rafa Benitez finds himself with this group of players today.
I have no doubt some will say to an article like this “you have to let memories stay as memories… or move on” but that is the beauty of Kevin Keegan. It is not that he serves as a reminder that we maybe one day have the false hope of competing with Manchester United at the top of the league and play in the Champions League. Instead, he serves as a memory that Newcastle might once again be a club to be proud of, a club with ambition, where the sky is the limit, regardless of what league we are in. Keegan showed us all that it is ok to dream.
The dismissal and subsequent treatment of Kevin Keegan is for me, Mike Ashley’s greatest crime during his tenure of Newcastle United.
The point is, that it still bothers me that many of my generation don’t seem to appreciate Kevin Keegan for what he done. To me, he shouldn’t be seen as ‘just’ the manager who guided Newcastle United to the top of the Premier League playing the best style of football in the country for a few years. He should be seen as the man who saved Newcastle United football club, not once, but twice.
If there should be a statue of one man at SJP it should be Kevin Keegan. It is perhaps the greatest example of everything that is wrong with the club under Mike Ashley that there is no recognition of Kevin Keegan at, or even within the vicinity of St James Park. He may not have been our greatest ever player, and he may never feature in many people’s greatest ever Newcastle eleven, but he was the greatest signing Newcastle United ever made.
If Keegan wasn’t signed as a player for those two years, then he would never have returned to the club as manager and Newcastle would not have been the club it became. There would be no 52,000 seater stadium, no 5-0 against Man United, no Alan Shearer, no Bobby Robson and so on.
The word legend gets thrown about quite a lot these days, the likes of Jackie Milburn, Joe Harvey, Bobby Moncur and Alan Shearer may well be Newcastle legends, but I don’t think any of them can come close to Kevin Keegan.
He may never return to Newcastle for a fourth time, although he should, at least in some role – as a Director of Football maybe. However, when the day comes that Mike Ashley does eventually leave Newcastle United, the first guest on the list for the next home should be one Kevin Keegan.
A person who forgets the past is destined to repeat its mistakes.
If you don’t think that Kevin Keegan is the most important figure in the history of Newcastle United, then you simply don’t know enough about Newcastle United.
You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn