Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to you all on this crisp autumn day, boy do we have a bout for you tonight.
In the black and white corner…
The world renowned, much respected legend that is Kevvv-in ‘I would love it if we beat them’ Keeee-gan.
And over in the blue and red corner…
The controversial, insatiable, tyrannical Miiiiike Ash-ley.
Now folks, as you may remember, these two first met some ten years ago when they first fought it out in a Tribunal, where the then challenger Kevin Keegan won on points and claimed the night’s purse of £2m. I’m sure he’ll be looking for something similar tonight as they go head to head once again.
There will be some cheering when Keegan takes to the ring, no doubt spurred on by a hugely supportive crowd, I’m sure I heard that former legendary fighters Shearer, Lee, Ferdinand and Quinn will be keen observers to see how this fight goes. There will no doubt be some mild booing when Ashley comes out from his corner with a little help from his assistants Bishop and Charnley, all the while eagerly cheered on, albeit in partisan conditions by onlookers such as Gray, Keys, Wise and Jimenez.
As we get closer to the opening bell of round one, we can already sense the anticipation in the air, the excitement of what’s going to happen over the next few rounds. Sit tight everyone, this one might go the distance.
Ok, boxing analogies apart, the tangled web of PR and spin to come out of the Mike Ashley camp is nothing new. We’ve seen it all before, many, many times. We know the club are hardly ever serious when it comes to trying their best to sign players. We know that if a club values a player at say £10m, Newcastle offer a much lower bid with the aim to get a bargain or scupper the deal by default.
So the quotes from Kevin Keegan’s forthcoming book about the club’s ‘attempts’ to sign Bastian Schweinsteiger back in 2008 are no shock.
The retort from a certain Tony Jimenez is quite telling, claiming that Keegan wanted such luminaries like Beckham, Ronaldinho, Lampard and Kaka. The credibility of that is questionable as all three would have commanded such outrageous wages that it would far outstrip any budget Newcastle have ever had. It would probably break a few top clubs even in 2018, especially when transfer fees were factored in. Keegan would know this, so in this instance nobody is fooled by Jimenez’ bluster. Round One- Keegan wins!
The other juicy tit-bit to come from recent revelations is the much derided Nacho Gonzalez deal, that saw the player who nobody had heard of come to St James’ Park with the understanding that he didn’t have to play a game and (according to Keegan’s conversations with Dennis Wise) didn’t even need to be training with the first team. According to Keegan, the player was simply to be ‘parked’ at Newcastle United as a favour to some agents who would then presumably look favourably on the club in the future.
“Sometimes you have to take a player, to get the one you really want” -Tony Jimenez.
Incredible. No wonder Keegan didn’t want to be part of such a ‘dodgy’ deal. Round Two- Keegan wins!
Another deal that was mentioned, was the one for recently crowned Men’s Player Of The Year winner Luka Modric. Kevin states that the player’s agent came up to meet Kevin and the directors in Newcastle as the agent was a fan of Keegan himself. Keegan says that he was first alarmed when Jimenez interrupted proceedings to claim the player wasn’t good enough or ‘Too small’. Quite an extraordinary thing to do in a transfer meeting with the player’s agent present, unless your job is to scupper the deal deliberately. Now Jimenez says that owner Ashley ‘Didn’t want to take the risk’ on the player. Not sure if Jimenez is successfully defending the owner or deflecting blame from himself. Round Three- Keegan Wins!
Finally, after we had lost 0-3 at Arsenal and Kevin was already thinking that it was all about to come to an end.
“I was already thinking that was it for me. I was sick of them; sick of the way they were riding roughshod over me, sick of being treated like dirt . .”
Well, we can add the names of Alan Shearer, Chris Hughton, Jonas Gutierrez, Ryan Taylor and Rafa Benitez to the list. Mike Ashley has previous in this department and if you factor in MPs and business rivals, we can safely say that the owner indeed likes to show people who’s boss and doesn’t care who he tramples on in the process. Round Four- Keegan Wins!
Finally, the killer quote that is the most fitting to sum up the whole of the last decade under Ashley rule.
“I look forward to the day when Newcastle is free of the man who has lurched from one bad decision to another, run an empire of self-harm and handed money and power to people who deserved neither.”
Can’t argue with that. Round Five- Keegan wins by a knockout!
Post-fight analysis will be clear, Kevin Keegan will prove victorious and in the right, despite what the owner’s lackeys, sycophants and online trolls say.
Shortly after Kevin left the club in 2008 he issued a statement in conjunction with the League Managers Association BEFORE any decision was made in court. It started with the line “It’s my opinion that a manager must have the right to manage…” That should have been a massive alarm bell ringing in Mike Ashley’s ears. For no matter who was appointed after Keegan, there would have to be a major climb down from Ashley, or whoever he was would have to be a patsy who would do as he was told. We eventually ended up with Alan Pardew.
One of Keegan’s greatest strengths can also be a bit of a weakness.
He wore his heart on his sleeve and as a consequence he took quite a bit of flak for being flaky and is often labelled a ‘quitter’. Utter tosh. Not many managers would tolerate the struggle of power that Newcastle United found itself in during 2008/09. Keegan didn’t and walked. Now we have Rafa Benitez, who hasn’t walked (yet!) and he gets stick from certain quarters for moaning at not being backed. People can’t have it both ways and only time will tell what stories will come out from his time at the club, but one thing’s for sure, Rafa hasn’t had “the right to manage” in it’s fullest form and certainly the “Every penny” speech from Ashley could come back to haunt him when Rafa finally gets sick next May. He may never learn…
Losing out first and foremost under this regime is Rafa Benitez, who along with the previous list of people who have been disrespected and cheated by the owner must be totally exasperated by it all, that a club can be ran so underhand and with such a lack of ambition. To quote Boycie from Only Fools And Horses- “You look as though you’ve had a promise from a liar”. And doesn’t Rafa know it.
Rafa won’t be losing out totally when he does go. He has enough money and will get a good job if he wants one and I for one will applaud him for coming in and giving it a go. He will go a winner in many people’s eyes as he has so far got on with the job in the face of the adversity, when at the start he probably didn’t know what Mike Ashley was all about. Kevin Keegan saw the owner and his cronies for what they were quite quickly and he has stayed respected.
So, everybody wins then.
Certainly Mike Ashley won’t lose in the long run, he’ll still have his millions/billions to fall back on regardless of what price he gets for the club. But no…there are losers in any battle and when it all comes down to it, when this owner clears off, whatever state the club is in by then, the losers will be the club itself and more importantly the fans.