When I think of footballers talk-ins, I immediately associate them with plastic chairs around bare tables at the social club, with pie and peas and a raffle to win a boxing glove signed by Marvin Hagler. Hall One at the Sage Gateshead is a world apart from this, all splendid pine decor and beautiful mood lighting, with 1,600 people comfortably arranged in an auditorium that oozes class.

It was an appropriate setting for this event, as the man who took the stage was set to remind us all that he embodies the very same virtue. Kevin Keegan has never failed to elicit a response on Tyneside, and the warmth and enthusiasm that greeted his arrival on stage on Tuesday night was as raucous as it was in those halcyon days of the mid-nineties, when Newcastle United all too briefly became what Newcastle United could be.

Keegan was in town of course, to promote his new autobiography and launched into his task with trademark gusto. He knows how to keep an audience captivated and the story of his early struggles to break into the game evolving into major success at Liverpool via Scunthorpe, then Hamburg, with the odd reference to Brut and the Green Cross Code, kept everyone entertained but it was the Newcastle United stories people had flocked to hear.

KK was clearly loving telling anecdotes from his spells as a player and manager (first time) at United, with guest appearances from Terry McDermott and Peter Beardsley adding colour to the nostalgia. There was genuine fondness in Keegan’s voice as he had personal stories about each of his magnificent signings, from Brian Kilcline nipping out to ask his wife if he could sign for Newcastle, through to Asprilla buying 1,000 shirts with his name on that he then couldn’t get through customs.

I’ve been to a few of these events with the stars of the 90 and there’s always a bittersweet element for me. It’s magnificent to think of a time when our team was so cavalier and our club so progressive, but it hurts that they were never vindicated with a trophy success, and it aches to think what the club has now become. Keegan’s team epitomised Newcastle at its raw, unadulterated best, wildly striving to realise its massive potential. The hamstrung, trussed up shadow of its former self that inhabits the former Sports Direct Arena, looks even worse through the prism of its former glories.

In a way, I hated myself for the itch I developed towards the end of the evening. As the selected Q and As were carefully put to Kevin, I wanted to move away from the gentle queries as to who he would like to have signed but never did, or what he would have done differently in 96. I’m sure many in the crowd shared my desire to hear more from Keegan on the current mess of the club, hopefully in a way that would create another headline that further damaged the Ashley regime.

Like I said though, KK has class. He was here to celebrate the good times, not throw shade around like so many lower life forms on the Keith Bishop payroll have been so quick to do. When the questions on the subject did finally come, he was pragmatic and inoffensive in his responses.

When asked about Tony Jimenez’ recent claims that Keegan declined to sign players they had lined up should Harry Redknapp have taken over, he pointed out that Diarra, Crouch and Defoe all swiftly signed for Portsmouth. It was Redknapp who had appealed to these players, not Jimenez and co. KK was even magnanimous about Dennis Wise, saying he didn’t think badly about his role in supporting his mate.

Ultimately though, the big question came. Had anyone ever approached King Kev to become involved in a takeover bid?

He confirmed that at one point (without naming names) that he’d been sounded out about involvement in a German-style fan ownership model – but it never got any further than being the impossible dream in the money saturated Premier League. He was also quick to distance himself from being attached to any consortium, not wanting the actions of an entire group to be associated as representing his own view. I didn’t realise how much I’d wanted him to say he’d just got off the phone with Peter Kenyon and he’d be back by Christmas, but Keegan brings out the dreamer in you.

There was a rallying call towards the end, as the great man again reminded us that one day this must all end, although not without a word of warning as he said:

“Everyone knows you want Mike Ashley out. Your patience has been fantastic and he will go one day. Keep doing what you’re doing but keep supporting your club. If it goes down again it could sink.”

Keegan’s empathy with the hopeless matchgoer (rapping in on Saturday night, going back by Wednesday) will rankle with those that see the regular full houses as part of the problem, but there’s no denying he knows the hearts and minds of the Geordie public. He was unflinching in his continuing support of the fans’ cause, but in no way allowed the toxic cloud that hangs over the club now infringe on a celebration of what had previously been achieved. This was a night to dwell on when things were great, not where they went wrong.

I cannot fathom how anyone who loves Newcastle United sees Kevin Keegan as anything other than utterly magnificent.

Any miserable minority who sees things otherwise was nowhere near tonight as the room rose in appreciation of a man I would say is quite simply the most important person in the United’s modern history, who came here twice when we were at our lowest ebbs to restore the club’s dignity and drag it up to begin to realise its massive potential.

Kevin Keegan said how much he always loved coming to Newcastle, but he was always sad to leave, hopefully tonight he realised that Newcastle feels exactly the same.

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

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  • Albert Stubbins

    A man who understands us completely. All hail King Kev!!

    • kingfisher

      Well said Albert 👍👏 What a great time to be a Newastle United supporter.We won nothing,but what a journey.

      • Kenny

        Real football !

    • Leazes.

      Her certainly can spot stupidity when he sees it.

  • Pezza

    Nicely done Jamie, a good read

  • Wor Lass

    King Kev, indeed!

  • East Durham Mag

    Great read Jamie, whether its rose tinted specs or not, Keegan epitomizes all we want for Newcastle United to be and ebody, all hail the King.

    • Leazes.

      It was never quite right on the pitch and totally wrong off it with the Halls and Shepherds…..

      …’at the end of the day we are businessmen’ was the ominous phrase that Hall used…. never before had the club been used to finance the owners as a main source of income.

      It isn’t just Ashley who plundered the club we have had it from halfway through the previous regime….

      ….no other premiership clubs are cash cows for owners….. and as Denis Cassidy pointed out the plunder or the promises had to stop….

      ….it was the promises which stopped!

      The plunder went on and on.

      • East Durham Mag

        Poor ownership has been an ongoing problem you are spot on. Love KK though.

  • Tweed Mag

    It was tremendous when KK was introduced to the audience, the ensuing ‘Keegan Wonderland’ brought back so many memories. He did not concentrate too long about the current state of the club, explaining that he had covered it all in his book. From what I have read so far he certainly has. I still can’t see why he sold Andy Cole, Pav was missing from his run-through of old players (probably others too). All in all a tremendous night and I think he could have easily filled somewhere ten times the size of the Sage. KK is all about honesty, integrity and hard work. The current regime should take inspiration from of his book – or leave.

    • Leazes.

      Why did he sell Cole? I don’t think he got on with him, and he put his success down to Beardsley as the supplier of the bullets anyway, he said time would tell if he was right….. he was wrong even though he probably knew that Andy was suffering from Shinsplints and required medical treatment…

      ….Cavalier approach, faith in god and his own judgement.

      • Tweed Mag

        KK says in his book that Cole might have been tapped and he saw a change in him (stopped training well, a bit distant in his attitude). Explains things a bit.

    • panther

      just leave

  • Mike

    Excellent report and a fantastic player/manager that we (in my lifetime) will never see again. Great memories that was a hellova time to be a NUFC fan. THANKS KK a true legend

  • Roy

    A great read, thank you! I wish that I could’ve been there, and if I wasn’t living in Dubai, I would have been there like a shot. As a Geordie abroad I feel somewhat distanced from the Toon (not just in miles), but you have really captured the essence of the event, the man, and what we all, as genuine fans, feel about the Toon today.

    • Leazes.

      You can probably recreate the same effect by downing half a bottle of glenfiddich and putting on a record ‘stand by your man’ by Tammy Wynette, and staring at a picture of the small puppy you had a pet when you were a boy.

      • Roy

        Wow… Interesting response. I think this says more about you than about me…

        • Leazes.

          Not really I like history but don’t wallow in the sunshine of salad days.

          • Roy

            Neither do I… I don’t believe I gave that impression in my comment either… I just live a long way from home.

          • Leazes.

            okay

      • Kenny

        Glenfiddich 15 is worth the extra few quid, 🥃🥃🥃

        • Leazes.

          You just needed the picture of the puppy then…. could have saved yourself £40.

  • Leazes.

    Very well written piece Jamie, heartwarming like a meeting of the Cavaliers before Naseby drunk on stories of previous battles and other stuff…. the rallying call to fellow conservatives…..

    I beseech you all
    now all go home and pray
    that nasty man
    he goes away
    because if you don’t
    of failure they’ll sow the seeds
    and you might end up, doing ‘a Leeds’
    Now hasten you all
    You trout, and salmon and bream
    ‘support the team not the regime’….

    I reckon Kev made a minimum of £40 grand last night before book sales…..

    This is a club which journalists wrap in a blanket of nostalgia and look to the past like no other…. nostalgia is the last refuge of a scoundrels like Douglas and Ryder…. ‘Wor its Malcolm Macdonald…..Malcolm…..Malcolm…..sign me bus ticket!

    This is another of the elements of failure which nail the ships wheel on the course to the black middens!

    Here’s to the next ten years of Ashley then…..he should have been there, ‘support the club’…..he would have probably ‘loved it’.

    • Kenny

      £40 Vip entrance fee which included a signed copy of his book,
      money well spent.

      • Leazes.

        What was the VIP bit?

        • Tweed Mag

          Meeting with KK and a photo I think. We left more or less straight away, the lucky VIPs stayed behind.

          • Leazes.

            Yup just looked it up….. a photo (selfie style) a firm handshake and an anecdote about Terry…. £5 at the book signings but included in the VIP package,

        • MrShack66

          A years supply of vintage Brut.

  • Leicester Mag

    Best article in the Mag in a good while. How I wish I was there. Funny how in my twenties driving up to watch a midweek match getting home 2am was never a problem. Am I bitter given where we are now? Absolutely it tears me up with anger to think we could so passively let what was so unique and special be ripped apart in front of us.

    I went as a 15 yr old to Long Benton and was met by Keegan who spent an age talking to me and my father when he was a pkayer. Also met him when at Durham University at Maiden Castle where Newcastle trained during the special times. A hero and a gent. What I’d give to be a proud fan again

    • Leazes.

      I went to Maiden Castle a few times, quite funny watching Ginola stop doing exercise every time Keegan or McDermot turned their back, he was largely playing to the crowd….. very funny.

      • Leicester Mag

        Played 5 a side once when McDermott in his inimitable way accused of being stupid bar stewards for the way we were flying into each other 😂😂

        • Leazes.

          Terry either visited your School or you were in the United youth team?

          • Leicester Mag

            Neither was a PhD student at Durham University playing at Maiden Castle. Had a trial at 15 but rejected 😕😢

          • Leazes.

            Ah right…. thats you I presume not Terry!

        • Kenny

          My dad & his mate once carried McDermott from Tuxedo to the Turks Head Hotel where he was living at the time.
          true story

          • Tony English

            McDermott was quality.

            I was a ballboy at Gateshead stadium when I was about 15 for Jackie Milburn’s 11 against the EastEnders TV team, met the great man. Without knowing us McDermott and McCreery dumped their kids with us to look after so they could go up to the bar and have a few with Gazza, Wharton, Cornwell and Bailey.

            Imagine a top division footballer leaving his kids with strangers while he goes on the beer nowadays.

          • Leazes.

            Carrying a drunk into a pub seems a bit superfluous to needs.

  • Mrkgw

    The legend that is KK. There will never be another like him – absolute class.

  • Steven05

    I’d also like to point out at the end of the evening KK took the time to show genuine interest in talking to everyone who stayed back for a photo. He shared a story and a joke or 3 with everyone. The man is genuine class.

    • Leazes.

      Was it the same joke….. support the team not the regime?….. its a cracker, I first heard it 10 years ago from the chronicle

      • Steven05

        Fair enough but when I’ve been to similar events it’s often a quick handshake, pose for photo and ‘next’

        Last night was very different to that, Keegan had time for everyone

      • ZinUru

        support the team prop up the regime

    • lupa

      Met him around 40 years back after he’d just heard that he was in the England squad for the 1st time .
      He was in a pub with Alec Lindsay on Merseyside.
      Lovely bloke and what a star he turned out to be . For us and all the club’s he later turned out for.
      Never thought for a minute then that he’d one day be the greatest manager we ever had .Apologies to Joe Harvey
      Ps his books just arrived on my tablet
      Its going to be a late night

  • Kenny

    My first time at St James was in the Keegan era as manager,
    our finest hours in the modern era, now all we get dished up is shyte & those who still go pay top dollar for it. Loyalty or stupidity, there is a fine line so make your own mind up on that.

  • Rob Brown

    “I cannot fathom how anyone who loves Newcastle United sees Kevin Keegan as anything other than utterly magnificent.”

    So how do you rate Benitez, faced with the same problems but didn’t walk out like Keegan?