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Philippe Albert on Kevin Keegan “When you speak to him, you just want one thing: to join the club”

4 weeks ago
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Philippe Albert was a class act.

Just one of many from that Kevin Keegan era in the 90s.

The then Newcastle boss recruiting not just great players but great people/characters as well.

The likes of Les Ferdinand, Robert Lee, Alan Shearer and many more.

Philippe Albert has been reminiscing about his Newcastle United days and says: ‘Keegan was a big part of why every player came to Newcastle.’

Explaining that Kevin Keegan appeal, the former Belgian international: ‘When you speak to him, you just want one thing: to join the club. You don’t need to talk about money; he was just so charismatic.’

The togetherness of Kevin Keegan and that team/squad was clear for anybody to see who spent much time in Newcastle city centre in the 90s, Philippe Albert remembering: “Once a month, normally on a Monday night, we [Kevin Keegan and coaching staff as well] would go out for a meal, even the reserves. Afterwards some players would go home, some would go out, mingle with the fans maybe. Personally I always liked Martha’s Bar.”

One of my best memories are those days when Newcastle United were flying high and along with my drinking mates, we would be down the Quayside on a Saturday night and Martha’s Bar was on our route.

For those who don’t know it, Martha’s Bar is down Dean Street [below Grey Street – a continuation of] on the right hand side with a big courtyard where you could stand outside. I can still see so clearly, that regularly we’d be standing there reflecting on yet another exciting home win and then down the street would come pretty much the whole first team out celebrating as a group themselves.

Fantastic times on and off the pitch, the memories make me smile but also make the current nonsense under Mike Ashley all the more difficult to take.

Extracts from Philippe Albert talking to The Guardian:

“When we travelled back to Newcastle from London, we often had five or six hours to kill on the coach. On the way Steve Watson used to bring videos and Viz comics. Even if we didn’t understand everything, Kevin and the whole team were always laughing.

“On the way back, before we got on the motorway, Kevin used to stop the coach at a petrol station, go and buy some drinks out of his own pocket and bring them back for the team: red wine, white wine, lager, water, soft drinks. Then, when we passed a certain place on the M1, he would buy us all fish and chips.

“Keegan was a big part of why every player came to Newcastle.

“When you speak to him, you just want one thing: to join the club. You don’t need to talk about money; he was just so charismatic. As a kid, I would watch him on television playing for Liverpool or Hamburg and a few years later I was playing under him. Keegan was a world star. Even if I had played just six months under him, that would have been the best time of my life. When I met him, I knew straight away.”

“We used to have three or four thousand fans watching first-team training.

“The people were tremendous. Kevin was always the last one in to take a shower. If he had to sign 800 autographs, he would do it. No names but I remember two players wanted to leave straight after training. I remember Keegan grabbed them by the neck and told them: ‘You go back. Sign for those people – they are paying your wages.’ That’s Kevin.

Les [Ferdinand] was the best header of the ball I’ve seen. Better than Alan Shearer. He would jump and just stay in the air, floating. Tino [Asprilla] was also a great player. When he wanted to play, he could win a game by himself. But when he didn’t want to play, it was like playing with 10 men. That’s difficult in the Premier League. He was a funny guy: he might not wake up for training, be 40 minutes late and then two days later would score a hat-trick against Barcelona in the Champions League. He was different.

“Once a month, normally on a Monday night, we [Kevin Keegan and coaching staff as well] would go out for a meal, even the reserves. Afterwards some players would go home, some would go out, mingle with the fans maybe. Personally I always liked Martha’s Bar.”

One defeat, the 4-0 defeat by Manchester United in the 1996 Charity Shield, sticks out for Albert.

“We were outplayed, hammered,” he admits. “We had come back from Thailand and Japan in pre-season and honestly we were very tired. Some of their players like Roy Keane were professional and said nothing but some of the younger ones, they were taking the mickey, ridiculing us.

In the dressing room afterwards Keegan said nothing. But when they came to St James’ Park later that year, Kevin just gave out the team sheet and said: ‘Remember Wembley.’ That was enough: we went out there and won 5-0.

“It [Albert scoring the fifth] was a good goal…After the match Keegan went around the dressing room shaking hands with everybody. He was delighted. We were given the next day off.”

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