Kevin Keegan – The Great Escape
In February 1992, Newcastle United were in big trouble.
A comprehensive 5-2 thrashing away at Oxford United left the club sitting second bottom of the old Division Two with just 29 points.
The club was in crisis on and off the pitch and they turned to a former hero on the playing field, Kevin Keegan, to try and save, not only the season, but quite possibly the club’s very existence.
Keegan had finished his playing days with two years at St James Park, scoring 49 goals in 85 appearances and leaving the pitch in a helicopter after securing promotion back to the top flight of English football in 1984.
Since then he had spent most of his time in Marbella with his young family and worked on getting his golf handicap down. It certainly appeared that he had no desire whatsoever to return to football and definitely not management.
Newcastle fans were therefore shocked and stunned that their hero was once again returning to try and prevent the club from slipping into the third division for the first time in the club’s long and storied history.
The tidal wave of euphoria that followed his appointment as manager saw the team beat Bristol City in Keegan’s first home game in charge.
That good form would continue and in his first nine matches, Newcastle would win five, draw two and lose two. In fact when Newcastle beat Sunderland 1-0 on 29 March through a David Kelly goal, Keegan’s side had climbed to 17th place and had 46 points.
However, that morale boosting win over Sunderland was to precipitate a dramatic drop in form. Wolves thrashed us 6-2 just two days later, which would be the start of a run of five straight defeats, sending the club plunging back into the relegation quagmire.
There were two games remaining to try and avoid the drop.
First up was Portsmouth at home on 25 April.
Once again, as it was so often that season, David Kelly was the hero with a rasping right footed drive into the top corner in the 86th minute, enough to secure the team’s first win in two months.
The following week would see United head to promotion hopefuls Leicester and take the lead through Gavin Peacock. Leicester equalised with just a minute to go, before a mix up at the back saw Leicester concede a calamitous own goal which secured safety and a pitch invasion from both sets of fan.
In terms of individual contributions, Peacock and Kelly provided the goals that ultimately kept the club in the league but it was another man, Brian ‘Killer’ Kilcline, a tough no nonsense defender, who would make 12 appearances in the run, and who Keegan would later say was the most important signing he ever made for the club.
Now that safety was secured, and Keegan was committed to the club as manager, there was a glimmer of hope that 1992-93 would be a better year for Newcastle United.
It would be a season that would exceed all expectation.
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