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Opinion

Kevin Keegan – The promotion charge

6 months ago
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Following the previous season’s great escape, Kevin Keegan embarked on a recruitment drive with the intention of getting the club up into the Premier League.

In the summer, skilful midfielder Paul Bracewell was added to the ranks from Sunderland, while Barry Venison and John Beresford were signed to shore up a leaky defence.

Carrying some momentum from the previous season Newcastle got off to a flyer, winning our first 11 games in succession.

This run was boosted by the signing of Rob Lee at the end of September with Keegan telling him that Newcastle was closer to London than (Premier League) Middlesbrough, another club battling for his signature.

Lee cited Keegan as his footballing hero and also his desire to play for England as the reason for making the move. His goals from midfield would be a key part in the club’s promotion push.

The team would go top of the league on 12 September and would never relinquish that position. However, just like in the previous season under Keegan, there was a period when momentum stalled and between 20 January and 28 February the team would go six games without a win, only managing two goals in that period.

The manager recognised that attacking reinforcements were needed and spent big to bring in Scott Sellars and Andy Cole.

Both players would have a huge impact but Cole’s goals provided some much needed impetus with the talented young striker scoring 12 goals in 12 games as the team re-established their dominance, winning seven of their last eight games to finish the season with a flourish and eight points clear of second place West Ham.

So many players made huge contributions.

The defence was rock solid, conceding just 38 goals in 46 games. It was virtually unchanged throughout with Venison, Howey, Beresford and Kevin Scott all making over 50 appearances (all competitions).

A 20 year old Lee Clark was outstanding in midfield, playing 58 games and scoring 10 goals and he was ably supported by Rob Lee (43 games, 13 goals) and the classy Liam O’Brien (43 games, 7 goals).

As they had the previous season, Gavin Peacock and David Kelly carried the main goalscoring burden in what would be their final seasons for the club.

Peacock scored 18 goals in all competitions before signing for Chelsea that summer for £1.5 million with Kelly top scorer with 28 goals.

Kelly was voted the club’s player of the season that year but Keegan had an inkling that he wouldn’t be good enough for the Premier League and would eventually be replaced by Peter Beardsley.

All in all, it was a fantastic season and one that made Newcastle fans truly believe that good things were possible for their team once more.

Little did we know the rollercoaster ride was only just getting started.

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