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It all started that time when I was in a Blackpool guesthouse…

11 months ago

Happy 70th to The Messiah!!

August 1982. 12 years old. A guesthouse in Blackpool.

No Village Hotels or Travelodges for most people in those days! Everybody in one big room, kipping in proper beds, fold down beds and couches that magically got bigger when you pulled a lever. I was on that naturally.

As it was a family holiday, it was the law that our Dad still woke up 6am and went out for the paper. Daily Mirror naturally. Me and my brother usually would then wake up about 9am. Not today!

Rudely awakened at 7am with the question ‘Guess who we’ve just signed?’. Bearing in mind we’d had the quality forwards of Billy Rafferty, Bobby Shinton and Ray Clarke over the previous few seasons and our only spark of excitement had been the emergence of a young winger who looked like Bambi on ice with a stoop – Chris Waddle- and the speed merchant that was Imre Varadi, I had to rack my brains.

‘Erm.. Bob Latchford? Paul Mariner? Or maybe Mark McGhee again?’

‘Nope’ said our Dad and brandished the Mirror’s back page with a picture of England captain Kevin Keegan on it!

‘Whaaat? That’s wrong surely’ was the understandable reaction from myself. But no, it was true! And there then followed two years of football I never thought we were capable of.

Keegan, Beardsley, Waddle McDermott, McCreery, Roeder. Even Kevin Carr! Promotion and a helicopter exit. Fantastic!

Roll forward eight years. February 1992. Durham Cathedral. I was killing time after walking out of a Civil Service Entrance Exam – ‘what is the 42nd shape in this sequence?’. Absolutely no idea. Plus it was full of Oxbridge and Durham graduates who were annoying within two minutes. Train back to Redcar not being for two hours, I wandered into the Cathedral. Then I walked up to the train station and straight into the sight of the paper seller’s sign – ‘Keegan is Back!!'(Yes, it was that long ago that they still flogged papers in the street).

Straight onto the (pay) phone to our Dad. It’s true! It could only be divine intervention from that trip to the Cathedral.

And there then followed five years of the greatest football I’ve ever seen.

Last gasp goal against Portsmouth followed by staying up on the last day at Leicester, whilst I desperately tried to get the radio reports when working at the Manchester Museum (shhhh!!).

Promotion, Leicester 7-1, Beardsley and Cole, the best performance by a newly promoted team ever in the Premiership ( shut up Wolves), Antwerp, Rob Lee, everything from 95/96, Sir Les, Daveeed, Gillespie, Philippe, signing Shearer and all that.

Sadly, it ended but we were back in the big time. Not even Ashley taking over could ruin everything straight away, so I’ll even include the great man coming back in 2008 to keep us up and start playing some decent football, notably beating Sunderland 2-0 and hammering Spurs 4-1 away. But then Ashley did ruin everything.

So happy 70th to The Messiah. Without doubt, the greatest contributor to Newcastle United in my 50 years! Not just the football – which is the greatest I’ve ever seen – but everything else.

Without wanting to sound like some drunk Scouser who’s ready to sing Ferry Cross the Mersey without being asked, Keegan was much more than a player or manager. He saved the club from oblivion twice, made people happy to watch the team again, made people proud to say they supported the team again and gave a huge boost to the region and the supporters. A region that is usually dumped on from a great height by Mer Majesty’s Government and has to support itself to get anywhere.

And even though I’ve lived in Sheffield for 27 years, I’ve never felt happier and identified more with home than in the Kevin Keegan years. Absolute genius all round! Have some cake!


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