Philippe Albert explains why playing under Kevin Keegan was so special
Philippe Albert signed for Newcastle United in August 1994.
After impressing at the World Cup in the United States with Belgium, Newcastle landing the big centre back on the day of his 27th birthday.
Philippe Albert had earlier knocked back Juventus and the fact that Kevin Keegan was a childhood hero of his, helped seal the deal.
The defender was perfect for Keegan’s team, a central defender in name only…
Philippe Albert of course could and did defend BUT he offered so much more than that on top. Often striding forward out of defence, class personified.
Injury reduced the number of games he did play for Newcastle United but he played in 23 Premier League games in the ‘so close’ 1995/96 season, scoring four goals and helping United to concede only two less goals than eventual champions Man Utd.
Only five months after almost winning the Premier League, Philippe Albert produced one of the most iconic goals of the Premier League era, his chip over Peter Schmeichel simply perfection. If only that Albert goal and 5-0 win had come seven months earlier, when Man Utd totally fluked a 1-0 win at St James Park in a game that United totally dominated.
Some 26 years on since that stunning goal against Man Utd, Philippe Albert has been talking to the media in Belgium about those days at Newcastle United under Kevin Keegan.
The NUFC cult hero revealing that under Keegan, it was very much about team bonding on the pitch AND off it.
Philippe Albert talking to Sport magazine in Belgium:
‘Kevin Keegan wanted there to be this togetherness in the club and within the core. Keegan believed that in order to create something on the pitch, you also had to create something off it.
‘That’s why he was behind weekends abroad. When we were free, the complete nucleus left for two or three days in Scotland or Ireland. We cleared our minds, we played golf…In the morning, we trained, half an hour or three quarters of an hour. We played golf in the afternoon and in the evening we went out together. The players on their side and the staff on their side. It was a form of team building.
‘Afterwards, it’s always the same thing: there are those who support and those who support less well (He laughs). We paid more attention to those. Some, we put them in a taxi for the hotel. Me, I was 27 years old, I also had experience at this level. In general, I was one of the last (to stay out).
‘There were two who were very strong: Darren Peacock and Steve Howey. Two defenders with whom I was also associated in the field. We had some amazing times.
‘On Mondays, when there was no match during the week, we went to the restaurant. We agreed to meet at 6:30-7:00 p.m. and we had to come back at 2:00 a.m. because the restaurant was closing. The next day, we were on the pitch at 10 a.m. for a double session. It was more than a custom, it was the norm.
‘All the clubs were doing it at that time. That changed with the arrival of foreign coaches, who had another vision of things. The difference, too, is that the clubs were only allowed to register three foreigners. So, in my team, there were almost only English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish. Their mentality is the same. When you have a 90% British core, you fit into the mould. And that mentality fit pretty well with mine…’
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