Newcastle mourns
Iain Macintosh
Thu, Sep 04, 2008
The New Paper

KEVIN Keegan was not simply the manager of Newcastle United.

In the eyes of the supporters he was a hero, an icon, a leader and an inspiration.

His sacking will not be treated as another turn of the managerial merry-go-round, it will be felt like the killing of a monarch.

You have to visit Newcastle to understand what football means up there. It's the only city in the UK that has a monopoly of support.

You can see Manchester United shirts in Birmingham and Liverpool shirts in Canterbury, but it is a rare thing indeed to see rival colours in the black and white metropolis.

Just eight months ago, the streets outside St James' Park were jammed with dancing Geordies, celebrating the return of the King.

As The New Paper went to press last night the streets were full again, but this time the natives were furious. Chants of 'Keegan, Keegan!' echoed around the stadium as the numbers swelled.

Chairman Mike Ashley will need to have a skin thicker than the crust of the earth if he is to survive the fall-out from this.

Nobody in Newcastle expected a title challenge this year, least of all Keegan, who dismissed it even as last season drew to a close.

All they wanted was to watch good, positive attacking football. After the brief dirge of the Sam Allardyce reign, they wanted a team that they could be proud of again.

Keegan delivered and he did it in spite of the appalling press he received.

Derided by the newspapers as a relic of the 1990s, he developed a forward-thinking formation that enabled him to use Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins and Mark Viduka at the same time.

Mocked as a tactical charlatan, he brought in Chris Hughton to coach the defenders and the improvement was palpable.

No-one goes to Old Trafford and plays with two strikers. Keegan did, and he won a deserved point.

Blew up

He tried it again at The Emirates and it blew up in his face, but no-one cared. He was trying to win games instead of just trying not to lose them and that's all the fans ever asked for.

Keegan recently said that the EPL was in danger of becoming the most boring league in the world, but he, more than anyone else, tried to prevent that from happening.

It's not yet clear what happened in yesterday's board meeting, but Ashley is now facing up to the full wrath of the Toon Army.

Keegan was the best thing that had ever happened to Newcastle United and, after sacking him, I'd be very surprised if he was ever allowed to sit in the stands with them again.


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