OK, hands up! How many of you had money on King Kev being the next sacrificial lamb (sorry, manager) in the Toon hot-seat? No, I did not either. Talk about the crazy world of football. You could not make it up, could you? It is either a master stroke by Mike Ashley, the Newcastle owner, or they will be leading him away in a white jacket in about a years time. Of course the other option is Ashley has a huge share holding in Newcastle Brown Ale because you can bet there was a tonne of it drunk last night in the bars and clubs of Newcastle as the realisation that the Prodigal Son had returned from the wilderness began to sink in.
Keegan was, of course, in the hot-seat before from 1992-97 and during that time Newcastle were known as The Entertainers. The Toon Army never really knew what the were going to get except they were rarely bored watching their beloved team. You got your moneys worth watching Newcastle play, that is for sure. Who can forget such games as that truly amazing 4-3 result against Liverpool at Anfield in 1996? Won in the dying moments by Stan Colleymore (remember him?). Even more amazingly the result was repeated the following season, although by then, another former Liverpool legend, Kenny Dalglish, was at the Newcastle Helm.
In 1996, the year of that Anfield defeat, King Kev nearly pulled off the unbelievable and won the Championship for Newcastle but with a 14 point lead at Christmas, Keegan and the team bottled it. Man Utd and Alex Ferguson, who really got under skin of Keegan, clawed their way back to win the title. That 4-3 defeat at Anfield was surely the most devastating defeat of all. Who will ever forget that post match interview Keegan gave to Sky Sports? "I would love it, just love it....." How many times is that going to quoted in the Press and re-shown on Sky Sports News in the next few days? I would imagine you will lose count fairly quickly.
The Newcastle team Keegan inherits this time though is a very different animal to the one back in 1992. I think it is going to take a while to lick this team into shape. There is a major overhaul to be done on Tyneside. The wounds are deep. And worryingly for Keegan he does not have a lot of time left to make any move into the January transfer market. Everyone, as Keegan was saying and asking, almost begging for, yesterday, is going to have to be patient. If you are expecting a miraculous and immediate turnaround in the fortunes of Newcastle Utd just because King Kev is back, you might be sorely disappointed. My advice is to hang on in there!
Despite all that though Mike Ashley knows one thing for certain, he is not a stupid man. He knows that Keegan will return the verve and passion that has been missing for many years. Not only on the pitch but off it. For most of this season, under "Big" Sam Allardyce, all the Toon Army have been doing (when they have not been hurling abuse at Allardyce) is chewing gum and looking around at each other in utter disbelief. Ashley too, when he has donned his black and white shirt and joined the Toon Army in the stands, has sat there with a stupefied blank look on his face. If, for example, you saw the game against Liverpool at St. James Park earlier in the season that ended in a 0-3 defeat, and could quite frankly have ended about 0-8, you know what I mean.
Do not forget Keegan is, first and foremost, a fan who played for the club and then became the manager. He obviously has a passionate love for the club. Keegan is a passionate man full-stop, who will try to revive many a Toon dream. The Toon Army are dreamers. They have been dreaming too long for success. They want those dreams to become reality and as Mike Ashley knows, just as much as any fan, so does Keegan.
The passion Keegan has, not just for Newcastle but generally, is ironically also his Achilles Heal. Keegan is not adverse to spitting the dummy out at the slightest hint of criticism. I again remind you of the “I would love it” rant at Ferguson. What was needed for in that situation was a calm head, to take a step back to gather thoughts, not irrationally rant on live TV. Although it did make for absorbing viewing. Then there was his dramatic walk-out on England after the final game at the old Wembley when England were beaten 1 - 0 by Germany and a Didi Hamman free-kick.
Keegan wears his heart on his sleeve. Nothing wrong with that, in fact I wish there were more passionate characters around in football. But you can be passionate and clever at the same time. Hopefully King Kev will have learned from his mistakes.
People will try to attack and question his passion again. People will also bring up his tactical acumen. Questions will be asked about his defensive know-how, has he learned how to defend a lead now? Etc, etc. These are all questions that are going to be answered over time. But for all his supposed "failings" Keegan will definitely bring passion, pride and excitement back to Newcastle Utd and to their wonderful fans.
I do not think there is much doubt that this is going to be an emotional roller-coaster ride for everyone concerned, but it is going to be fun, whether you are a Newcastle fan or not. This morning football has one of the true characters back and as a result, it is a far better place.
The whole of football should thank Mike Ashley. For whether this journey ends in tears (again) or glory, bringing King Kev back to Newcastle is a masterstroke.
It is going to be noisy at St James Park!
The Soccer Blogger
Rik Talavera is a huge sports fan. He is particularly fond of football (soccer), rugby and skiing. Rik is the author of The Soccer Blog in which he writes about with all football, not just his beloved team, which he does well not divulge!