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Keegan confident of playing the Messiah one more time

sports Updated: Jan 17, 2008 16:39 IST
Simon Rushworth
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Kevin Keegan on Thursday insisted he could play the Messiah one more time at Newcastle after making a shock return to the manager's chair at St James' Park.

The 56-year-old is a legend in the eyes of the Magpies' supporters for his exploits as a player in the 1980s and as a manager during his 1992-97 stint in charge of the club.

And in his first comments since been named as the successor to Sam Allardyce, the former England, Fulham and Manchester City manager voiced confidence that he could work his magic again.

"I know what the fans want and I know what they don't want as well," Keegan said. "As long as they are realistic and patient I think we can try again to help them have dreams and possibly win something."

Keegan's return to Tyneside has certainly started well with the buzz of excitement his presence generated apparently helping to inspire a team that has been under performing all season to an entertaining 4-1 win over Stoke in an FA Cup replay on Wednesday evening.

The new manager had no direct role in that win but he admitted that sitting in the stand had got his juices flowing again.

"I am just as excited this time as I was when I came to play here at 31 and when I came as a manager at 43 or 44," said Keegan, who, by his own admission, has not watched a single Premier League match live since quitting Manchester City in 2005.

"I think this is right, I have certainly inherited a strong, talented group of players - which is something I didn't have when I came last time.

"When I came last time we were wondering whether we could fill the stadium. That is not a problem.

"They will be trying to get a stadium big enough if we can put some football on and get some success here.

"The job in hand is a big job, it is a great club."

Keegan's third coming to Tyneside was confirmed on Wednesday in the wake of failed attempts by the Newcastle board to secure the services of Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp and Gerard Houllier, the former Liverpool boss who is now French football's technical director, following the dismissal of Allardyce.

Snubbed by their first two choices, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley and chairman Chris Mort took the populist option by turning instead to Keegan.

Despite patchy records at City, Fulham and as England manager, the 56-year-old has been given a three and a half year contract and his past record here means he is likely to benefit from more indulgence from the supporters than any other manager could expect.

Having saved Newcastle from relegation to English football's third tier, he went on to secure promotion to the top flight in 1993 and came close to winning the league title in 1995-96.

That season his Newcastle "entertainers" led Manchester United by 12 points before finishing as runners up - a collapse that inspired his famous "I'd love it if we beat them" outburst against Sir Alex Ferguson.

The first game of Keegan's second spell as manager will be Saturday's Premier League clash at home to Bolton.

By then, it should be clear if, as many have predicted, he will be joined by Alan Shearer, the former club captain who is also the Magpies record goal scorer.

Shearer has admitted he would listen to any offer from the coach who signed him for 15 million pounds when he was the hottest property in English football.

"Kevin is his own man and he'll make his own decisions," Shearer said. "It is my club so if he was to ring me up I would certainly speak to him - I would be foolish not to."

Shearer admitted he did not see himself as a natural number two, but he recognised that Newcastle were not ready to give him the manager's job without any prior coaching experience.

He added: "It remains an ambition of mine to manage one day, when that will be I don't really know. But the fans have what they want. They want entertainment, they want passion and they want commitment. They haven't seen that of late.

"One thing they will be guaranteed with Kevin is that they will get all of those things, everyone is excited up here. Newcastle is in his heart and he wants to do so well for them. He failed to win a trophy there when he was manager last time but you can bet your bottom dollar that he will give it a right good go this time around."

Nigel Pearson, United's caretaker manager, is expected to leave the club as Keegan moves to bring in his own coaching staff.