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Keegan makes dramatic return to Newcastle

Kevin Keegan has made a dramatic return to Newcastle after being appointed as the Premier League club's new manager on Wednesday.
AFP | By HT Correspondent, Newcastle
UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2008 12:05 AM IST

Kevin Keegan has made a dramatic return to Newcastle after being appointed as the Premier League club's new manager on Wednesday.

Former England and Manchester City boss Keegan, who managed the club from 1992 to 1997, will return to St James' Park as Sam Allardyce's successor.

"Kevin Keegan is returning to Newcastle United as manager," a statement on their website confirmed.

Keegan's appointment is a sensational twist after Newcastle's search for the right man to replace Allardyce seemed destined to pile more embarrassment on the beleaguered club.

They had already been snubbed by Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp and Gerard Houllier, French football's technical director, before being linked with Didier Deschamps and Mark Hughes.

Those rejections may have played a role in owner Mike Ashley and chairman Chris Mort's decision to turn to such a populist choice as Keegan, who remains a Newcastle legend after his spells as player and manager.

The 56-year-old saved the club from relegation to English football's third tier and then presided over the most entertaining spell in the club's history.

He took Newcastle to promotion back to the top flight in 1993 and came close to winning the league title in the 1995-96 season when they famously led Manchester United by 12 points before finishing as runners up - a collapse that inspired Keegan's infamous "I'd love it if we beat them" outburst about Sir Alex Ferguson's side.

He went on to manage Fulham, England and Manchester City but has been out of the game since leaving City in 2005 after a largely unsuccessful spell.

Keegan - whose cavalier style of football was certainly more of a crowd pleaser for the demanding Magpies fans than the kick and rush in Allardyce's short reign - was not expected to be at Wednesday's FA Cup third round replay against Stoke but he should be in charge for Saturday's Premier League clash at home to Bolton.

Keegan and Alan Shearer - the club's former skipper who had recently been linked to the job - were regarded as the dream ticket for Newcastle fans and even if former England striker Shearer doesn't return as Keegan's assistant, the news will lift a fanbase who were starting to lose faith with their club.

The impact was immediate as fans started to queue around St James' Park to snap up the remaining tickets for the Stoke replay.

Mark Jensen, editor of Newcastle fanzine The Mag, expects Keegan to lure the kind of star players who can return the club to their title-challenging era of the mid-1990s.

"The important thing to remember is that this is just the start," Jensen said. "Having Kevin Keegan back is very much the first building block in what could be a very successful Newcastle United.

"Keegan can attract players and what he didn't have before was the backing behind him. For a short time he did, but this time he has Mike Ashley behind him and I think that is about the best thing that has happened to Newcastle."

Former Newcastle defender Warren Barton, who played under Keegan, believes the appointment will prove a turning point for a team without a win in six matches.

"It's a season to remember already - he's come back," Barton said. "A UEFA Cup spot is a possibility. If I was in the dressing room and he walked in, that would give me a lift.

"The players have got to respond - there is quality in that team.

"Since Sir Bobby Robson, the managers haven't realised what the club is about.

"But Kevin will know what it means - he'll have learnt from his time at England, Fulham and Manchester City and it's fantastic news for the club."

Bobby Moncur, a former Newcastle defender who played for the club in the 1960s and 1970s, added: "I'm delighted he's coming back because we need a big man - someone to lift the whole place. Kevin is the man to do just that.

"He was the Messiah when he came here. They were everyone's second-best loved team with the football they played."

Whether Keegan can work his magic on Newcastle for a second time remains to be seen, but it is certain to be an eventful ride.

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