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Ex-manager Keegan bites back as Newcastle war of words hots up

SoccerNews in English Premier League 7 Sep 2008

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The spat between Newcastle United and their former manager Kevin Keegan worsened Sunday as the former England boss insisted he had been guaranteed complete control over player transfers.

The English Premier League club, facing a backlash from fuming fans, said it did not want to get involved in a “war of words” but felt compelled to fight “inaccurate allegations” — prompting Keegan to hit back in the tit-for-tat battle.

Keegan, 57, quit St James’ Park just eight months into his second spell in charge on Thursday, blasting the management structure put in place by tycoon owner Mike Ashley, stripping the coach of responsibility for matters such as transfer policy.

In a statement sent by the League Managers’ Association (LMA) to AFP on Sunday, Keegan stuck to his guns in the spat with the northeastern club.

“At the time at which I joined Newcastle United Football Club (NUFC) it was made very clear to me that I would have the final say on player movement in and out of the club,” the former England boss insisted.

LMA chief executive Richard Bevan weighed in, adding: “Kevin Keegan’s chief complaint, amongst others, is that it was always agreed that the director of football could not impose a player that the manager did not want.

“This agreement has been broken and, notwithstanding the fact that the chairman at the time of Kevin Keegan’s appointment, the director of football and the owner of Newcastle United, have confirmed previously in public meetings and publications, that he would always have the final say.”

The club is hotly contesting the LMA’s claims as fan fury over the resignation of Keegan, dubbed “The Messiah” on Tyneside, showed no sign of calming.

Ashley’s regime is believed to have gone against Keegan’s wishes by trying to offload both England striker Michael Owen and Joey Barton, the midfielder who served a prison sentence this year for assault, before the transfer window shut overnight Monday.

Keegan’s departure has triggered outrage among Magpies fans and anger towards the club’s board and director of football Dennis Wise, who was appointed soon after Keegan and without his knowledge.

The club, also sticking to its guns, said it was “a fact” that Keegan, on his appointment on January 16, agreed to report to a director of football an the board and did so until his resignation.

“It is a fact that Kevin Keegan, as manager, had specific duties in that he was responsible for the training, coaching, selection and motivation of the team,” Newcastle said on their website.

“It is a fact that NUFC’s financial constraints inform its transfer dealings.

“The board of NUFC have responsibility to ensure that the club is able to meet its commitments which include the wages and the transfer fees for players.

“The structure at NUFC is clear, and has been clear from January 16, 2008.”

Some reports said Keegan — whose position was brought into question when Wise was appointed — was disgruntled at the Magpies’ failure to make any major signings during the transfer window.

The club’s only business on deadline day was the 5.7-million-pound signing of Spanish striker Xisco and the loan signing from Valencia of Ignacio Gonzalez, although Keegan had reportedly not expressed an interest in either player.

Newcastle lie 11th in the table, three games into the new Premier League season. Their next game is at home to Hull City on Saturday, leaving plenty of time for matters other than football to dominate events at St James’ Park.

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