Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan has confirmed that he has been summoned to talks with Mike Ashley, the club owner who has reportedly been infuriated by the manager's comments that his current squad are a “million miles” away from the top four in English football.
Keegan, who has voiced dismay over Ashley's failure to tie up a new deal for striker Michael Owen and several other players, refused to discuss what would be on the agenda for his London summit with the owner.
But he did stand by an outburst he made at the weekend in which he said it would be misleading fans to suggest Newcastle could soon be rivalling Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United for silverware.
“I know some people are disappointed that I am saying we are not going to win the league this time, but I would be in danger of being whipped off to the old nuthouse if I started saying that, because there is a big gulf,” Keegan argued.
“It is well-documented and has been well-documented, not just by myself, but by many, many other people in the game whose opinions are respected.
“The challenge is there, but I don't think it can be done in a year or two.”
Keegan's remarks have been interpreted variously as a tactic designed to make retail tycoon Ashley splash his cash this summer or as a sign of frustration with the influence executive director Dennis Wise has on the club's transfer and player retention policies.
There has even been speculation that Keegan could quit the club just months after he returned to football.
Newcastle's need to strengthen the squad was intensified on Thursday when it emerged that Mark Viduka could be facing six months out with an Achilles injury that is more serious than previously thought.
Viduka, 32, is due to to have an injection this week that is supposed to help him recover from a niggling Achilles problem without him needing to undergo full-scale surgery.
Keegan had hoped that would enable the striker to be fully recovered in time for the start of pre-season training on July 7.
But he now admits it will be mid-August at best and November at worst before Viduka is ready to play again.
“We will know more in two weeks and we'll inform you then,” Keegan said. “If it is three months it won't be a major blow.
“Mark has been very good for us and when he has started we have generally played well and got a result.
“But if it is six months that will be a major blow.”
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