Monday, December 9, 2019

Newcastle and Keegan saga still no clearer

Now that the dust has settled somewhat on the departure of Kevin Keegan from Newcastle I thought it would be an idea to look at exactly what has gone on at the club.

The situation is still volatile with both Keegan and Newcastle making conflicting statements and accusations and the matter will certainly end up in the hands of lawyers.

On announcing his resignation, Keegan said, “I’ve been working desperately hard to find a way forward with the directors, but sadly that has not proved possible. It’s my opinion that a manager must have the right to manage and that clubs should not impose upon any manager any player that he does not want.”

That statement was pretty clear and told us all just what had happened during the transfer window. Keegan was known to be unhappy with the sale of James Milner and he is also believed to have fallen out with the board over his honest, commendable but perhaps misguided support of Joey Barton. The final straw for Keegan was alleged to have been the fact that some other members of his already stretched squad had been offered for sale, he says, without his knowledge.

However, Newcastle have reacted by issuing the following amazing statement;

“It is a fact Keegan was allowed to manage his duties without any interference. It is a fact he agreed not to talk to the media in relation to the acquisition or disposal of players.”

In relation to the structure at the club and the role of Dennis Wise in transfer dealings, the statement, issued on the Club website on Saturday, went on to say;

“It is a fact that Kevin Keegan worked within that structure from 16th January 2008 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. It is a fact that NUFC is a business and operates, like all businesses, with financial constraints. 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.”

This is a truly remarkable statement by the club and is, to my knowledge, unique in the way that it has so robustly denied the accusations being made by Keegan. If the club are not telling the truth they are playing a very dangerous game indeed. The love of Kevin Keegan by the Newcastle faithful should never be underestimated.

Since this incident blew up last week, many Newcastle fans have gathered outside St. James’ Park and chanted Keegan’s name and called for club owner Mike Ashley and executive director Dennis Wise to quit.

It could be that when the truth is revealed, the club have done little wrong. They have certainly gone to some lengths to explain their side of the story. Straight after the resignation the club said that they were “sad and disappointed” by the resignation.

Their statement added,

“Over the last few days, the club has devoted itself to the discussions it has held with Kevin and as a result of those discussions had put together a set of practical suggestions for how to move forward. The club made it clear to Kevin that if he had any outstanding concerns on its proposals, he should raise them with the club. The club regrets that Kevin has, instead of taking up that offer, chosen to resign.”

Keegan had made his feelings about Newcastle’s prospects clear at the end of last season in a public statement about their limitations. That public announcement had understandably upset Ashley and board.

Recently, Keegan assured the Toon Army that he was going to bring in three or four big name quality signings. In the end, only Xisco and loan signing Ignacio Gonzalez arrived. I wonder on what basis Keegan made his original claim.

It was widely reported that Newcastle had sacked Keegan but the club issued a denial. It was then reported that Keegan had resigned. That was duly denied by Keegan.

Eventually, via a statement released by the League Management Association Keegan did make public the fact that he had resigned. He said, “It remains my fervent wish to see Newcastle United do well in the future and I feel incredibly sorry for the players, staff and most importantly the supporters. I have been left with no choice other than to leave.”

When Keegan returned for a second spell as Newcastle manager in January, he was greeted as the Messiah. He had enjoyed a wonderful spell as manager of the club back in the nineties when he so nearly won the elusive silverware for the club. His team played a brand of exciting attacking football rarely seen before or since.

After a worryingly poor start this time around Keegan led Newcastle to safety last season and then to a solid if unspectacular start this season. Despite that, Keegan’s unhappiness with the club’s management structure was becoming increasingly evident.

Soon after Keegan was unveiled as the manager back in January, Mike Ashley brought in Dennis Wise as executive director and Tony Jimenez as vice-president of player recruitment. When that happened Keegan said that he knew nothing about it, but then later said that he had been part of the decision making process.

In reality, that first incident should have told us all that this relationship between Ashley and Keegan was never going to work or end happily.

The club is in total turmoil and it is difficult to see how they can recover from where they are now. With talk of fans boycotts and even player revolts, the next few days and weeks could be very difficult.

Having said that, there are no more fervent and passionate supporters than those of Newcastle United and I’m sure they will remain behind the club. Despite their love of Kevin Keegan, it is the club that they support, not the people who currently run it.

The statements coming from both sides are so contradictory that it is impossible to work out what has happened and who is in the wrong. The esteem with which Kevin Keegan is rightly held in Newcastle means that the fans will undoubtedly side with him until the club view, if it can be, is proved to be the more accurate one.

The whole thing is a real shame. Newcastle fans deserve much better than this.


Graham Fisher



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