Thousands of Newcastle United fans brought the centre of the city in northeast England to a near standstill on Saturday in protest at the departure of coach Kevin Keegan.
Hours before Newcastle kicked off at home against Hull in the club's first game since Keegan resigned on September 4, supporters gathered outside St James Park to vent their anger at owner Mike Ashley and the Newcastle board.
Police strugggled to control the surging crowd in a noisy but peaceful protest at the gates of the stadium.
Fans chanted “Sack the board”, “We want Ashley out”, and “There's only one Kevin Keegan”.
Some fans wore “Ashley Out” t-shirts bearing stickers reading “Down with the cockney mafia” – a reference to Dennis Wise, the London-born former Chelsea player whose role in the Newcastle management structure is said to have enraged Keegan.
A police spokesman said extra officers would be on duty before and after the game, to ensure the protests passed off peacefully.
As many as five separate demonstrations have been arranged to take place in Newcastle city centre before, during and after the match.
Keegan stepped down as manager after his authority was alleged to have been undermined by the Newcastle board.
One fan, trainee solicitor Edward Moss, 30, said: “We want Keegan back. If he agreed to return I'd walk to Central Station and carry his bags for him.
“He understands the fans and he understands the club, and Ashley doesn't.
“I don't know what he's doing here. He bought the club without completing due diligence – what kind of person does a thing like that? It's like buying a second hand Ferrari without first checking under the bonnet.”
In a surprise development, it emerged that Keegan held talks with Ashley in a London hotel on Friday, although it was unclear whether or not the discussions were linked to him returning to the manager's hot-seat.
The League Managers Association (LMA) said the discussions “failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion”.
Gus Poyet, the current assistant coach at Premier League rivals Tottenham and who worked with Wise at Swindon and Leeds United, is reported to be favourite to take over as Newcastle manager.
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