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Keegan’s return may not bring trophies but fans will enjoy the ride
Amid the humdrum fare that makes up the bulk of the Premier League, Kevin Keegan’s return to Newcastle should be welcomed by fans of football and drama, whatever their persuasion.
Some pundits have sneered at the deluded supporters welcoming their Messiah, pointing out that he didn’t actually win anything during his five years as manager and instead should take much of the blame for blowing a 12-point lead to allow Manchester United to overhaul them for the title in 1996.
But supporting a football team, most teams anyway, is all about hope and trying to enjoy the journey because for the vast majority, every season ends in disappointment.
That is if you consider not winning a trophy to be failure, which unfortunately is not the case for the bulk of the Premier League, where the target each August is to finish above the bottom three nine months later. What joy.
Newcastle fans have always expected more, even when their team was hurtling towards the old third division, and the fact that it was Keegan the player who largely prevented that ignominy ensured he had a place in the fans’ hearts forever.
That he came back as manager and soon had his team not only challenging for honours, but doing so in an exhilarating, joyous, devil-take-the-hindmost style catapulted their affection for the Little Fellah into the stratosphere.
Sam Allardyce’s pragmatic approach might please chairmen and shareholders and secure an annual influx of TV millions by guaranteeing Premier League survival but it does not get the pulse racing.
The comings and goings of men like Allardyce, Harry Redknapp, Steve Bruce, Paul Jewell, Graeme Souness is a merry-go-round of managerial mediocrity, where 17th place is success and mid-table the equivalent of winning the Champions League.
Keegan is different: he wants more and the fans will back him in the way that they would never have backed Didier Deschamps or Gerard Houllier.
The chances are, of course, that for all his force of will, Newcastle’s title drought will roll into a ninth decade and, by measurement of the honours board, Keegan will fail.
But for the revitalised Geordie fans who will go to work with an extra skip in their step today, they know they will have fun trying.
Mitch Phillips is head of Reuters UK Sports Reporting
PHOTO: Newcastle fan Sophie Ross poses with her new shirt outside the ground before the FA Cup third round replay against Stoke City at St James’ Park, January 16, 2008. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis