Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Newcastle welcomes an old friend back, only to probably kick him out again later

Kevin Keegan: always giving good advice

Kevin Keegan's back on Tyneside, for reasons best known only to himself. It's a well-known convention in sports and horror movies that you never return to a place you once were, as it'll only end in misery, failure to live up to expectations, and possible decapitation.

It's surely one of the hardest places to manage, as demonstrated by recent events there. 30 games and 8 months in charge was all that the boardroom thought Big Sam deserved, despite making it blatantly known that it was a 3-5 year job to turn the club around.

Not counting the ubiquitous caretaker-managers, only one manager since Keegan's departure in January 1997 has been able to oversee more than 90 games in charge, and that was none other than Sir Bobby Robson. Ruud Gullit, Graeme Souness, Kenny Dalglish, Norwich's middle-aged God Glenn Roeder, all of them tasted the axe or walked out before achieving the dream of a mandate.

As it stands, it's the nature of the game now for all those clubs chasing the dream and allure of the Big 4: we, the boardroom, want results, and we want them badly. Fail to achieve, and the pressure's on, because these days, managers are a dime-a-dozen. There are so many waiting around for work that the second a job pops up, they swarm to it knowing it's another year's pay before the axe swings again.

In Keegan's favour, he has the statistical honour of being Newcastle's most successful manager in terms of wins and losses: in 251 competitive games, he managed a 138-52-62 streak, which translates to a 54% win rate. No-one else, not even Super Joe Harvey, the club's longest-serving captain and manager [and the last NUFC manager to win a major trophy], preserved a record that good. No-one else is even breaking 50%.

Joe Harvey: yeah, he was alright

He also has the backing of a lot of former Magpie players, managers and pundits, all of whom are ecstatic to see him return to the scene of his best managerial achievements. That should certainly help him last a little longer than Big Sam, who was perceived as too "small-town" and conservative in his approach to turning Newcastle around.

Keegan's inheriting a crap team with a history of problems and disputes, along with a host of failed signings held over from Allardyce's vision. He's had a cracking career as manager, but this is a different kettle of fish.

It's going to take an awful lot of work, but one thing is true: it's going to be fucking hilariously good fun to watch.

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