“It was my decision and my decision alone to resign.
“I feel I have taken the club as far as I can and that it would be in the best interests of all concerned if I resigned now.
“I wish the club and everyone concerned with it all the best for the future.”
Kevin Keegan shocked the football world – not for the first or last time – on January 8th, 1997 when he resigned as manager of Newcastle United Football Club.
This is the first Time Machine I can actually remember happening myself – it was a shock, even to a non-Newcastle fan. Well, I say a non-Newcastle fan. I seem to recall quite liking the side under Keegan, especially in the promotion campaign and the first year or so in the Premier League. Andy Cole banged in goals for fun, Peter Beardsley enjoyed an Indian summer, Rob Lee was turned into an England international and if my memory serves me correctly, Keegan performed the same magic on Barry Venison and Warren Barton?
Keegan returned to the club in 1992, finding them a very poor second-tier side and, according to Terry Mc’s autobiography, nearly jacked it in very early on after feeling like the board were not following up on their promises.
They soon changed their approach and Keegan led Newcastle to it’s most exciting era in the club’s long history.
Tactics? Simple – go out and play, and play attacking. Emotions? Running high at all times. Passion? Plenty of that? Massive signings? How do Alan Shearer for a world record £15, Sir Les Ferdinand, Tino Asprilla, David Ginola and Philippe Albert sound? (Though not all at the same time, you understand).
But why did Keegan, the absolute messiah in Geordieland, call it a day on this day 25 years ago?
The excellent The Mag provides a little more background, reminding us that Newcastle’s start to the 1996/97 season was inconsistent – two defeats in the opening three matches then seven wins on the spin. After 10 games, Newcastle were well set and looked like they could even go one better than their famous near-miss season from the previous campaign.
The next nine faltered – four draws, four defeats and a solitary win meant Newcastle were off the title-chasing pace. Yet, they ended 96 in fine style – smashing Spurs 7-1. New Year’s Day 1997 saw Keegan’s side beat Leeds 3-0 and they sat in fifth place – just five points off the top.
And then Keegan was gone.
He felt he had taken the club as far as he could and, in Keegan style, was done with football once again.
The club released this statement: ‘Newcastle United Football Club today announce the resignation of manager Kevin Keegan. Kevin informed the board of his wish to resign at the end of the season, having decided he no longer wishes to continue in football management at this stage in his life. Following lengthy discussions of which the board attempted to persuade Kevin to change his mind, both parties eventually agreed that the best route forward was for the club to, reluctantly, accept his resignation with immediate effect.’
Reading between the lines at the time, it felt like Keegan wanted to split on his terms at the end of the season and somewhere along the line, the club weren’t massively keen on that idea – worried that the season might peter out if the news broke.
Had the previous season’s infamous “I’d love it” meltdown taken too much out of KK? Or the suggestion that he’d screwed it by signing David Batty and Asprilla and disrupting a well-oiled machine?
The local paper, The Chronicle reported: “They called it Black Wednesday on Tyneside.
“People cried in the streets or stared at each other in stunned silence.
“Kevin Keegan has quit after five years in charge, having taken the club from the brink of oblivion and the old Third Division to the heights of the Premier League with a style never before seen at St James’ Park.
“RIP Kevin Keegan, Newcastle United manager – February, 1992 to January, 1997.”
Former chairman Freddy Shepherd would later say: “It was like losing a family member.”
King Kev couldn’t resist the call of football for long – he reappeared at Fulham in September as “Chief Operating Officer” with Ray Wilkins coaching the side. Fulham, aided by Al-Fayad’s millions, finished 6th in Division Two (League One today) and Wilkins was sacked ahead of the play-offs, Keegan taking charge.
Keegan took Fulham up the following season before moving on to become England manager.
Following a spell at Man City, he returned to Newcastle in January 2008. He left in the September and it was messier the second time.
Kevin Keegan – certainly one of the men responsible for the early thrill of the Premier League.