‘I still get quite emotional’: Philippe Albert says he doesn’t keep in touch with Kevin Keegan as much as he would like

Philippe Albert Newcastle United Kevin Keegan
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Former Newcastle and Belgium defender Philippe Albert still retains nostalgic memories from his time working under Kevin Keegan in the North East, but admits he spoke to his former boss more frequently nearly 30 years on. 

Keegan signed Albert 1994 from Anderlecht for £2.6 million, following an impressive World Cup campaign in America. The defender says he turned down the chance to move to clubs such as Juventus and Fiorentina in Serie A, instead opting for Newcastle because he idolised Keegan's European Cup-winning Liverpool side from 1977.

Albert played under Keegan for two-and-a-half seasons at Newcastle, between 1994 and 1997, and then joined him at Fulham on loan in the third tier as they gained promotion in 1999. 

However, when asked exclusively by FourFourTwo if he still speaks to Keegan, Albert admits: "Not as much as I would like.

"I last saw him a few years ago when I played in a reunion match between the Newcastle and Liverpool sides involved in that famous 4-3 game. Even now, I don’t think football has seen anyone quite like him. 

"He was a genuine world superstar at Liverpool, Hamburg, Southampton and Newcastle, he went to Germany when it was very rare for players to go abroad but was European Footballer of the Year twice in his time there, and then he became a fantastic manager too. 

"As a player, you just wanted to do well for him – I had no hesitation in joining him at Fulham, even though it meant dropping two divisions. I haven’t met anyone in football with Keegan’s charisma; I doubt I ever will. I still get quite emotional talking about those incredible days working for him."

Under Keegan's leadership, Newcastle quickly earned the nickname 'The Entertainers' due to their perceived gung-ho attacking style. As the cliché goes, Newcastle would play to score more goals than the other team, focussing on attacking over defending.

Albert, though, disagrees, dispelling the myth that Kevin Keegan’s Entertainers couldn’t defend.

"Look, we were very good going forward and it’s true that the manager was obsessed with playing on the front foot and trying to score as many goals as possible, but it’s wrong to suggest that team was bad defensively," Albert clarifies to FFT

"Look at the statistics from that 1995-96 season: our goals-against record was right up there with the best. And I remember that famous Champions League win against Barcelona [in 1997, eight months after Keegan left] – everyone can recall Tino Asprilla’s hat-trick putting us 3-0 up, but we spent the last half an hour defending for our lives. 

"They pulled a couple of goals back, but we held on to our lead with a gutsy backs-to-the-wall display. A bad defensive side would have found that impossible against a team of Barça’s quality."

While he says the team could, in fact, defend, Albert also realises he would get free licence to join attacks under Keegan. Indeed, it was that freedom which saw him score the iconic chip over Peter Schmeichel as Newcastle beat Manchester United 5-0 in 1996. 

Other players in the team weren't too keen on Albert charging forward to join attacking moves, though, most notably his central defensive partner. 

"Darren [Peacock] may not have liked it, but I was never going to get into trouble playing that way with Kevin Keegan as my manager. His team talks were about us being so much better than the opposition. 

"He’d say, “If they score two, make sure you score four or five.” And, very often, we did! Sometimes Darren was angry to be left all on his own at the back, but he knew the team he was playing in. 

"Critics say that Kevin wasn’t a very good coach, but if you look at today’s top teams, such as Manchester City, they also encourage defenders to push into midfield to cause the other team problems."

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Ryan Dabbs
Staff writer

Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.