Keegan heads for the exits... again

If a week is a long time in politics, a day’s an eternity in football.

On Monday morning Manchester City were a club without a rudder and Newcastle were signing exotic foreigners; by Tuesday lunchtime City were as rich as Midas and the Toon were once more waving goodbye to King Kev.

For such an unpredictable outfit, Newcastle are incredibly predictable.

Different day, same old Newcastle 

They get a manager, they spend money, they reach for the stars and they fall on their arse. There’ll be an avalanche of Told You So, and far be it from FourFourTwo to refrain: back in January, writing for the March issue that comes out in February (keep up, dear), our esteemed Editor-in-Chief wrote that the newly reinstated Keegan had “lost his mojo” before warning that “it’s hard to imagine the affair won’t end in tears, acrimony and another divorce”.

The gaffer (ours, not Newcastle’s) also quoted an earlier FFT interview in which the Messiah said “I don’t believe you can ever go back somewhere and be the same”. He was right.

The mid-’90s Newcastle of Ferdinand, Shearer, Asprilla, Ginola and the rest had every chance of winning the title. This time, Keegan quickly admitted he couldn’t imagine the Mags so much as breaking into the top-four oligarchy: “We’ll be trying to get to fifth and trying to win the other league that’s going on within the Premier League.”

Humbled by circumstance and hobbled by in-fighting – chairman Chris Mort lasted less than a year, while lager-loving owner Mike Ashley has admitted looking for “investment partners.” Word is that the Abu Dhabi group sniffed around the club before moving on to Manchester – Newcastle entered the new season in typical style: with a shiny new winger and an eye-wateringly expensive defender who may or may not cure their characteristically calamitous back-line.

When James Milner was sold to Villa – strong contenders for that famous fifth place – against the express wishes of King Kevin, storm clouds gathered over the hilltop fortress of St James’ Park. Keegan’s subsequent decision to bring on Joey Barton during the usual 3-0 defeat at Arsenal could be seen as a touching defence of a player under fire, it could also be read as a defiant two fingers to Ashley, long thought to have wanted rid of the midfielder.

Five pints please, and be quick about it... 

Already marginalised by the short but dark shadow of Dennis Wise (“executive director of football,” whatever that means), Keegan wanted significant expenditure on deadline day.

Having bounced out of bed like a kid at Christmas, he’d have been disappointed to unwrap only Spanish forward Xisco (no, us either) and a borrowed winger called Nacho – while the money men haggled unsuccessfully over a swap deal with Portsmouth for that man Barton, prompting the midfielder to text SkySportsNews professing his desire to stay on Tyneside.

Cue the meeting, the arguing and the storming out.

The latest word is that Keegan has been sacked, but it would come as no surprise to hear he had walked out – as he had last time he was in this black-and-white-hot seat, having “taken the club as far as I can.” In fact, he’d resigned within a month of first becoming manager, with only Sir John Hall’s open chequebook and stirring homilies cajoling him back.

Indeed, if breaking up is hard to do, it comes easily for Keegan. He also walked out on England (as manager, in the Wembley toilets, and as player, after being left out of Bobby Robson’s first squad), Liverpool (seeking bigger challenges abroad), Hamburg (seeking challenges back at home), Southampton (after boss Lawrie McMenemy criticised the team en masse), Fulham (for England) and Man City (to retire again).

Kev makes his way to the Wembley toilets


As ever, the secret of comedy is timing.

The day after the similarly slapstick Manchester City suddenly become the world’s richest club on deadline day and throw mind-boggling offers to various fax machines, Newcastle sack their manager the day after his only full transfer window closes, seven months after he replaced Sam Allardyce – who also had seven months and one transfer window, spent millions and left the club in 11th place.

A day may be an eternity in football, but more than half a year later, Newcastle have gone nowhere.