Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle return was not the homecoming it should have been.
A legend of the game, he returned to St James’ Park for a second stint as manager in January 2008.
He had been out of the managerial game since 2005, retiring after leaving the Manchester City dugout.
But in 2008 he was contacted about a return to management with his beloved Newcastle. A meeting was arranged between the club and Keegan, who insisted that new owner Mike Ashley was in attendance.
What happened when Keegan met Ashley for the first time?
In his autobiography My Life In Football, Keegan relives his first encounter with the Sports Direct tycoon.
“I was liking everything I heard, but when it came to discussing my contract, knowing what I do now, perhaps I should have realised it was never going to be straightforward with these people,” Keegan said.
He was offered a three-year deal by the club worth £1million per year, but there was a clause inserted that meant Keegan was only entitled to £1million if he was sacked.
He argued that it was more like a rolling 12 month contract, and the negotiations began to fall apart.
“I was starting to feel uneasy, taken aback by the tactics they were using. Had they really got me all the way down to London to try to pull a fast one?”
After leaving the meeting, Keegan was immediately phoned by Chris Mort (Newcastle’s chief executive at the time) to come back and ‘try again’. Before returning, he spoke with his wife then close friend Neil Redford, who had been managing director at Fulham.
A deal on much better terms was agreed, and Keegan was once again the manager of Newcastle United.
“In my view anything was possible.
“He had the money, and, I hoped, top-notch people around him. It felt like the dream ticket and the perfect opportunity to fulfil the grand ambitions I nursed for Newcastle.
“This guy is going to help me take this club to where it’s never been I thought. We’re going to win something this time, we’re going to get this place rocking again.”
How wrong he was.
The exact opposite would happen. St James’ Park was not rocking, and it quickly became the host to multiple protests against the ownership after Keegan resigned in September 2008.
Keegan was a dreamer, but sadly it would turn into a nightmare.
Kevin Keegan’s autobiography ‘My Life In Football’ is out now in paperback for £8.99.