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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
I’m writing this match preview moments after watching Kevin Keegan’s first press conference as Newcastle United manager since 1997. When he walked into the room, I’ll be honest with you, I felt a little bit tired and maybe a bit stressed about the deadline that was closing in on me. But after twenty minutes of live Keegan I now feel like I could wrestle a tiger. I reckon I could run a marathon this afternoon. I could write a book, I could paint a portrait, I could compose a song. I can do anything and I can certainly write this preview before my deadline. If one dose of Keegan can do that to me, imagine what he can do to the Newcastle players!

He was passionate, he was honest, he was charming, he was fascinating. He invited Alan Shearer back to the fold, he pledged his support for Joey Barton. He reminded us all that everyone had laughed when he said he’d take Newcastle into the Premier League, but he did it anyway. He was unrepentant about his past and enthusiastic about the future. He sweet-talked a room of vicious hacks and by the end, they were eating out of his hands. If this sounds like a teenage girl’s diary, then I can only apologise, but he’s made me as giddy as one. There were points in his oration where I wanted to jump to my feet, climb on the table and shout, “Oh Captain, my Captain!”

“This is not a normal club,” he said quite rightly, “and people from the outside don’t really understand it. Nobody knows this club like I do.”

Since he returned to his rightful place on the throne of Tooncastle, the celebrations have been relentless and, with a home tie against Bolton Wanderers tonight, they’re almost certain to carry on straight through the weekend as well. Bolton are terrible away from home, almost entirely devoid of flair and managed by a man whose idea of motivation is to shout swear words really, really loudly.

Keegan was in the crowd in midweek for his new team’s 4-1 victory over Stoke and he certainly seemed to be enjoying himself. He looked delighted with James Milner’s goal and he’ll have been pleased with the increased effort and application of his other players, even if it is the kind of thing that leaves a bad taste in everyone else’s mouth. How can they be the same players as the ones who played so poorly for Sam Allardyce? Is that the furthest that Mark Viduka has run all season? It’s scandalous really, but perhaps those days are gone for good now.

He is the motivator’s motivator. He could lift a room of surly teenagers and have them helping out in an old people’s home. He could convince violent street gangs to drop their weapons and put on a musical. He could change the way we see the world, and the way we see each other. But can he win a trophy for Newcastle? I’m still not quite sure.

For all the talk and bombast, the club is still stuck in mid-table with a fractious squad and a history of failure. They’re going out against teams who have set down huge scouting networks. Clubs with massive financial backing. Managers who could outwit a chess champion. Bolton and their flying elbows. Tonight’s game won’t prove anything, but it will be great fun. The real test will come over the next 18 months. How far can enthusiasm take you?

Keegan’s manifesto is simple. “Newcastle fans just want to see their team go out and have a go. We’ll have a go, alright,” he said, “and I believe we can do it.”

For a moment back there, I believed it too.


Life President
Oct 27, 2003
Nobody is going to listen to the random ramblings of someone so old!