Former Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan. Picture: Stu Forster/Allsport/Getty Images
There is a very strong argument to suggest Keegan became one of the most influential people in the club’s history when he brought down the curtain on a highly-successful playing career on Tyneside before going on to manage the club on two occasions.
Keegan forged a unique bond with Newcastle supporters and that remains as strong today as it ever has been.
But whilst talk of big money signings, the entertainers and THAT ‘love it’ comment come to mind, there are a number of aspects of Keegan’s time with Newcastle that aren’t spoken about enough.
Getting value for money with shrewd signings
Keegan’s first managerial spell at Newcastle conjures up memories of big money deals for the likes of Les Ferdinand, Tino Asprilla and world record signing Alan Shearer.
But not all of Keegan’s signings were such lavish additions and the Magpies legend managed to get some of his longest-serving players for far more modest fees.
The experienced additions of Brian Kilcline and Kevin Sheedy for a combined £250,000 provided some nous and leadership to keep Keegan’s Newcastle out of English football’s third tier at the end of the 1991/92 season.
But his first summer showed the United boss make some shrewd additions in the transfer market with Paul Bracewell and Barry Venison both joining for fees of £250,000 and John Beresford moving to Tyneside from Portsmouth in a £650,000 deal.
The early part of the 1992/93 season also saw Keegan persuade Charlton Athletic’s Robert Lee snub a move to then-Premier League club Middlesbrough to join Newcastle in a £700,000 deal.
Bracewell and Venison’s time on Tyneside was comparatively brief with both players leaving three years after their arrival after helping Newcastle claim promotion and establish themselves in the Premier League.
But Beresford and Lee would outlast Keegan at St James Park and the duo made over 600 appearances between them by the time they had left for pastures new.
With transfer fees inflating as more cash flowed around the Premier League, Keegan’s £2.5million signing of PSG winger David Ginola also provided remarkable value for money.
The France international became a firm favourite with the St James Park faithful and remains, for many, one of the most talented players to wear the black and white shirt.
Being ruthless in the aftermath of promotion into the Premier League
There can be no doubt that Gavin Peacock and David Kelly were instrumental in keeping Newcastle in Division Two in 1992 and helping them claim the newly-named Division One title 12 months later.
The duo hit 46 goals between them as Keegan’s side saw off challenges from the likes of West Ham United and Portsmouth to top the table.
But to the surprise of many, neither player would feature for United in the Premier League and had departed by the time Keegan’s side faced Spurs on the opening day of the season.
The late-season arrival of Andy Cole had added intense competition for a starting place in Keegan’s starting side and the summer arrival of Peter Beardsley left both Kelly and Peacock vulnerable.
A family situation played a part in Peacock’s departure to Premier League rivals Chelsea and Kelly was allowed to join Wolves in a £750,000 just weeks after promotion was secured.
For all of the talk of him being a football romantic, the fact Keegan showed a ruthless side to sell two key players that had served him so well is not spoken about enough.
Retaining faith with the youngsters he inherited from Ossie Ardilies
It’s safe to say Newcastle were in a precarious position when Keegan replaced former manager Ossie Ardilies in February 1992.
The Magpies were sat in the Division Two relegation zone following a 5-2 hammering at Oxford City just days before Keegan’s arrival.
If there was a positive to Ardiles reign, it was his decision to introduce a number of promising youngsters into his squad with the likes of Steve Watson, Lee Clark, Alan Neilson, Robbie Elliott and Steve Howey all featuring under the Argentinean.
Keegan retained faith with the youngsters as United escaped relegation and all five went on to represent the Magpies in the Premier League.
Keegan’s first full season even saw Clark named as North East football’s Young Player of the Year and Howey earned England caps during his time working under the Magpies legend.
Despite the ongoing development of his squad, all players mentioned - with the exception of Wales international Nielson - remained at St James Park beyond Keegan’s departure in January 1997.
However, Nielson did reunited with Keegan during the latter’s managerial reign at Fulham.
Finishing third in Newcastle’s first-ever Premier League season
Despite romping to promotion from the then-First Division, the early signs were not promising after Newcastle fell to defeats against Spurs and Coventry City in their first week as a Premier League club.
A draw at reigning champions Manchester United got the Magpies off the mark and Keegan’s side went on to rack up a number of individual and team achievements during a remarkable campaign.
Dubbed ‘The Entertainers’, Keegan’s side did the double over Merseyside clubs Everton and Liverpool, remained unbeaten against Manchester United, gained revenge on Spurs with a win at White Hart Lane, beat Aston Villa home and away and saw off Arsenal at home on the opening day of the season.
Keegan’s summer business had been limited to the return of former favourite Peter Beardsley and the relatively low-key additions of Liverpool keeper Mike Hooper, Cyprus international Nicky Papavasiliou and forward duo Alex Mathie and Malcolm Allen.
Record signings Darren Peacock and Ruel Fox were added to the squad as Keegan continued to push for a top six place.
Beardsley’s strike partnership with Andy Cole produced fireworks as the duo plundered a combined 64 goals between them - with Cole becoming the first player in United’s history to pass the 40-goal mark during a single season.
United ended the season in third place and secured a place in the 1994/95 UEFA Cup.
It remains the joint-highest finish achievement by a newly-promoted club in Premier League history - with Nottingham Forest equaling the 77 points United achieved to secure third place.
Taking a risk in joining Newcastle as a player in 1982
The award was won during his time with Bundesliga giants Hamburg and he had returned to England to join then-Division One side Southampton two years prior to his first arrival at St James Park.
After two enjoyable seasons on the South Coast - where Keegan netted 37 goals in 68 games - the former England captain shocked the football world by moving into the second tier of English football to join Arthur Cox’s Newcastle in summer of 1982.
It is difficult to put a modern day equivalent alongside Keegan’s move to Tyneside, such was the shock that surrounded the completion of the deal.
Keegan was still a current England international and had been a European Cup winner and Football League winner just five years earlier.
Given the way he transformed United during his first managerial reign at St James Park, Keegan’s risk in joining the club as a player is sometimes forgotten.
But after leading Cox’s side back to the top tier of the game and forging a deadly partnership with Peter Beardsley and Chris Waddle, the memories of Keegan the player will never be forgotten.