Newcastle United legend denies Kevin Keegan claim after Premier League title disappointment

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One former Newcastle United striker reflected on a dramatic title race as his side lost out to Manchester United.

Former Newcastle United striker Les Ferdinand has given an insight into the Magpies unsuccessful bid to land the Premier League title during the 1995/96 season.

The former England international joined the Magpies ahead of the campaign in a £6m deal from Queens Park Rangers and enjoyed a remarkable start to life at St James Park.  With the likes of David Ginola, Peter Beardsley and Keith Gillespie providing the ammunition, Ferdinand plundered his way to 22 goals by the time the midway point of the season had been reached.

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However, much like many of his Magpies team-mates, the striker struggled to find form during the second half of the season as Kevin Keegan’s side were reeled in by title rivals Manchester United, despite holding a 12-point lead at one point in the campaign. Defeats against the likes of Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers cost Newcastle dearly - but Ferdinand has insisted a dramatic loss at Liverpool felt like a turning point in the battle for the title.

He told The Overlap Podcast: “Up until Christmas we were playing free-flowing football and nobody was thinking about anything. We were just going out and playing, scoring goals, winning games.  We got to Christmas and we were going to London and then back to the training ground. There’s a fella with a shirt on walking in front of me because at Newcastle we used to train at Maiden Castle, which was a university.  

“I get back to the training ground and he had Champions ’96 on his shirt and this is December. I thought you don’t want to see that and I think we started to think about it. We knew you guys (Manchester United) were coming. 

"No matter what sport you play, everything starts to happen a second slower and all of a sudden the shot you take is getting blocked, the tackle you make, the person goes around you. We went to Arsenal, lost at Arsenal, went to Liverpool, lost to Liverpool in that 4-3, and I feel if we won the Liverpool game, that would have given us a boost to go and win it.”

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One of the most memorable moments of that famous title battle was Keegan’s passionate ‘love it’ response to taunts from Red Devils boss Sir Alex Ferguson over opposing sides trying harder against Newcastle than his own side. 

Keegan brought up the complaints in a post-match interview with Sky Sports in the aftermath of a narrow win at Leeds United and received accusations he had lost the battle of minds with the Scot - but Ferdinand insisted the Magpies players never bought into that way of thinking.

He said: “Fans want players to wear their hearts on their sleeves and Kevin wore his heart on his sleeve. As a manager that’s seen as a weakness, I think most people saw it as Sir Alex Ferguson winning the mind games over Kevin Keegan but he just wore his heart on his sleeve and there wasn’t any player that though he’s lost it.”

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