‘The chance is there’ - Kevin Keegan fires Eddie Howe Newcastle United warning on Champions League return

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Eddie Howe and Kevin Keegan met for the first time at the official book launch of ‘Here To Compete’ - written by Sky Sports News presenter Pete Graves.

It was a face-to-face meeting that was two years in the making. When greatness meets greatness and when one legend brushes shoulders with someone who many Newcastle United fans already regard as another. Kevin Keegan and Eddie Howe, finally, in each other’s company.

One of the first things Howe did when he was appointed Magpies head coach in November 2021 was phone the great ‘King Kev’ for advice. Little did Howe, or anyone, know then that he’d soon be mentioned in the same breath as the man the Geordies hail as the Messiah.

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So, when it was announced the pair were meeting up for the first time in person at the official book launch of Pete Graves’s ‘Here To Compete’ - the inside story of Newcastle United and the Howe era so far - on Monday, it promised to be a special night.

And it, of course, lived up to expectation. For the 1,000 supporters inside the Tyne Theatre & Opera House, it was one of those occasions where you just had to be there. A genuine privilege.

Eddie Howe & Kevin Keegan on stage together

Eddie Howe and Kevin Keegan met for the first time at the official book launch of Pete Graves’ ‘Here To Compete’.Eddie Howe and Kevin Keegan met for the first time at the official book launch of Pete Graves’ ‘Here To Compete’.
Eddie Howe and Kevin Keegan met for the first time at the official book launch of Pete Graves’ ‘Here To Compete’.

Neither man received no less than a hero’s welcome.

Up first was Keegan. All those years later and a certain generation of fans are still “walking in a Keegan wonderland”. Tales of the Entertainers had fans reliving the 1990s while a rendition of Blaydon Races brought an emotional Terry McDermott to the stage.

Keegan entertained the crowd on his own for the first part. A short break followed and Howe arrived in the building. A wave to the crowd and a first meeting with Keegan sealed with a handshake - the Tyne Theatre erupted.

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With the event taking place less than 48 hours before a big Champions League game at St James’ Park, many would have forgiven Howe for staying at home and continuing his homework on Borussia Dortmund but in the words of the 45-year-old himself: “I just had to come and meet King Kev for the first time.”

Indeed, the respect and emotion between the two was immediate. With every word spoken, the other man listened carefully. And Howe certainly got the seal of approval as Keegan declared “we were dying to get someone back at the club who understands what this club is and can take it forward, and you’ve got him [Howe] now.”

He added: “You know Eddie, you don’t need me to tell you, you’ve got a very special club here and who knows where it might end... The chance is there for you now and so far I’ve got to say, you’re doing a fantastic job.”

Like supporters, Keegan also suffered through 14 years of Mike Ashley, not just as a manager but supporter, too. His late father was Newcastle through and through. Howe, he says, has helped him “get his Dad’s club back”.

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As the two chatted away, you began to realise their respective tenures as Toon boss aren’t too dissimilar.

For example, both men inherited struggling teams before eventually reaching the top four of the Premier League, as well as having an eye for an attacking brand of football and a Geordie core. Dan Burn, Sean Longstaff and Elliot Anderson are today’s Lee Clark, Steve Watson, Robbie Elliott and Steve Howey.

That is just one of many topics discussed. In truth, the conversation could have gone on forever (as could this piece!) but as the clock ticked towards 10pm, it was home time. Of course, Howe and Keegan had to have the final say.

“To share the stage with him [Kevin] is an absolute honour, so thank you,” said Howe.

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For Keegan, it was a ‘told you so’ to those in the audience.

“Don’t ever give up on your club,” he once said. “Keep supporting it, it’s your club and trust me, one day you will get your club back and it will be everything you wanted it to be.

“Newcastle United is bigger than anyone. It hurts, I know, but just keep going. He (Ashley) is only one man we are a city, a whole population. Trust me.”

How true that statement turned out to be.

‘Here to Compete’ is the brand-new book by Sky Sports Presenter and avid Newcastle United fan, Pete Graves. It gives the inside story of Newcastle United and the Eddie Howe era, featuring interviews with club legends Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer and current manager himself Eddie Howe. You can pre-order here.

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