Keegangate – one year on.

Posted on September 3rd, 2009 | 29 Comments |

Is it really a year?
Is it really a year?
It was about a year ago today, just after the 2008 summer transfer window closed, when Newcastle United went into the free-fall it has yet to recover from.

To be fair, the club wasn’t exactly setting the world alight before that and, arguably, the last period of stability ended when Sir Bobby Robson was given the sack. Freddie Shepherd had been spending the club into debt and had installed the revolving door for managers with both Roeder and Souness serving for less than a season before Shepherd settled on Sam Allardyce.

Then along came Ashley. Initially he was partnered by Chris Mort, who had helped Ashley with the takeover, and in January 2008 the pair sacked Allardyce, sensationally appointing Kevin Keegan as manager. A lot of people felt Mort was a good communicator who built important relationships with the fans, keeping them informed of the goings-on at St James’s Park and setting up things like the Newcastle United Foundation to bring the club into the community. Mort left in June 2008 and was replaced by Derek Llambias and thus began the regime of ‘Dastardly and Muttley’ at Newcastle United and it has been like Wacky Races ever since.

Ashley certainly had a few good ideas: he could see that the club’s spending simply couldn’t carry on at the level it had been and he wanted to build an ‘Arsenal Style’ club, picking up young, undiscovered talent for a decent price and then getting Keegan to shape those players as part of the team. It all seemed fair enough until about this time last year when the ‘Keegangate’ affair exploded and Ashley’s weaknesses were exposed.

That’s when everything went bananas and the current desperate phase of decline really began. The transfer window had closed and Keegan had walked or had been sacked or whatever. It’s still not totally clear what happened at that time but I suspect it went something like this:

KK: “Mike, either you give me the final authority to say which players come and go – which is what you promised me – or I can’t work for this club any more.”

MA: “Kevin, you knew you’d have to work with a Director of Football when you took the job, so just suck it up and get on with it.”

KK: “Mike, there’s a difference between working with the wee man and working for him. The final say was supposed to be mine.”

MA: “No it wasn’t.”

KK: “Was too.”

MA: “Wasn’t and no returns.”

KK: “Look, either the midget goes or I do.”

MA: “Bye.”

That’s a fictional conversation of course but I’d guess that’s roughly what happened. I’d suggest that the root cause was a lack of clarity in Keegan’s contract about exactly what his responsibilities were, otherwise I would have thought it would be much clearer as to what happened during the whole miserable situation. There is a tribunal due this Autumn to settle the Keegan affair although many commentators feel it will be settled before the tribunal’s heard, which probably means we’ll never find out the exact details. Personally I hope it goes to the tribunal so that the affair can at least be settled in the mind of fans and we can move on leave the whole sorry affair behind.

I think Keegan could have tried harder to resolve the situation before leaving, but then again so could Ashley. Anyway, the fans were up in arms, the club was managerless and in disarray and it was exactly the time we needed a strong leader to drag things back on track, but we were left wanting in that respect as far as Ashley is concerned. After a few weeks of hearing nothing, Ashley eventually released a petulant statement which effectively said he wasn’t playing any more and was going to take his ball home.

So the club went up for sale and Ashley, Llambias and Wise jetted off to the Middle East to try and find a buyer who would take the club off his hands. Needless to say – probably as a result of an overinflated price and some dodgy negotiating protocol – they failed and the club drifted. Eventually, amidst a tirade of expletives, Joe Kinnear was appointed as manager and Ashley recommitted himself to the club. Unfortunately Joe’s heart wasn’t up to the task and he found himself in the emergency room instead of the dugout.

Once again the club drifted until, with just 8 games to go, Shearer and Dowie were appointed to try and save us from relegation. It was too late of course and we found ourselves down a division after failing to get a point at Villa Park in the last game of the season. Hope even briefly showed its face after that though. Shearer had a plan to rebuild the club and Ashley initially seemed keen on the idea, but it wasn’t to be and the club was once again up for sale.

So here we are a year down the line. We’re top of the division after 5 games, thanks to Hughton and Calderwood who have managed to squeeze some enthusiasm and decent performances from the threadbare squad, but we’re still in limbo without an owner who’ll engage in the necessary long-term planning that’s needed to bring stability to the club.

Ashley must go but it’s anyone’s guess as to when that might be. The Moat bid seems to be still bubbling away somewhere, although it’s going nowhere fast and we’re still in financial trouble with a wage bill of £40m as compared to the average £9m of Championship clubs.

Personally I don’t think Ashley’s in any rush at the moment. He may have been initially but I suspect our good start to the season has opened up a few other options for him. I think the club will remain up for sale but Ashley will stick rigidly to his £100m asking price, knowing full well that most buyers will be reluctant to meet that price. If someone did meet it in the next couple of months I think he’d sell but I reckon he’s just as happy to wait and see how things look at Christmas. If we’re still looking like promotion contenders in January I think he might take the club off the market and maybe even invest in a player or two because promotion would allow him to at least double his asking price. Also, a £40m wage bill doesn’t look so ludicrous in the Premier League, so potential buyers might not be put off as much as they are now.

So the upshot is that we’re stuck with Dastardly and Muttley for now. At least the dismal ownership worries are offset by our current excellent on-pitch form, so let’s hope it continues and we can at least continue to enjoy the football, which is really what it’s all about.

NUFCBlog Author: Hugh de Payen I'm a baby-boomer of the punk rock persuasion, currently exiled in Somerset for crimes committed in a previous life where locals keep trying to poison me with something called 'scrumpy'. Hates sprouts, coat-hangers, Cilla Black, ornaments, Steven Seagull movies and 50 Cent (he's not worth 10). Hugh de Payen has written 634 articles on this blog.

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29 Responses

  1. imo it was over milner kk wanted milner to stay but reluctantly let him go because 1 he had no choice and 2 wise told him he would get him schweinsteger but it turned out wise didnt have any contacts at bayern and so the transfer never happend (which was why kk indicated the milner sale would bring in some one better) which as we know never happend

  2. Look at the rubbish the dwarf bought in, a winger that cant cross, a defender that cant defend and a striker that cant play football – and as for the wages. Keegan brought in Guthrie and Basong!

    I would take the messiah back any day – I hope and pray one day the little man, special K can one day finish off what he so wanted to do. He adds a spark to the city

  3. Perhaps my emotions always get the better of me when it comes to KK but I agree with staff. I’ve given my reasons previously for the support so I won’t bother with the details again.

    I hope our support is vindicated should the details ever become public knowledge.

  4. He’s just a greedy, attention seeking little sh*thouse. A spoiled child who never grew up. I hope he rots in hell one day for what he’s done to this club.

  5. OUCH!

    Strong words there from the Workster! I’m sure that should get a response! ;)

    …regardless of whatever went on behind closed doors though, in my opinion he could’ve tried a little harder to work something out with the board. If he’d have seen the season out, we’d still be in the Premiership.

  6. …oh, and the fictional conversation in the story above is sort of what I reckon went on. We should find out in about 7 or 8 months.

  7. workyticket says:
    September 3, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    He’s just a greedy, attention seeking little sh*thouse. A spoiled child who never grew up. I hope he rots in hell one day for what he’s done to this club.
    Sitting on the fence as ever i see Worky! :-)

  8. Rodzilla says:
    September 3, 2009 at 2:19 pm


    Strong words there from the Workster! I’m sure that should get a response!”

    Rod, I love Newcastle United, and he’s suing it for over £8 million for less than a year’s work.

    Whatever people think abaout Mike Ashley, and he has made some awful mistakes (including hiring Keegan himself), he offered him a route out of potential bankruptcy, paid him an absolutely ridiculous amount for a manager of his abilties, and Keegan threw it back in his face in the worst possible way.

    I know what he did in the eighties and the nineties, and it was great, but his more recent actions have been absolutely unforgivable.

  9. Worky, I agree. I’ve read all the ‘Madness of King Kev’ stories/rumours, and I tend to believe them. It looks to me like he just took a strop without considering the drastic consequences it’d have on the squad, and in turn, the club. I’ve always believed it was a misunderstanding on KK’s part, but even if it wasn’t, a bigger man would’ve just got on with his job, finished the task at hand, THEN kicked up a sh!t storm.

  10. I was over the moon when he came back, as i think most people were. I don’t think he actually wanted to leave, i think he tried to call Ashley’s bluff expecting him to back down straight away, but obviously Ashley had no intention of backing down so Keegan had to look as if he was serious and go through with his threat of leaving.

    I think both Keegan and Ashley are to blame here, i think Keegan should’ve put the good of the club 1st though and tried harder to negoiate a better way forward.

  11. Tino, I think there may be something in that. SJH was somewhat more indulgent with him for obvious reasons (though he still walked out on him), and I think that he thought Ashley would behave in a similar fashion.

  12. workyticket says:
    September 3, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Tino, I think there may be something in that. SJH was somewhat more indulgent with him for obvious reasons (though he still walked out on him), and I think that he thought Ashley would behave in a similar fashion.
    Yeah, i just don’t think Keegan had been there long enough to know what type of person Ashley was really like, he probably thought Ashley was afraid to lose him than he obviously was. I think both of them wanted to show who was in control.

  13. Tino 11 says:
    September 3, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    “I think both of them wanted to show who was in control.”

    For better or worse, the owner should always be in control ultimately. That has been one of Ashley’s biggest mistakes, he lost control when he hired Keegan, and he should have known that he’d lose control.

  14. The biggest misjudgement Ashley made was thinking that KK would work within a system where he didn’t have the final say on transfers. Pretty much anyone who knew anything about Keegan could have told Ashley that wouldn’t work, yet Ashley couldn’t suss it out for himself. I’m surprised Mort didn’t tell Ashley this as Mort seemed an altogether more switched on guy than Ashley.

    I still maintain we don’t really know enough about what happened to judge either Ashley or Keegan in the whole affair, which is why I base more of my judgements about Ashley on his response to the situation, which was dire.

    I do think KK could have initially tried to make his point without walking (although maybe he did for all we know) but his demand to control transfers wasn’t unreasonable for an PL manager, yet Ashley chose to back Wise and then to add insult to injury he sacked Wise shortly afterwards anyway!

  15. I agree with the general sentiments about both Ashley his puppet and the gnome Wise. The sooner the remaining cokney mafia are gone the better.

    However I still can’t see why all the love for KK.

    In my mind he (like many times before eg England) quit when the going got tough, he is gutless, he let the club, the players, and the supporters down.

    I don’t think Houghton is the long term answer but I admire him and prefer him to Keegan all day long.

    I think we have enough to get back up with a couple of decent loaners.

    Once we are back up Ashley will sell out and this round of the nightmare will be over.

  16. Dragonera // Sep 2, 2009 at 4:30 PM

    Tino asprilla

    You couldn’t have revealed yourself as Rodzilla in a more obvious fashion. Grow up.
    <<< this is 1 of the reasons why m8 its obvious he dusent like rod

  17. havent read the post worky and wont bother cos i know your feelings aboot king kev but king kev is and always will be a ledgend in my eyes long live king kevin keegan

  18. batty says:
    September 3, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    “havent read the post worky and wont bother cos i know your feelings aboot king kev but king kev is and always will be a ledgend in my eyes long live king kevin keegan”

    I think that Bobby Robson’s was a legend too, and Kevin Keegan really stabbed him in the back when he went crying to the press about him in 1982. Keegan’s a little troublemaker when he doesn’t get his own way, and he doesn’t care what the consequences are, he only thinks about himself.

  19. batty says:
    September 3, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    “worky ou wont change my veiws on keegan m8 so dont try to brain wash me plz lol”

    I’m not, batty. No-one will ever change my mind about Pedro either.

  20. I thought I overheard someone once say he looks like a bulldog being kicked while it was licking a frog.

    Maybe that’s what you heard too but with it being a Chinese whisper…..

    Or maybe I misheard.