“No other player in the world could have had such a dramatic effect on the club and its supporters”Arthur Cox, May 1984
Tyneside literally went crazy the day England skipper Kevin Keegan flew into Newcastle Airport to sign for the Magpies. Pressmen, radio and camera crews had a field day. It was a big national story. They chased him all over the north east in a vehicle procession that was more like the Wacky Races.
Supporters couldn’t believe it. From being in the football wilderness, United were catapulted into the spotlight. His £100,000 transfer from Southampton was a massive scoop and dramatically transformed Arthur Cox’s team into a winning formula – one that eventually took the club back to the First Division.
Keegan made all the difference. His captaincy, skill and charisma turned average players into good ones, indeed in two instances, international ones. He brought other stars to the St. James’ Park camp as well and also turned the despondent supporters into an excited and expectant mass. So much so that queues for season-tickets stretched around the streets of Gallowgate within 24 hours of his arrival.
His record in a black’n’white shirt was to be first class. After a marvellous start of three goals in his first three games, Kevin went on to net 49 goals in 85 appearances and importantly had much to do with the rapid development of Chris Waddle and Peter Beardsley as superstars in their own right.
The son of a Geordie miner from Hetton, but brought up near Doncaster, Keegan made a name for himself under the guidance of Bill Shankly at Anfield after being introduced to the Football League by Fourth Division Scunthorpe United during 1968. More a self made player than one with tremendous natural ability, Keegan developed into a 90 minute action man. He was utterly determined with superb positioning and awareness of the ball while his finishing became deadly.
Once paired with big John Toshack in the Liverpool side, Kevin was rated the most complete forward of his generation. He won domestic and European honours at Anfield – including an FA Cup winners medal against Newcastle in 1974, a day when he demolished United. For a player of only 5’8″ tall, Keegan was good in the air too, using his stocky frame to launch himself in challenges with bigger defenders.After scoring 100 goals in 321 appearances for the Reds, he took the decision to sample European soccer in June 1977, joining SV Hamburg for £500,000. It was gamble, but Keegan was a rousing success in the Bundesliga and in the process became English football’s first soccer millionaire. Voted European Footballer of the Year in both 1978 and 1979, Keegan also became something of a pop star in Germany and almost qualified for a gold disc for one of his songs.
Tynesider Lawrie McMenemy was the man who landed Keegan once the striker decided to return to the Football League in the summer of 1980 – a surprise move, Keegan joining one of the lesser lights of the game. Kevin was a hit again.
He grabbed 37 goals for the Saints over two seasons and saw them reach a high placing in the First Division. He also picked up the PFA Player of the Year award. Appearing 63 times for Engalnd, Keegan was the ideal candidate for the national captaincy, possessing a friendly and likable personality. he became one of soccer’s greatest ambassadors at home and abroad and justly deserved the OBE in 1982 just before heading for Tyneside.
Joining Newcastle in August of that year with the financial backing of sponsors Newcastle Breweries who used the superstar extensively in public relations, the former England player may have pocketed a fortune, but as any United fan will admit, earned every penny of it.
The two years he spent as King of Tyneside were something special for supporters of the club – especially a new generation of fans who had not tasted success in any form. There was an aura of excitement in everything to do with Newcastle United, like it was for the Euro. Chairman Stan Seymour said,”The signing of Kevin Keegan is just the impetus Tyneside needed to set local football alight again”.
And he was just that. By the time Keegan had departed Arthur Cox noted, “No other player in the world could have had such a dramatic effect on the club and its supporters”.
Importantly Kevin Keegan could communicate with the grassroots and rarely refused an opportunity to meet ordinary fans. He attended hundreds of functions and gatherings during his period in the North East and colleague Jeff Clarke said, “he never lost the common touch and that’s what made him great”.
Kevin ended his glory-filled 16 year career of more than 700 appearances and almost 300 goals in a black’n’white shirt immediately after promotion was secured. The 33 year-old said, “My only regret is that I didn’t come to Newcastle a little earlier”.
Afterwards he lived abroad for most of the year – in Marbella on the Costa del Sol – working in various promotional activities. Keegan had come a long way since the days he kicked a ball around for the the Peglers Brass Works in Doncaster. For sheer instant and explosive impact, Kevin Keegan was without doubt United’s greatest ever signing.
And a decade later Kevin Keegan proved to be a master signing as a manager too. Persuaded to take the job – his first as a boss – when the Magpies were facing relegation to Division Three in 1992. Keegan the manager again had a dramatic effect on the club. He saved the day, built a stylish team that lifted the First Division Championship and then challenged for the Premiership Title.
Thank you for All the Great Moments King Kev! You’re Always Be In The Heart and Soul Of All Toon Army!