January 17, 2008 / 11:00 AM / 10 years ago

"Geordie Messiah" returns to Newcastle

LONDON (Reuters) - Kevin Keegan said on Thursday he was returning to Newcastle United as manager, 11 years after leaving, because he still had “unfinished business” at the club.

<p>Newcastle United's new manager Kevin Keegan arrives at the clubs training ground at Longbenton in Newcastle, northern England, January 17, 2008. Newcastle United dramatically turned the clock back more than a decade on Wednesday by naming Kevin Keegan as manager. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis</p>

In an interview with Talksport Radio, the 56-year-old who was dubbed the “Geordie Messiah” by the Premier League club’s Web site on Wednesday said it was an easy decision to make.

“I have met the owner (Mike Ashley). I like him very much and having spent an hour with him, I am convinced that it is right to come back. Maybe I have a bit of unfinished business here.”

Whether or not another Geordie hero, Alan Shearer, returns as his assistant is still to be settled.

Shearer, who signed as a player for Keegan in his first spell as manager in 1996 for a then world record fee of 15.0 million pounds, said he would certainly speak to Keegan if he approached him.

Shearer, working as a media pundit since retiring as a player in 2006, told BBC Radio Five Live: ”I don’t know if he wants a No.2 or whether I would like to be one.

“I am sure he will sit down and see what he has to do, whether he has to bring anyone in, or use the people that are already there. Obviously if he calls I would speak to him, I would be foolish not to do that.”

HERO‘S WELCOME

Keegan meanwhile was given a hero’s welcome when he returned to St James’ Park on Wednesday during Newcastle’s 4-1 FA Cup third round replay victory over Stoke City.

He said on Thursday he was delighted to be back and was just as excited this time as when he first went there as a player in 1982 and as a manager a decade later.

“I have certainly inherited a strong, talented group of players which is something I didn’t have last time,” he said.

<p>Newcastle United's new manager Kevin Keegan arrives at the club's training ground at Longbenton in Newcastle, northern England, January 17, 2008. Newcastle United dramatically turned the clock back more than a decade on Wednesday by naming Kevin Keegan as manager. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis</p>

“When I came last time we were wondering whether we could fill the stadium. That’s not the problem here as you well know, it will be trying to get a stadium big enough if we can put the football on and get any success here. It’s very, very exciting.”

He is also under no illusions about the size of the task ahead of him.

Newcastle have not won a domestic honour since lifting the FA Cup in 1955, and their last major trophy came in 1969 when they won the old Inter Cities Fairs Cup.

BIG JOB

He went close to bringing the title back to Newcastle in 1996, but ultimately failed to win a trophy in his five years as manager before quitting in January 1997.

“It’s a big job, it’s a great club and people outside the region don’t understand it,” he added.

“I understand the Geordies, my dad was a Geordie, I know what they want and I know what they don’t want as well. And as long as they are realistic and a little bit patient, I think we can try and have dreams again and possibly win something.”

Shearer said he was called by the club while he was on holiday in Barbados last week, with the club indicating they were looking for someone with managerial experience to succeed Sam Allardyce who left last week.

”That was kind of them to do that. Newcastle is my football club, I went back there in 1996 to play for my home town club.

“I love the club and I would do anything to see it to be successful and, after all, the fans deserve that for all their dedication over the years without a trophy,” he added.

Keegan will face the media at a news conference on Friday and will take charge of the team for the first time when they play Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League at St James’ Park on Saturday (5:15 p.m.).

Editing by Trevor Huggins

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