Kevin Keegan was a huge fan favourite following successful spells as a player and later as a manager at Newcastle United, so bringing him back to replace Allardyce seemed an inspired decision, even if there were concerns about Keegan’s lack of recent management experience. Ultimately, Keegan’s second stint as Newcastle manager was short-lived as he resigned after just 8 months in the position, claiming and winning a court case to attest to the fact that, his position as manager was undermined by not having the final say on transfers.
In a surprise move that caught the imagination of many fans, Kevin Keegan was announced as the new Newcastle United manager on 16 January 2008. The short and celebratory statement on the club website simply read (16 January 2008):
“Geordie messiah to return – Kevin Keegan is returning to Newcastle United as manager”
Source: The Guardian
Newcastle chairman Chris Mort explained the board’s surprise and delight at being able to convince Keegan to come back for a second management stint (16 January 2008):
“We didn’t think we’d be able to get Kevin back to the club but he’s the right man and we’re absolutely delighted.”
Two weeks after Keegan’s arrival another surprise appointment was made, this time in the form of Dennis Wise as Executive Director of ‘football related matters’. When asked for his reaction, Kevin Keegan made it clear that Dennis Wise would report to him (1 February 2008):
“I am all for the changes and I approve of them. They want someone on the board who understands football, and Dennis understands football very well.
“It will work very well. Dennis reports to me – the chain is established.”
In the same interview, Dennis Wise explained that Kevin Keegan would have ‘final word’ on transfers (1 February 2008):
“I’m here to help Kevin, bringing young players through and also recommend certain players to him. He’ll say yes and no, he has the final word, no-one else. Everything that happens will be run past him.
“I’m not going to bring players in behind his back – I’m not into that.”
With Premier League safety secured for the 2007/08 season, and preparations for the summer transfer window(s) under-way, Newcastle chairman Chris Mort re-iterated that Keegan would have the final say on transfers (7 May 2008):
“We have started talking about who we will be bringing in and Kevin will have the final say.”
Source: The Chronicle
One month later, Chris Mort had returned to his job at Freshfields, and Derek Llambias had been appointed as his replacement as the club’s new managing director. In his first public statement in the job, Derek Llambias explained that Kevin Keegan had Ashley’s and the board’s full support (18 June 2008):
“I firmly believe we have the right people with the right expertise, with Kevin Keegan back as manager and being fully supported by Mike Ashley and the directors, to take the club forward again.”
Source: Daily Mail
In a rare interview with local media less than a month before Keegan resigned, due to irreconcilable points of view with regards to transfer policy, Mike Ashley explained how appointing Keegan when the opportunity arose was a ‘no brainer’ (12 August 2008):
“Again, it all happens so quickly. And it was another no-brainer. I took a call from someone who said ‘do you realise Kevin Keegan may be interested in the Newcastle United job again?’
“At first I thought it couldn’t be true. I was out of the country but my reply was ‘if he is interested then tell him I’ll meet him anywhere as soon as I get back’.
“It couldn’t have been an easier choice.”
Source: The Chronicle
The summer transfer window however did not go to plan. James Milner was sold and despite promises that a replacement midfielder would come in, this did not materialise. As the window came to a close, Newcastle United announced the loan signing of Ignacio Gonzalez despite Keegan strongly objecting to Dennis Wise’s proposal to sign him. As it turned out later, nobody at the club had ever seen the player play live. Only on YouTube had ‘Nacho’ been seen. The deal was manufactured as a means to gain the goodwill of two South American football agents, the benefits of such a move for Newcastle to this day remain unclear (source: The Guardian).
After days of uncertainty and rumours following the closing of the summer transfer market, Kevin Keegan announced that he had resigned as Newcastle manager and explained why (4 September 2008):
“I’ve been working desperately hard to find a way forward with the directors, but sadly that has not proved possible.
“It’s my opinion that a manager must have the right to manage and that clubs should not impose upon any manager any player that he does not want.”
After a few days of silence on the matter in the wake of Keegan’s resignation, the club put out the following hard hitting statement on nufc.co.uk (8 September 2008):
“It is a fact that Keegan was allowed to manage his duties without interference.
“It is a fact that he agreed not to talk to the media in relation to the acquisition or disposal of players.
“It is a fact that Kevin Keegan worked within that structure from 16th January 2008 until his resignation.
“It is a fact that Kevin Keegan, as manager, had specific duties in that he was responsible for the training, coaching, selection and motivation of the team.
“It is a fact that NUFC is a business and operates, like all businesses, with financial constraints.
“It is a fact that NUFC’s financial constraints inform its transfer dealings.
“The board of NUFC have responsibility to ensure that the club is able to meet its commitments which include the wages and the transfer fees for players.”
Source: Daily Mail
In the lead up to the conclusion of the ensuing court case started by Keegan for constructive dismissal, managing director Derek Llambias commented that Ashley was confident that the club was in the right:
“We didn’t want to lose Kevin. But we can’t answer any questions on Kevin Keegan until we have made a settlement. At the moment we want to clear up some of our outstanding issues, because Mike would want to tell people everything including the KK case, he would want to say what was happening and that would shoot us in the foot. He knows that and he’s the sort of guy who would sit and take a polygraph (lie-detector) test. And he means it”.
Source: The Independent
Over a year after Keegan’s resignation, the Premier League independent arbitration panel announced its verdict in the constructive dismissal case of Kevin Keegan v Newcastle United (2 October 2009):
“We declare that Kevin Keegan was constructively dismissed by Newcastle United Football Club Ltd for which Newcastle United Football Club Ltd must pay to Kevin Keegan damages in the sum of £2million plus interest to be assessed if not agreed.”
Not only did the court case declare that the club was in the wrong with regards to bringing in players behind the manager’s back, they also concluded that the club had admitted to misleading the press and the fans (3 October 2009):
“More damaging than the £2m pay-out is the panel’s indictment of the Newcastle hierarchy. The hearing declared that the club had admitted to ‘repeatedly and intentionally misleading the press, public and the fans of Newcastle United’, while the evidence given by owner Mike Ashley and his fellow executives over the course of the two-week hearing was described at one point in the verdict as ‘profoundly unsatisfactory’.”
Source: Daily Mail
Remarkably, considering Llambias’ earlier claims that Mike Ashley would take a polygraph test if he needed to, the official club statement after the verdict was a brief ‘no comment’ (2 October 2009):
“The club will be making no comment on this matter”
Source: The Guardian
However, two years later Derek Llambias – ever the gentleman, let this quote slip about the club legend. The same one that he had been more than partly instrumental in seeing out the door (12 November 2011):
“Kevin Keegan can’t take pressure. His f head is all over the place. Mike (Ashley) was selling to the Arabs and they wanted Kevin Keegan.
“The Arabs wanted him, the fans wanted him — perfect!”
Source: The Mirror
Year later Kevin Keegan told about how it was to work with Ashley and the people he surrounded himself with at a talk in – apologies for poor video quality (11 May 2014):