Football: KEEGAN'S KINGDOM; SEXY TOON FOOTBALL TAKE II Newcastle V Bolton, Today 5.15pm BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE 'He Spoke like the Ruler of a Great Nation. Not like a Soccer Manager'

Article excerpt


PRIDE flooded back into Kevin Keegan yesterday. A broken spirit began to mend itself.

He spoke not like the new manager of a football club but like the ruler of a great nation.

He spoke like a king who has come back among his people, come to regain what was always rightfully his.

There was something regal about his certainty that he and he alone knew what was best for Newcastle United.

And only now he had returned could the club begin to realise the potential it had squandered when he left.

He might have been one of the characters in the television drama, Lost. The only one who knows the secret of the island.

The only one who really understands. Not like the rest of the poor saps who are bemused by its mystery.

The wounds inflicted on him when he was manager of England seemed to be soothed away by the certainty he felt on his return to his spiritual home.

The scars disappeared and the defensiveness that blighted his time at Manchester City were nowhere to be seen. Newcastle seems to be the only thing that could heal him.

As he sat on a dais in the press room at St James' Park, officially installed as the club's manager for the second time, he wasted no time establishing himself at the heart of the Geordie Nation.

Keegan talked about the club as if it was a living breathing thing, not an institution or a commercial concern. He talked about it as if he was walking through its veins, guts and heart. Most of all, he made it clear this was about us and them.

This was about stopping the rest of the country enjoying a joke at Newcastle's expense. This was about pay-back.

He told us how his grandfather had survived the terrible West Stanley Burns pit disaster in 1909 when 160 people were killed.

He joked about how he had conned Robert Lee into thinking Newcastle was closer to London than Middlesbrough when he'd signed him the last time he was in charge.

Everything, he was telling the Geordies, was going to be okay now that they had one of their own in charge again.

Now that outsiders like Kenny Dalglish, Ruud Gullit and Sam Allardyce had been banished.

They were merely impostors, he seemed to be hinting, but now the club's heart had been restarted.

"I know the club," Keegan said. "I'm not saying they didn't but I know it inside out and back to front.

"I know it as a player and as a manager. I know what the fans want. …