Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: I Have to Keep Ashley Sweet; United Magnate's Happiness Is Key Factor for Keegan

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: I Have to Keep Ashley Sweet; United Magnate's Happiness Is Key Factor for Keegan

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Gilder

KEVIN Keegan has made Mike Ashley's happiness his most important consideration after outlining his determination to keep a club owner he believes can be the best in Premier League football at St James's Park for the long haul.

The Newcastle manager is hoping to use Ashley's millions to help him recruit at least three players in the next 10 days as he strives to revive United's fortunes and following detailed discussions between the two men, Keegan is certain that the sportswear magnate's continuing contentment is crucial to his ambitions.

Some supporters questioned the businessman's motives as he fought to wrest control from Freddie Shepherd last summer and a suspicion that his ambitions were short-term and profit-based abounded.

His actions since then have aided Ashley's attempts to win over the doubters - not least the decision to reappoint Keegan five days ago.

That he has impressed the 56-year-old is clear after Sam Allardyce's successor insisted the Magpies faithful should consider themselves fortunate to have such a benefactor behind them.

"I've never met anyone like Mike," explained Keegan (pictured right). "He's different, for sure, but I like him a lot. You get used to dealing with egos in this game, but he hasn't got one and I think he's an incredible man. I think this club has a fantastic owner and if we could get this club going we'll have the best owner in the country, I believe that.

People like Mike don't turn up at football clubs every day of the week."

The situation Newcastle supporters feared last summer is being played out at Liverpool, where co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are reported to be drawing up plans to sell a Premier League club bought just 12 months ago, although the Americans have denied such suggestions in recent days.

It is a scenario that is not aiding efforts on the pitch, but at United, Keegan is determined to do all he can to maintain Ashley's interest in top-flight football. "Mike has given us great responsibility," said a manager whose second tenure at St James's Park began with a disappointing goalless draw against Bolton at the weekend. …

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