My Bust-Ups with Keegan Nearly Led to a Breakdown; Author Feared for His Sanity

By McNally, Brian | Sunday Mirror (London, England), April 13, 1997 | Go to article overview

My Bust-Ups with Keegan Nearly Led to a Breakdown; Author Feared for His Sanity


McNally, Brian, Sunday Mirror (London, England)


The post-Keegan era at Newcastle United won't be 100 days old until Friday - but already the first book on the sensational abdication of "King Kevin" has hit the bookshelves.

And, while Alan Oliver's Geordie Messiah - The Keegan Years (Mainstream Publishing, pounds 14.99) is an unashamed celebration of the United manager's spectacular transformation of an ailing football club, there are some revealing insights into the darker side of Keegan's personality.

Oliver, who covered every Newcastle United match of the Keegan era for Tyneside's evening newspaper, salutes Keegan's achievements with a detailed and admiring analysis of his five years at St James's Park.

Like Oliver, I have nothing but respect for Keegan's achievements as a manager, even though his pounds 61million spending spree failed to produce a major trophy for the club.

His undoubted charisma, communication skills and charm made him an inspirational leader of the Toon Army and he will always be a hero to the Geordies.

But I'm less forgiving than my colleague about Keegan's attitude to those who crossed him.

Keegan's emotional tirade against Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson was one of the few times the aggressive side of his private persona has been viewed in public.

The Jekyll and Hyde nature of Keegan's character emerges in Oliver's book as he goes public on his often stormy working relationship with a manager who, according to the author, became bigger than the club itself.

And Oliver candidly admits that the Mr Nice Guy image that Keegan presents to the television cameras wasn't always evident in his day-to-day dealings with the former United boss.

The long-serving reporter tells how his mental health suffered as a result of his frequent bust-ups with Keegan and how, after Newcastle had banned a sportswriter on a sister paper, the United boss tried to "rule the Press with fear."

"Falling out with Keegan and falling out with a mere mortal manager were two completely different things," explains Oliver.

"In my view Keegan ruled the Press with fear - fear that if you upset him you were out in the cold...

"Certainly working with Keegan was like sitting on a powder-keg.You could not afford to cross him or you were out.

"There were occasions when Keegan felt I had crossed him and he made my working life a misery. After one particularly bad blasting, I even tried to quit my job."

And Oliver breaks with the dog-eat-dog tradition of sports journalism to acknowledge that it was the Sunday Mirror who secured the scoop of the season with our exclusive "Keegan Quits" revelation on January 5. …

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