Football: Cole no longer the talk of the Toon

Nick Donaldson finds Kevin Keegan is still king of the Newcastle terrac es

Over the weekend Newcastle buzzed more than it has done since Kevin Keegan rejoined the club. Forget the token protests, returned tickets and discontent. Following the shock of Andy Cole's departure, the mood has changed to a feeling of optimism a nd solidarity. He was yesterday's news.

Keegan is king in the land of the unsold Manchester United shirt. And this was an unprecedented show of support for him.

Saturday night in the Bigg Market moved to Sunday afternoon in the Gallowgate End. The message is that life goes on and it can be better than it was before.

Rumour had spread on Saturday that Dennis Bergkamp had flown in, courtesy of Sir John Hall's private jet, and was set to sign. He had apparently been seen at the airport in the company of United's chief executive, Freddie Fletcher. However, there was also a report of Hristo Stoichkov in a Gateshead chip shop.

Add to this sightings of Le Tissier, Collymore, Romario and Elvis and you get the picture of how desperate the Toon Army are to see Keegan reach for the cheque-book.

But yesterday belonged to Newcastle, firmly placed in the real world. Regardless of the score, the result was Kevin Keegan's. His name boomed around the ground. Even the fans from Manchester were unusually quiet, Mark Hughes's goal being treated with little more than polite applause.

They rode their luck with some dubious decisions and woeful Newcastle finishing. The first half saw Howey, Lee and Fox bring groans when it should have been cheers.

Newcastle played well, even without Beardsley and Bracewell (not to mention Cole). They ran chased and harried as one and the crowd took to them. Not the usual deriding of mistakes. This game was about Newcastle being truly united, and not a mere football match.

The old Andy Cole song was updated to "He's left the Toon, he's on the dole, Andy Andy Cole".

We should be so lucky.

Stoichkov and Romario reappeared in a rendition of the Pet Shop Boys' "Go West". Whether this was a pointer to where Keegan should seek his much-needed striker or a "You're not as big as you think you are" gesture to Manchester United, nobody cared.

As Kev, my Gallowgate End neighbour, said at half-time: "Knock knock"

"Who's there?"

"Andy."

"Andy who?"

"Aye - a week is a long time in football!"

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