Football: I should have told the fans why I left, says Keegan

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The Independent Online
Kevin Keegan says his greatest regret about leaving Tyneside was that he never told the fans why.

Derrick Whyte heard Newcastle's former manager talk yesterday about life at St James' Park.

When Kevin Keegan left Newcastle in January his only explanation came in a brief statement in which he said that he had taken the club as far as he felt he could.

It has since emerged, however, that the former England striker, now Fulham's chief operating officer, felt forced out by the money men who gave him an ultimatum to sign a new two-year deal or leave the club.

Yesterday, speaking at the official launch of his autobiography, Keegan admitted he wished he had handled his departure better. In particular he regretted not having told the club's supporters why he was walking out.

"Looking back I maybe should have done what I did when I quit the club as a player back in the 1980s," he said. "Then we announced that I was going on my birthday in February and that I would retire at the end of the season. That was the way we handled things then. We didn't keep it quiet but opened everything up to the fans.

"As a manager I did it when we sold Andy Cole. I went down the steps to tell them why we were selling him when we could have sneaked out the back door. I just wish that I had done that and let them know in advance that I was going to go at the end of the season.

"Then I could have helped in finding the new manager, although Kenny Dalglish would have been my first choice by a million miles in any case. But I do regret what happened."

Keegan added that the response from Newcastle fans since the serialisation of his book had been overwhelmingly positive.

"Most of them have written to me thanking me for the job I did and wishing me good luck at Fulham," Keegan said.

"That's the response I expected because they know how hard we worked as a team to bring the club to where we left it. When I came in and brought Terry McDermott in with me, it really was a sleeping giant, on the verge of relegation.

"Sir John Hall said the club would probably fold if we went down, although I don't think the fans would have allowed that. But we took it on from there and went on to challenge the best clubs in the Premiership and brought in players the fans would only have dreamed of having."

However Keegan's relationship with Sir John appears to have been fatally breached by his departure.

"I spoke to him once, on the phone, six weeks after I left and he said we'd go out for a meal when I came back home," said Keegan, who went to Florida in the days after he left St James'.

"But he's never got back in touch. We haven't fallen out though - you can't fall out with somebody you never talk to."

Meanwhile, the Newcastle striker Ian Rush is back on the goals trail - something which might worry his former club Leeds when the Magpies visit Elland Road tomorrow.

The Welsh international striker, who scored his first goal for Newcastle against Hull City in the Coca-Cola Cup on Wednesday, would love to score again at the weekend to celebrate next Monday's 36th birthday, but he said: "I have nothing to prove to them. And now after finally opening my account for Newcastle the pressure is off, and I can really look forward to going back."

"Kevin Keegan - My Autobiography" (Little, Brown, hardback, pounds 16.99).

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