Football: Why the float sank Keegan

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The Independent Online
The man dubbed a Messiah on Tyneside now says walked out on the Magpies after he was given an unpalatable ultimatum by the board. Andrew Martin examines the reasons why Keegan's Newcastle reign came to an abrupt end.

Kevin Keegan, the former Newcastle United manager who led the club from the brink of relegation to the old Third Division to a place among the Premiership's elite, left the club after refusing to sign a new two- year contract - not as result of stress, he reveals in a new biography.

Keegan says that, with the club's chairman, Sir John Hall, absent, the Newcastle board put pressure on him to quit the club as it moved towards a flotation on the stockmarket, despite having a secret agreement with Newcastle that he would stand down at the end of the season. The claims appear today in The Sun, which is serialising Keegan's biography.

The rift can be traced back to the Premiership defeat at Blackburn on Boxing Day 1996, when he discussed the possibility of resigning with the Newcastle joint chief executive, Freddy Fletcher. Keegan says that he had stopped enjoying the job and felt that he had lost his ability to motivate players. The pressure to sell players in order to help finance the move that brought Alan Shearer to St James' Park for pounds 15m added to his feelings of isolation.

Keegan, now in control at Fulham, says he was summoned to Sir John's home on 7 January this year where he was told to either sign a two-year contract or leave so as not to jeopardise the club's flotation. He then decided to go.

"I just looked at them and said, 'Right, let's get settled up and finished because I'm no staying beyond the end of the season. There's no turning back.'"

Fulham's new era, page 6