Beye adds touch of Shankly to Newcastle

The steely determination of Habib Beye has echoes of the late Bill Shankly's approach towards the game according to Newcastle United's manager, Kevin Keegan.

"The guy is going out there looking like it's life and death almost," Keegan said. "He has that attitude." The former Liverpool manager famously said, "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. It's much more important than that."

Keegan made his name as a player at Liverpool under the Scot, and the former England manager has been impressed with how the Senegal international has quickly adapted to the rigours of the Premier League to play a major role in the Magpies' recent revival. He added: "Habib Beye has got tremendous athleticism. He is a good man around the dressing-room, and I think you can tell the fans are really taking to him because they can see that commitment.

"There are a lot of things that get the crowd going here: one is exciting football, like the third goal against Reading on Saturday. The other is a good tackle, and Habib Beye can certainly do that."

Beye, 30, who was signed by Sam Allardyce in the summer, made his debut in ignominious circumstances, coming on as a substitute in the 1-0 defeat at Derby on 17 September as the Rams secured their only league victory of the season.

He was largely a fixture in the side before heading off to the African Nations Cup, and has started the last eight games following his return. In the absence of the injured Stephen Carr, he has made the right-back spot his own, and has not only defended solidly, but provided a productive outlet further up the field.

Indeed, it was he who supplied both Michael Owen and Mark Viduka for their goals in Saturday's 3-0 win over Reading. "Habib was absolutely outstanding," Keegan said. "You cannot play right-back any better than that in the system we had."

Beye once again lined up in the same defence as his compatriot Abdoulaye Faye on Saturday, and the third member of a Senegalese triumvirate, Lamine Diatta, joined the fray as a late substitute. The 32-year-old was drafted in as cover after being released by Turkish side Besiktas, but is determined to persuade Keegan he could have a longer future on Tyneside.

"It was my first game and I was very happy to play," Diatta said. "It was a very special atmosphere. It is a difficult league, but I believe I can help the team. Habib Beye, my Senegal team-mate, has been a great help, as has Abdoulaye Faye. They have told me what a great club this is, and I want to stay here with them."

Keegan will discuss his summer recruitment plans with owner Mike Ashley and chairman Chris Mort once the club's top-flight status is secured – they pulled 12 points clear of the relegation zone with Saturday's win.

The manager has big plans and it remains to be seen whether he will have the financial clout to implement them. However, he also has an eye on the longer-term future, and yesterday he signed 20-year-old goalkeeper Fraser Forster on an improved contract which will keep him at St James' until 2010.

"Fraser has come on in leaps and bounds and could become an outstanding goalkeeper," Keegan said. "He has worked extremely hard and I was very keen to get him under contract. We will look for him to continue his development here and there is no reason why he can't go on to represent his country at Under-21 level."

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