Fans back Keegan but Shepherd has doubts

On the day both the caretaker manager, Glenn Roeder, and long-term heir apparent, Alan Shearer, confirmed they had no immediate desire to take control of first-team affairs full-time, no obvious queue of possible successors to Graeme Souness had formed.

However, in the pubs, clubs, offices and betting shops of Newcastle, one name, above all others, emerged as the popular choice to revive this sleeping giant of English football for a third time. Available, local and possessing a cute sense of public relations savvy, Kevin Keegan's name is never too far away when it comes to assessing the future, past and present of the Magpies. No wonder, therefore, that his odds to become the next manager of the club were slashed from 33-1 to 12-1 overnight.

Time is a great healer and the Toon Army would be prepared to forgive Keegan his ignominious exit in January 1997 for the opportunity to relive the days when Newcastle's "entertainers" were every opposition fan's favourite second team. Two of Keegan's former players, John Beresford and Robert Lee, wasted no time in mentioning their one-time mentor's name when quizzed on the best man to replace Souness, but Shepherd remains sceptical.

United's chairman cannot afford to make another mistake following the hasty dismissal of Sir Bobby Robson and the disastrous appointment of Souness. For now, it seems, Keegan remains the romantic, rather than the realistic, choice.

"I don't know what type of person I want to come," said Shearer, who signed for Keegan in a £15m transfer from Blackburn Rovers in the summer of 1996. "I'm not thinking about it and we've just got to see how we get on. I'm not sure if there will be an appointment in two days, weeks or months. But I'm not ready for it. I don't have the experience.

"I've had a title of player-coach since signing the extension to my contract. Glenn, I'm sure, will want to bounce ideas off me as much or as little as he likes. The best way to assist him is with performances that will put us up the table.

"Glenn will do the majority of it and he's not coming in without experience. He's got the respect of the boys and spoke to us on Thursday to make it clear what he expects. He's honest and open and can sleep at night because of that."

Roeder, the antithesis of Keegan, is a quiet and considered coach completely in control of his emotions. While recognising the raw passion and wild expectation which underpins Newcastle's very existence, the former Newcastle centre-half and current Academy director boasts a canny knack of keeping his personal and professional life firmly in perspective.

After recovering from a brain tumour, diagnosed during his spell as West Ham United's manager, Roeder has no desire to thrust himself back into the Premiership limelight long-term and would prefer to groom the next generation of St James' Park favourites. The immediate future, however, excites him. "I didn't need any persuading to take the role, the void had to be filled," explained Roeder. "It's a disappointment when managers lose their jobs and Graeme's been good to me.

"But the only constant in football is change and the wheel turned again. The chairman needed a caretaker and I was the obvious choice. I've been here before, in terms of working with top players, and I'm confident in my ability.

"When caretakers are asked if they want the job they answer 'no' when they mean 'yes'. But I don't want to manage Newcastle full-time and that's the truth.

"After my health scare it was a family decision to pursue putting something back into the game by unearthing young talent. Nothing has changed in that respect." Roeder was still celebrating guiding Newcastle's juniors into the quarter-finals of this season's FA Youth Cup when he was approached to oversee first-team affairs. Now he must leave the club's youngsters in the capable hands of Peter Beardsley and Kenny Wharton and focus fully on overcoming fellow strugglers Portsmouth at St James' Park this afternoon.

As a capacity crowd nervously anticipates the dawning of yet another new era today, Roeder expects the race to succeed Souness will quickly gather pace.

"For somebody, there's a chance of being the first United manager to win the FA Cup and FA Youth Cup in the same season," he said. "For that young motivated manager, with a track record, this is a great opportunity. If you've got something about you, this is a job to die for."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?