Kevin Keegan emerged from his meeting with the Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley yesterday still in a job. With tension increasing inside St James' Park this week, that was not guaranteed as Keegan made his way to London for an appointment with Ashley and four other members of the new hierarchy at Newcastle. One of them, chairman Chris Mort, described the meeting as "good, productive and constructive". It was held at Mort's legal office on Fleet Street.
On Tyneside all at the club will hope that they can now relax and work together. Newcastle were saying no more than that but it appears that both Keegan and Ashley received the reassurance both deemed necessary after an all too public divergence of opinion sparked by Keegan's comments after Monday's 2-0 home defeat to Chelsea.
Keegan's belief that the top of the Premier League is "boring" – as in predictable – cannot be contested by any logical reading of results for the past six seasons; but it was his remarks about finance and his relationship with Ashley that caused anger within the boardroom.
Given that Ashley only formally took over in June and that Keegan did not come in until January, there is room for mistakes and miscommunication.
Dennis Wise is another who has arrived at the club only recently and Keegan may well have sought clarification of Wise's remit and duties as director of football. Wise was at yesterday's meeting, as was Tony Jimenez, who along with Wise has a recruitment brief. The other man present was Derek Llambias, the newly appointed deputy chairman.
The successful outcome of the gathering means that Keegan will lead Newcastle to Everton tomorrow for the final game of the season. It is a game David Moyes' side need to take a point from to finish fifth, co-incidentally the placing that caused so much discussion this week due to Keegan's belief that getting any higher was impossible for Newcastle during the length of Keegan's three and a half year contract. Yesterday Steve Coppell and Harry Redknapp became the latest managers to agree with Keegan. Martin O'Neill did so earlier in the week.
"Part of my job as manager of Newcastle is to tell the fans what is happening at their club," Keegan said before yesterday's meeting. "I will continue to do what I have always done while I have been manager of Newcastle United, Manchester City, Fulham and England. I am not scared of saying what I think the situation is, and I will not depart from that."
Keegan then identified the clubs that will be aiming for fifth place next season. "The ones who are pretty much there now and we will be in contention for that fifth spot next season. I'd say Spurs definitely, Aston Villa, and Everton, if they finish fifth they will have Europe as well.
"If you look at the bottom half of the table, there will be us, possibly Sunderland if they put the investment in and get the results and possibly Middlesbrough if they put some investment in."
Missing Mark Viduka through injury, Newcastle will be without Joey Barton at Goodison Park, because of Barton's bail conditions. The midfielder's trial begins in Manchester in June.Reuse content