McDermott predicts club 're-launch'

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The Independent Online

Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United go to Liverpool this afternoon "fighting for [their] lives", but others at St James' Park are contemplating a time when the club are safe in the Premier League. Terry McDermott, Keegan's assistant, yesterday predicted "a big relaunch" in the summer. "Mr Ashley has promised [Keegan] funds and he is looking forward to that," he said.

Mike Ashley is Newcastle's billionaire owner. It was said he and Keegan had crisis talks after last week's 1-0 home defeat to Blackburn, but that has been denied and McDermott said he "would be shocked" if Keegan did not see out his three-and-a-half-year contract. "People say 'Will he leave?'; 'Is he going to walk out?'" McDermott said. "There is absolutely no chance. He thinks too much about this club to do that. If the powers that be decide he goes, then that is a different story.

"Some people want him to fail. I have no idea why. He has only been here six, seven weeks. People say a) he will walk out or b) we should get rid of him. That is beyond belief."

McDermott added: "We have to get out of this relegation dogfight. I don't think [relegation] is going to happen for a minute, and I don't think the players do either, but until we get ourselves safe there is always that possibility.

"I am already looking forward to next season. Mr Ashley has promised Kevin there are funds available and the calibre of player we are looking to bring in, it will excite this club, if and when it happens. When it happens.

"The most important thing is that we get ourselves into a safe position and then we can talk about the players we bring. Until then it's a waste of time. You could talk about Ronaldinho, Steven Gerrard or [David] Beckham all you like, but if we go down we will be signing players from Colchester and Gillingham."

Seven matches under Keegan have brought no victories, leaving Newcastle three points above third-bottom Reading. The trip to Liverpool is followed by a game at Birmingham City a week on Monday.

McDermott said the atmosphere at the club was brighter than when Sam Allardyce was manager.

"The spirit at the club is great. No disrespect to the other regime but the spirit is better now. In any club, if you have a happy dressing room, you will win games. We have a happy one and we are losing. The lads are enjoying the training. That is not being disrespectful to Sam, I like him as a bloke. The lads like our training and it will tell in our performance.

"Kevin brings a unity. It is his charisma. That has changed the place. There is a feelgood factor back but that would be even better if we were getting results. Once we have sorted out this season you will see a big, big change at this football club in its mentality and players."

A first signing, of the free agent Lamine Diatta, has been made.

For Keegan today is a first trip to Anfield as Newcastle manager since a famous 4-3 defeat in April 1996. He won there as Manchester City manager. Yesterday he recalled the 4-3 match with pride and was nostalgic about his hero, and former manager, Bill Shankly. "He was inspirational," he said. "If he told you, you were going to hell, you would look forward to the trip."

Keegan said Liverpool's new stadium should be named after Shankly.

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