Newcastle silent on 'Keegan 'exit'

Newcastle remained silent in the face of vociferous fans' protests this afternoon as speculation continued that manager Kevin Keegan is leaving the club.

Angry supporters gathered at St James' Park today and chants of "sack the board" were repeated as the Toon Army voiced their dissatisfaction at reports Keegan was set to leave or be sacked less than eight months after his high-profile return to Tyneside.

Media were forced by security guards to leave the stadium grounds as the club declined to comment on reports of Keegan's exit, and while fans were also seemingly ushered away, they were soon permitted to reconvene around the main stadium entrance.

Keegan's apparently imminent exit is thought to be down to the club's transfer policy and the level of influence he has been afforded as manager, with Dennis Wise operating as director of football since being brought in by owner Mike Ashley last season.

James Milner was sold to Aston Villa last week despite Keegan previously insisting he wanted to keep the winger, while rumours suggest the arrivals of Xisco and Ignacio Gonzalez yesterday were not on his say-so.

Former Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd admitted he was "very sorry" to see Keegan's second stint as Magpies manager come towards an end in inglorious circumstances.

The man who played for the club in the 1980s before returning as manager in 1992, leading the club into the top flight and then Europe, was expected to make what surely will be his final exit as a Newcastle employee.

Shepherd, who relinquished control of Newcastle when he sold his shares to Mike Ashley last year, told Sky Sports News: "It's very sad because I've got a lot of time for Kevin.

"He's a great guy and a very principled guy.

"Nothing's been confirmed yet. I'm not sure what happened.

"But it's obvious, I think, that he has left.

"Lawyers will be trying to take it up now, I'd have thought.

"Kevin's a one-off. I worked with him for five years and he's got principles, and sometimes they get in the way of your success.

"I think this is what has happened in this case.

"I think it's been too much for him."