Roeder has no fear of playing the leading man

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The Independent Online

Whisper it gently, but as Newcastle United get ready to announce their new management structure there is a possibility of Kevin Keegan being in a pivotal role when the Magpies play their next match at St James' Park. A one-in-three chance. Dungannon Swifts have to get past IBK Leflavik of Iceland and Lillestrom of Norway if the 25-year-old Irishman is to take his place in midfield for the opposition when Newcastle play the home leg of their Intertoto Cup third round tie on 15 or 22 July.

For Glenn Roeder, of course, it will be a first test of his full-blown managerial powers, after his formal coming out from the caretaker's closet at St James' tomorrow. "I don't care what anyone says," he remarked, when asked to follow Graeme Souness in February. "From where I'm standing, this is the most fantastic opportunity for some young - youngish - coach-manager, who's got a bit of a CV, on the upward curve, to come and make this club great from results instead of great just on support."

Considering that the Newcastle manager before last was 66 when he took the job, Roeder - 50 - could certainly pass for youngish. He has a bit of a curriculum vitae but a somewhat bitty one - on the full-on managerial front at any rate. On the credit side, he guided Watford to seventh in what is now the Championship and West Ham to seventh in the Premiership. In the debit column, he was relegated with Gillingham, was sacked by Watford and was in charge for most of the season that ended in West Ham's relegation three years ago.

There can be no doubt, however, that Roeder is on the upward curve. Newcastle were 15th in the Premiership and sinking fast when he switched from academy director to caretaker manager in February. Under him, the Magpies soared to seventh in the final table, qualifying for the Intertoto and the chance of Uefa Cup football next season.

Having survived a brain tumour, Roeder is not afraid of the task to maintain the momentum and to challenge for silverware. "I know I'm brave, and I'm not frightened," he said. "Lots of things have made me like that."

With Tommy Craig as his assistant and Alan Shearer poised to take up a supporting role, initially in an ambassadorial fashion, Roeder's first major task will be to find someone to replace the retired Newcastle captain. Ruud van Nistelrooy and Feyenoord's Dirk Kuyt have already been identified as targets by the new manager, who played as a sweeper in the Newcastle team of the 1980s that featured Kevin Keegan - the other Kevin Keegan, that is.

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