The big spender who rarely got his fingers burnt

Most Geordies would agree that the £60m which Kevin Keegan spent on transfer fees during his first spell as Newcastle's manager between February 1992 and January 1997 produced good value. While there were signings who polarised opinion – was £6.7m Tino Asprilla a genius or a jinx? – it is hard to find too many stonking failures, especially expensive ones.

Keegan bought with growth in mind: first to gain promotion and then to take on the big boys. Even when he bought players who did not make the grade alongside better team-mates – the striker Alex Mathie from Morton, defender Marc Hottiger from FC Sion, Darren Huckerby from Lincoln or Ruel Fox from Norwich – he mostly sold them for profit. He cleared £100,000 on Hottiger, £215,000 on Mathie, £500,000 on Huckerby and almost £2m on Fox.

Keegan's expenditure has to be taken in context. With sales during his tenure of more than £20m, his net outlay was £40m, not £60m. That figure equates almost exactly to what he spent in his final splurges between June 1995 and July 1996, when he bought Warren Barton (£4m), Les Ferdinand (£6m), David Ginola (£2.5m), Shaka Hislop (£1.5m), Huckerby (£500,000), Asprilla (£6.7m), David Batty (£3.75m) and Alan Shearer (£15m).

In other words, his dealings pretty much paid for themselves until his last 18 months, and Barton, Ferdinand, Ginola, Hislop and Asprilla were all on board to play large parts in the remarkable 1995-96 season when Newcastle looked like title-winners for so long.

In assessing Keegan's best and worst Newcastle buys (see panel), several criteria were considered, not just price but what a player contributed while Keegan was at the club.

So, in answer to "What, no Shearer?", the reply is a simple "no". Keegan made him the world's most expensive player and Shearer went on to become one of the club's greatest goalscorers and icons. But then you expect a lot of goals for £15m and on the basis that he was only at St James' Park for the last six months of Keegan's reign, he is discounted.

Our top five all did more for Keegan while he was still there. Andy Cole, bought for £1.75m from Bristol City and sold for a whopping £6m (plus Keith Gillespie from Manchester United) has a goals-per-game ratio bettered only by one man in Newcastle's history. And it is not Shearer.

Hughie Gallacher scored 143 goals in 174 games in all competitions between 1925 and 1930, or on average a goal in 82 per cent of games. Cole's ratio was 81 per cent (68 goals in 84 games, 55 in 70 in the League). Shearer's record was 206 in 404, for a ratio of 51 per cent. He really should have tried harder.

Peter Beardsley and Rob Lee make the list for their remarkable value for money and service, Les Ferdinand for goals and David Ginola for "oo-ah, just look at that" (not least against Manchester United).

Asprilla tops the flops not because he could not be brilliant (a hat-trick against Barcelona in the Champions League, anyone?) but because he cost a packet and came to symbolise the surrendering of a title.

Mike Hooper was no ordinary goalkeeper. He had a degree in English literature and arrived at Newcastle, aged 29, from Liverpool, where he had been a steady deputy to Bruce Grobbelaar and then David James.

But he was a gaffe-prone stopper, and at £550,000, not cheap for the back-up man he became as he failed to handle the criticism of hostile fans. Although Keegan stood by him, and even suggested that he would walk out unless the supporters laid off the abuse, Hooper quit because of hate mail.

Hottiger and Mathie make the list as a fancy international and young buck respectively who did not cut it, while Paul Kitson is there for failing to find the net enough for his price tag.

There was also one Jason Drysdale, 23, a superstar-full-back-in-waiting when signed from Watford for £425,000 in August 1994. He is omitted because most people have never heard of him. He never played a first-team game. He was sold, at a loss, to Swindon.

But then you cannot have everything, as Keegan will tell you.

Keegan's transfer dealings in his first Newcastle stint

BEST FIVE BUYS:

Bought (cost/from/when)/Sold Newc: league games/(goals)

Andy Cole £1.7m/Br City/Mar 93/£6m, Man Utd, 95 70 (55)

Astonishing goals ratio, massive profit when sold – what's not to like?

Peter Beardsley £1.4m/Everton/Jul 93/£450k, Bolton, 97 129 (47)

Geordie hero, creative and prolific, form earned England recall.

Rob Lee £700k/Charlton/Sep 92/£250k, Derby, 02 303 (44)

Fantastic value, as versatile as enduring in the Toon's heady rise.

Les Ferdinand £6m/QPR/Jun 95/£6m, Spurs, 97 68 (41)

Another goal machine, took Newcastle to brink of title.

David Ginola £2.5m/PSG/Jul 95/£2m, Spurs, 97 58 (6)

Oo la la flair drew punters through the turnstiles, because "'e was worth eet."

WORST FIVE BUYS:

Bought (cost/from/when)/Sold Newc: league games/(goals)

Tino Asprilla £6.7m/Parma/Feb 96/£6m, Parma, 98 48 (9)

Dazzling talent but mercurial, expensive and unsettled the side at a key time.

Mike Hooper £550k/Liverpool/Sep 93/Retired, 96 25 (-)

Goalkeeper's blunders led to hate mail and ultimately retirement.

Marc Hottiger £600k/FC Sion/Aug 94/£700k, Everton, 96 39 (1)

Swiss defender, signed on the back of a World Cup but faltered after a year.

Alex Mathie £285k/Morton/Jul 93/£500k, Ipswich, 95 25 (4)

Young Scottish forward who did not cut the mustard in better company.

Paul Kitson £2.25m/Derby/Sep 94/£2.3m, West Ham, 97 36 (10)

Injuries did not help but 10 goals in two and a half years was poor value.

Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
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

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum