Time of the essence as Keegan begins search for new recruits

At least one centre-half, a left-back, an athletic box-to-box midfielder and a deep-lying, inventive forward who might be termed Beardsleyesque – Kevin Keegan may have said yesterday: "It is a strong, talented group of players, which is something I did not have when I came last time," about this Newcastle United squad, but during his afternoon-long meeting with the chairman, Chris Mort, at the club's training ground, he will also have surely noted that there is room for improvement.

January, every manager testifies, is a troublesome month to be buying players anyway, but if, as Keegan admitted, he has barely watched a live match since leaving Manchester City almost three years ago, he will be relying on the recommendations of others. He simply does not have the time to get scouting.

As he walked around the training ground yesterday in the company of only his former assistant and playing colleague from Liverpool and Newcastle, Terry McDermott, Keegan will have been absorbing information as to where this Newcastle team is short. If McDermott is wise, he will have mentioned defence.

Considering Keegan's predecessor, Sam Allardyce, brought in five defenders in the summer – Habib Beye, Claudio Cacapa, Abdoulaye Faye, David Rozehnal and Jose Enrique – the situation should not exist. But Beye and Faye are at the African Nations Cup, Cacapa and Rozehnal have not settled easily to English football's pace and aggression and Enrique is struggling to justify his £6.3m price tag.

With Newcastle consistently linked with Chelsea's Wayne Bridge, this would be the sort of signing that would make Keegan look switched on. It would also be a signal of the club owner Mike Ashley's intent.

In the centre of defence, while there is a lot of local pride invested in Steven Taylor, the 21-year-old is sometimes rash and would benefit from an authority figure alongside him. Richard Dunne, whom Keegan knows from City, has matured over the past couple of years. Now 28, Dunne is said to have toned down his lifestyle and his consistency is being seen as the reward. But it also makes him expensive and, this month, extremely difficult to shift. Even harder to recruit would be his team-mate Micah Richards, but that would be a statement.

Those are players Keegan knows from English football but he has never been afraid to shop abroad. David Ginola, Faustino Asprilla and Philippe Albert were signature signings in his first spell as Newcastle manager.

During Allardyce's early days in charge last summer, he went to Barcelona to talk to Edmilson, Brazil's World Cup-winning defender/defensive midfielder. There is something of the languid style of Albert about Edmilson. Although he was injured, it was said some form of agreement had been reached that the two parties would re-evaluate when Edmilson was fit again.

Because of his Bolton past, Eidur Gudjohnsen was also mentioned in dispatches then. The 29-year-old attacker has the Peter Beardsley element and Keegan may well have been given Allardyce's list of targets – on Tuesday the caretaker manager, Nigel Pearson, stressed the work that had gone into "talent ID" under Allardyce. The Toulouse striker Johan Elmander was probably on it. The 26-year-old Swede was the subject of a third-party enquiry from Newcastle in November. Like other English clubs such as West Ham and Tottenham, Newcastle were quoted €14m (£11m) and told Elmander sees himself as a Champions League player.

With Michael Owen, who Alan Shearer believes will be able to work smoothly with Keegan despite their England past, Mark Viduka and Obafemi Martins at St James' Park, strikers are not a priority. Keegan may also see Alan Smith as one because Smith has not convinced in midfield.

It is there that attention is required. Nicky Butt has been good so far this season, but he cannot dominate a game in the manner Newcastle need. Mohamed Sissoko is not a player one would normally associate with Keegan, but he is available at Liverpool.

The coming fortnight will tell us more but there is a theory that Keegan thinks the squad will be satisfactory until the summer. Then, according to one of the other rumours sweeping Tyneside yesterday, Keegan has been told by Ashley to think the unthinkable. Some say Newcastle already have by bringing him back, but, if the club are to compete with the established top four, that is what Keegan will have to do. Presumably he would do so with a smile on his face.

Reality check on Tyneside

After the whirlwind of Wednesday there was a pause at Newcastle United yesterday. Kevin Keegan went to the Benton training ground where he addressed his squad. Keegan and his chairman, Chris Mort, then began a meeting that lasted the bulk of the afternoon. Decisions have to be made not only about activity in the January window but also about the staff accumulated by Sam Allardyce.

Three aristocrats who could join the court of King Kev

Wayne Bridge

The Chelsea full-back would fill a problem position for Newcastle and show that Keegan is switched on.

Micah Richards

The 19-year-old Manchester City centre-half would cost the earth, but his capture would be a statement of intent.

Johan Elmander

The Toulouse striker would fit the bill, but when Newcastle enquired about him in November the price was £11m.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence