The former Magpies boss had his team in a fierce Premier League title race with Manchester United which went to the wire, with Leeds United being the unwitting team at the centre of a battle both on and off the pitch.
It all led to Keegan taking the microphone in a post-match interview on Sky Sports and delivering what has become widely referred to as his rant, aimed at Alex Ferguson, as the strain of being involved in the pursuit of glory started to take its toll.
All this time later it remains one of the most iconic moments of Premier League history and a reminder of why so many fans love a player or manager with a vested interest in the team they are representing.
Here’s everything you need to know about why his ‘rant’ occurred and why it’s still recalled to this day.
When did it happen?
25 years ago! 29 April, 1996 to be precise, after Newcastle’s 1-0 victory over Leeds.
Why did he say it?
A week previous, Manchester United beat Leeds by the same scoreline. At that time, approaching the end of the campaign, Leeds were floundering in the bottom half of the table - they finished 13th - and Ferguson accused the players of “cheating” their manager by not performing to their true capacity.
Against United, Ferguson said, they put in the effort required as if stopping the Red Devils winning the league was the most important aspect of their season - and he suggested that in their next game against Newcastle, their performance levels would drop significantly.
Keegan took offence at the comments, both at what he perceived to be a personal attack on certain professionals and with respect to the mind games which would force wounded Leeds pride to up their performances against United’s title rivals.
The Magpies boss felt he couldn’t keep quiet any longer and, with one game to go, attempted to put pressure back on Man United with an impassioned speech of his own.
What did he say?
“A lot of things have been said over the last few days, some of it almost slanderous, but we’ve never commented, we’ve just gone on working.
“I think things have been said, I think you’ve got to send Alex Ferguson a tape of this game haven’t you? Isn’t that what he asked for?
“We’re playing Notts Forest on Thursday and he objected to that - it was fixed up four months ago. We’re bigger than that.
“When you do that with footballers like he said about Leeds, and when you do things like that about a man like Stuart Pearce, I’ve kept really quiet but I’ll tell you something - he went down in my estimation when he said that. We have not resorted to that.
“You can tell him now: We’re still fighting for this title and he’s got to go to Middlesbrough and get something.
“I’ll tell you, honestly, I will love it if we beat them, love it.”
What happened in the aftermath?
Sadly, it wasn’t the fairytale Keegan wanted.
Newcastle only managed to draw their last two matches of the season, while United did indeed “go to Middlesbrough and get something” - they won 3-0 to wrap up the title.
A four-point lead gave Ferguson the last word that season and the Magpies have never since come any closer to winning the Premier League.
They finished second again the following campaign, but seven points adrift of United this time, before their decline began. They have finished no higher than third since the mid-90s and have been relegated twice.
Why is it still remembered?
For a variety of reasons, chief among them being the passionate nature of Keegan’s managerial work in general which is perhaps missing among many football interviews in the more modern age.
Of course, the fact it was a title fight is relevant, and perhaps more so given Newcastle ultimately lost out despite their manager’s desire for success.
The memorable “I would love it” soundbite has been used on football-related occasions many times over and, like the ‘Ian Rush’ milk advert, Marco Tardelli’s World Cup goal celebration, Alan Hansen’s suggestion that clubs don’t win anything with kids and the commentary from Sergio Aguero’s stoppage-time title-winning goal, Keegan’s moment has gone down in football folklore to be passed on through the ages.
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