The Keegan Years: February 1992

Football

ByTheMinNUFC

Previously on the Keegan Years... https://www.bytheminute.co/events/7493-football-the-keegan-years-coming-home-episode-one-of-the-keegan-years-covers-king-kev-s-appointment-as-manager-after-the-sacking-of-ossie-ardiles-live-20-sep-2018

8th February 1992: Newcastle United 3-0 Bristol City (Kelly 53', O'Brien 55', Kelly 61') 29,263 NUFC XI: Wright, Ranson, Neilson, Scott, Stimson, Watson, Brock, O'Brien, Peacock, Wilson, Kelly The first game of the Keegan era in the Newcastle dugout took place just 3 days after his appointment on Saturday 8th February 1992. Would 3 days be quick enough for his side to make a sudden momentum change in the battle to survive a drop to the third tier and near certain financial extinction? The fans certainly thought so. The hunger for Keegan was driven to the turnstiles as a crowd which had been just 15,663 for Ardiles’ final fling, had swollen to 29,263 for KK’s managerial debut. Belief was back in the city. In the dressing room, it was a similar story. Although a slip of the tongue by Keegan in his first pre-match press conference kind of set a presidence for the next few years. Kevin named his starting team to the press the day before the game, so confident he was that the result would go his team’s way. There was one slight problem. He only told the media 10 names. It was likely just a nervous error, but since defender Alan Neilson was the name Keegan forgot, it perhaps showed that defenders weren’t too crucial to the way he was going to set up his sides from here on in. When Keegan made his way up the tunnel and into the dugout, the noise was incomparable. The photographers from the local and national media flocked onto the pitch to get their prized picture. For a team positioned inside the relegation zone of the second tier of English football, it seemed a bizarre set of circumstances. But this was Kevin Keegan back home. Over the next 90 minutes, the stories first chapter had an uplifting end to the opening chapter. After a rather tame opening 45 minutes, St James’ Park came alive in eight euphoric second half minutes. First, David Kelly popped up almost on the goal-line to nod in the opening goal of the KK era after some slack defending from the Bristol City visitors. Liftoff. Soon after, Liam O’Brien prodded home from inside the 6-yard box after a neatly worked free kick routine landed at his feet after a spill from the keeper. Rather than keeping it tight and holding on to their two-goal lead, the attacking nature that would define the decade for the Tyneside contingent continued its onslaught on the visitors goal. Gavin Peacock raced onto a through ball before tucking one back for Kelly to smash in his second and Newcastle’s third. The expectant crowd has got more than they ever wished for. Three goals. A clean sheet. Three points. Smiles all round. Post-match Keegan said “I hoped for a performance like that. I wouldn’t want to single anyone out. I thought everyone played their part.” He was right. The team, the staff, the fans, the board. They were all on side. United by name. United by nature. The fightback was on.

15th February 1992: Blackburn Rovers 3-1 Newcastle (Speedie 42', 59', 74') (Kelly 12') NUFC XI: Wright, Ranson, Neilson, Bradshaw, Stimson, Watson, Brock, O'Brien, Peacock, Clark, Kelly One week later and it was the first away day of Keegan’s time at the club as manager as high flying Blackburn Rovers, who were top of the table by 4 points with a games in hand, provided a day to forget. Despite an opening goal from the rampant David Kelly, things turned south for us just before the break when a goal from David Speedie leveled the game up. It would prove to be the game changer that would cost us any points from Ewood Park. Speedie added another two goals in the second half to complete his hat-trick to send his side on another step towards promotion to the inaugural season of the Premier League. Speedie was the victim of taunts from the away fans for most of the game due to Sunday paper reports that his wife had been ‘putting it about’ whilst her husband was playing away from home in career terms. Belting out “we’ve all had your wife Speedie’, it was a shame that the only scoring a Speedie family member did that afternoon was inside our net. After the eruption the week before, this was a juddering reminder that the team we had were in a perilous position. It would take more than just Keegan to pull this miracle off.

22nd February 1992: Newcastle United 1-1 Barnsley (Kelly 70') (Currie 86') NUFC XI: Wright, Neilson, Stimson, Watson, Kilcline, Brock, O'Brien, Peacock, Clark, Kelly, Sheedy 22nd February saw the side back to St James’ Park for the visit of Barnsley, a team who were looking over their shoulder at the relegation zone having started the game just 5 points ahead of us. The game saw the inclusion of Keegan’s first two signings in the starting XI as Kevin Kilcline and Kevin Sheedy made their first starts for the club. The best chance of the first half was a speculative effort from Liam O’Brien who thumped one off the top of the bar from more than 25 yards. It seemed like it would be a frustrating day for the home side who continued to attack the Barnsley goal but with no success. That was until the hero of a fortnight ago, David Kelly, did what he loves doing by diverting a Franz Carr past the watching Lee Butler to give his side a vital lead. Three massive points looked to have been secured, until a cruel twist in the tale. A defensive mix up in the Newcastle box allowed David Currie to find some space to fire past Tommy Wright. St James’ Park was silenced. Three points would have taken us out of the bottom three for the first time since New Year’s Day. As it was, we remained 3rd from bottom, with both Bristol City and Plymouth who were immediately above us having played two games less. It seemed more like a loss than a draw come full time.

29th February 1992: Port Vale 0-1 Newcastle United (Watson 18') NUFC XI: Wright, Neilson, Scott, Stimson, Watson, Kilcline, Brock, O'Brien, Peacock, Kelly, Quinn One week later and Port Vale away ended the opening month of the Keegan stint in charge. They were another team scrapping for any point they could come across and were just a single point ahead of us going into the game. Clad in our infamous yellow away shirt, complete with green shorts, we headed to Vale Park with young academy graduate Steve Watson lining up in the defence. It would prove to be a day he’d never forget as he netted the only goal of the game - a fine half volley from just inside the box, which secured a superb three points in Keegan’s first away victory as manager. It was a win which rocketed the side up to the rather dizzying heights of 19th as we ended the month outside the relegation zone. The feel good factor was back on Tyneside and many in and around the club felt that these two wins in the opening four games had proven that the Keegan gamble was the right one to take. Come the end of March, that feeling would only be heightened...

End of February 1992 Division Two League Table

Next time on The Keegan Years... - A dreadful home loss to Brighton puts Keegan on the ropes - But 10 points from the next 4 games makes everything look rosy - Including a famous Derby Day success That'll be with you this time next week. If you have any comments to make, pop them in below, or email roddy@bytheminute.co with your memories and stories which I'll stick into a future blog. Thanks for reading!