The Keegan Years: March 1992



Previously on The Keegan Years...

7th March 1992: Newcastle United 0-1 Brighton (Gall 78') NUFC XI: Wright, Appleby, Scott, Stimson, Watson, Kilcline, Brock, O'Brien, Peacock, Sheedy, Kelly After the relatively successful start to the Keegan era, hopes were high of further success in the next home match against bottom of the table Brighton and Hove Albion as the season entered the crucial March period. It didn’t turn out that way. A flat, downtrodden performance was given the treatment it deserved when Brixton boy Mark Gall scored the only goal of the game in the 78th minute to earn his side a well earned three points. That scoreline was enough to lift Brighton off the bottom spot and above Newcastle in the table on goal difference. The day was memorable for the visitors as they wore a rather garish looking red and white striped shirt (complete with the same coloured socks) just to rub some extra salt into the Geordie wounds. A Gall-ing day all round.

10th March 1992: Cambridge United 0-2 Newcastle United (Peacock 37', Kelly 43') NUFC XI: Wright, Scott, Watson, Kilcline, Brock, O'Brien, Peacock, Sheedy, Thompson, Kelly, Quinn Just three days later, Keegan took his side down to Cambridge United for a tricky looking midweek away game. Cambridge went into the game flying high in 3rd place and looking near certain of getting a playoff place for promotion to the first Premier League. With their all-star pairing of Dion Dublin and Steve Claridge up front, they’d been knocking goals in for fun for most of the season and had conceded exactly half the goals that we’d conceded up to that point. In the end, there was very little to worry about. First half strikes from Gavin Peacock, who finishes calmly past the on-rushing Jon Sheffield, and the main man of Keegan’s strikeforce David Kelly, who drilled one into the bottom right hand corner after fine work in the build up from O’Brien and Quinn, secured a huge three points in the battle to avoid the drop. It felt like one of those nights where the tide was being turned. Relegation didn’t seem possible when you’d just beaten the 3rd best team in the league away from home. Things were to look even rosier in the next game.

14th March 1992: Newcastle United 3-1 Swindon Town (Kelly 30', Peacock 73', Quinn 82') (Mitchell 61') NUFC XI: Wright, Scott, Watson, Kilcline, Brock, O'Brien, Peacock, Sheedy, Thompson, Kelly, Quinn Glenn Hoddle and Kevin Keegan were, quite possibly, the best attacking players of their generation. Both had the ability to change the team in the blink of an eye and both were, rightly, loved by their hoards of fans who followed their every move. Seeing them battle head-to-head in the dugout was going to be a mouthwatering prospect. With Hoddle joining Swindon Town on a player-manager role, he started the game at St James’ Park alongside the often mercurial Micky Hazard. It would be a game neither would look back on with too much fondness. Having started brightly, Newcastle took the lead through, yes - you’ve guessed it, David Kelly in the 30th minute. Despite an equaliser from Dave Mitchell just after the hour, the three points were secured through goals from Gavin Peacock and Micky Quinn as Keegan’s side made it back to back wins for the first time since October. Division three? Nah, not for this side. The confidence was flying, goals were starting to fly into the oppositions net as opposed to our own and Keegan was getting big points in big games. What could possibly go wrong?! This is Newcastle United. He was Kevin Keegan. So of course, not everything could run smoothly. There was a breakdown in the relationship between Keegan and Sir John Hall. It had almost reached crisis point in the boardroom. So infuriated by the club not keeping the promises they had made regarding player recruitment (yes kids, this happened even before a certain Mr M. Ashley was our owner…), the straw nearly broke the camel’s back when Brian Kilcline, signed on loan from Oldham, wasn’t getting the deal made permanent. Keegan had had enough. He was ready, after just 40 days, to walk out on the club. He got in his car after the Swindon game to head home to Hampshire and wasn’t planning on returning. Some frantic phone calls later between Sir John and Kevin, largely down to both men’s wives persuading them to be the bigger man and get this issue sorted, ended with Keegan winning the battle. KK signed BK on a permanent deal and this was enough to appease the situation for the time being. Although Keegan described the situation as “not what he was told in the brochure”, he returned for the game against Grimsby Town.

21st March 1992: Grimsby Town 1-1 Newcastle United (Cunnington 1') (Sheedy 41') NUFC XI: Wright, Scott, Watson, Kilcline, Stimson, McDonough, Brock, Peacock, Sheedy, Kelly, Quinn The two sides could barely be separated in the table before the match with just the solitary goal keeping Grimsby above Newcastle on goal difference. That wouldn’t change an awful lot over the course of 90 minutes. Despite going a goal down within the opening minute after Clive Mendonca (most famously remembered for a few goals at Wembley against the mackems a few years down the line) had a shot blocked which fell kindly for Shaun Cunnington to fire home, Newcastle earned a point after a bizarre error from their keeper Paul Reece. After taking the ball in his hand, he somehow went on to mis-kick the ball and, in the process, going over the four-step rule (kids, ask your grandparents about that one) which gave us an indirect free-kick inside their penalty area. Kevin Brock and Kevin Sheedy did the damage with the tap pass from the former to the latter. A decent point away at Blundell Park and the gap to the bottom three was three points. A derby day was up next.

29th March 1992: Newcastle United 1-0 Sunderland (Kelly 33') NUFC XI: Wright, Scott, Stimson, Watson, Kilcline, Brock, O'Brien, Peacock, Sheedy, Kelly, Quinn Despite this match taking place some 26 years ago, North East football wasn’t in the best of places even then. The three biggest sides in the area were all plying their trade in the second tier. Sunderland and Newcastle were tied on points going into the St James’ Park derby game of March 1992. The previous game at Roker Park earlier in the season was a stalemate. Both sides would probably take another point towards safety heading into this one. Victory would do wonders for the league position, as well as local bragging rights. For once, the good guys were to come out on top. From a quickly taken corner just after the half hour mark, David Kelly (who else!) popped up with a fine header which just managed to squeeze between man and post to give the home fans (a crowd which had gone sub-30,000) something huge to celebrate. It would be the only goal of a fierce derby encounter. The main man Kelly could have actually been lining up in the red and white of Sunderland for this one as he revealed post-match that he could have made the move to Wearside earlier in the season. Thank goodness that wasn’t the case. He was the spearhead behind our recent revival and his goals were a key reason why there was 5 points between us and the bottom three. With just 7 games to go, it was looking like mission possible.

There was one more game in March 1992 for Keegan's side, but that fits the narrative of April 1992 much better, so look out for that next week. This is how the table looked after the mackems win. Thanks to NUFC 1980-1994 for the YouTube videos which have been embedded in. If you like what's there, do subscribe to their channel as there's some wonderful clips there. Be back next week with the latest chapter of The Keegan Years!