I can’t be the only one who raised a rye smile – of sympathy or mirth – to the news that Kevin Keegan has gone back to Newcastle.
Flamboyant new owner and fan buys football club and brings back messianic manager for a second spell. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Mike Ashby is Nick Merry and Keegan is Jim Smith.
Like Smith, Keegan has come back to a very different club to the one he left. Expectations are without boundaries, because people have focussed only on the strengths of the man and ignored the weaknesses. The media has been voracious in its acceptance of the move – not least because of the fantastic story arc that’s available – returning messiah, return to glory days or tragic disaster, ignominious exit.
Smith had to contend with a club that had a fragile ego (where before there was none), a wage cap and a championship or bust success criteria. Newcastle are one of many rich, but not super rich, Premiership clubs; they’re working at capacity and expectation is of silverware and league titles. All different to the club Keegan left.
It’s neither Keegan nor Smith’s fault; their job is to take on a team, risk their reputation and make them successful. It’s owners that need to choose carefully and both went with their hearts more than their heads.
It gave our predictable and impotent defeat at St James’ Park on Sunday some degree of irony.