20. Sep, 2021


In August 1982 an English Second Division club rocked the football world. Newcastle United signed Kevin Keegan. Although 31 at the time Keegan had played a cameo role in England ill fated World Cup campaign a few months earlier. In 1979 Keegan had been voted European Footballer of the Year for the second time.

Yet, somehow KK was now prepared to exhibit his skills in the more humble surroundings of Millmore and the Abbey Stadium. But why? The answer lies very close to home. Kevin Keegan's father was a Geordie, young Kevin was raised on the heroics of legendary Newcastle centre forwards Hughie Gallacher and Jackie Milburn. Milburn played a prominent role in the halcyon days of the 1950's. The Magpies won the FA Cup three times, unlike today the FA Cup was the biggest show in town.

Aside from a Fairs Cup success in 1969, the following decades had seen a marked downturn in fortunes. The Gallowgate End had to take consolation in Individual excellence as the trophy cabinet remained empty. Malcolm Macdonald and Peter Withe graced the Number 9 shirt in the 1970s

Macdonald was christened Supermac by the Geordies. Supermac spearheaded a charge to the 1974 FA Cup Final. Sadly those clad in black and white failed to show up as Liverpool strolled to a 3-0 win. Ironically, Keegan scored twice for the rampant Reds. Two years later the Toon were beaten in the League Cup Final by Manchester City.

In 1978 United were relegated to the Second Division. Hope was restored in 1980 when Arthur Cox was appointed manager. Luckily the new boss inherited hidden treasure. Emerging talents Chris Waddle and Peter Beardsley were on the playing staff. Lanky winger Waddle was recruited from none league football. While striker Beardsley was signed from Vancouver Whitecaps. Both were local lads and stars of the future.

Keegan started with a bang. He scored the winner on his debut. Queens Park Rangers were the victims in front of the packed St James. Keegan is shown celebrating in the cover photo. The bumper gate of 35,718 was music to the ears of Keegan. He had negotiated a percentage of the gate receipts. Newcastle Breweries were not complaining either, they helped to fund Keegan's estimated £3,000 a week salary. No doubt a fair bulk of that outlay was recouped by happy Geordies downing pints of Brown Ale.

The 1982/83 season saw the Magpies narrowly miss out on promotion. Newcastle finished 5th, three points adrift of Leicester City. Remember these were the days before the play offs. That campaign was notable for two games. In September the Magpies beat Rotherham United 5-1 at Millmore. Kevin Keegan scored 4 of the visitors goals. The Millers Player/Manager was Emlyn Hughes, Keegan's former Liverpool and England team mate.

In mid October Match Of The Day viewers watched Fulham's 4-1 victory at St James. This day belonged to a former Gallowgate idol. The West London club were managed by Malcolm Macdonald. Alas, Supermac was also to suffer heartache. Fulham finished 4th pipped on goal difference by the resurgent Foxes

In stark contrast to the modern day, the mood around St. James Park was still optimistic. Terry McDermott joined from Liverpool while ex Man United star David McCreey joined the Tyneside revolution. The Toon made their intentions clear when TV viewers were treated to another Keegan command performance. The former England captain scored twice as Charlton Athletic departed the North East empty handed. That brace was amongst the 28 goals Keegan scored in all competitions that season. Beardsley plundered 20 league goals while Waddle netted 18 times. Has the second tier of English football ever produced a better forward line?

There were hiccups on the way, Cox's men were inexplicably beaten 5-4 by Bristol Rovers. Lowly Carlisle United also beat the Toon. But the lows were rare as the Geordies feasted on fabulous attacking football, The season finale was typical. With promotion in the bag Brighton were crushed 4-1 at St. James. The trio all scored that day. Beardsley's goal was wonderful. With 85 minutes on the clock, Keegan attempts to release Beardsley. The pass is too firmly hit and seems set to be intercepted by Brighton defender Eric Young. But somehow Beardsley gets his foot to the ball and rotates 180 degrees. Now facing the Seagulls goal the diminutive forward spots goalkeeper Joe Corrigan off his line, before delivering an inch perfect chip into the roof of the net. Little wonder Keegan applauded as the 36,286 crowd went into raptures.

Yet within weeks the feel good factor vanished. Keegan retired to a life in Spain, a move that was widely expected. However Cox's resignation shook the Toon. Eventually Beardsley and Waddle became frustrated as Newcastle stagnated. The pair departed for Liverpool and Tottenham respectively. They went on to enjoy fantastic International careers with England. The same applies to a young Paul Gascoigne who broke into the United side in 1987. Gazza was also sold to Spurs in 1989. A year later all three stared as England reached the World Cup Semi Final. Meanwhile Newcastle United were again languishing in the Second Division.

Not for the last time, Newcastle United fans had just cause to feel let