Return of the 'Geordie Messiah'

Will Kevin Keegan's return to Newcastle prove a masterstroke? Or proof that you should never go back?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It’s Keegan’s third spell at the club and his second as a manager – last time he took Newcastle to within a whisker of the Premier League title before falling out with the chairman and stomping off in a huff (which we’re sure won’t happen this time…)

The news reminded us of several examples from the business world where an ailing institution has tried to rediscover its mojo by turning to the visionary who put it on the map. Of course it’s particularly common with entrepreneurs – once the thrill of growing a business is replaced by the tedium of running an established company, they move upstairs proclaiming that they’ve taken it as far as they can – only to re-take the reigns when their baby falters.

Recently we’ve seen Howard Schultz do this at Starbucks, while John Hargreaves at Matalan and Lord Harris at Carpetright both spent much of last year trying to get their company back. Ironically, Newcastle owner and Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley has been constantly linked with a similar plan (although he’s always denied it). And Keegan seems to exhibit many of the characteristics often ascribed to entrepreneurs: an appetite for risk, an inspiring vision, a knack for achieving growth – plus a lack of interest in some of the boring detail stuff (like tactics, in his case).

Keegan’s actually a strange appointment from a football point of view – having spent a decade and several managers trying to sort out the defence, Newcastle have now reverted to the man responsible for their frailties in the first place. And Keegan has openly admitted that he’s been avoiding football altogether since he quit his last job at Manchester City in 2005. In an era when managers like Wenger and Benitez spend more time watching obscure football matches than they do talking to their wives, this will mean he has a lot of catching up to do.

There’s also talk that England-captain-turned-drab-TV-pundit Alan Shearer could return to the club as Keegan’s number two, to learn his trade at the sharp end. Although since Wor Kev is better known for throwing wobblies and abrupt resignations than he is for winning trophies, he’s an odd choice to school Big Al on dealing with the pressures of a top-flight managerial career.

Still, Ashley certainly seems to have made the populist decision – most of the Newcastle fans were in raptures at last night’s FA Cup game. So it should bring back the feel-good factor clearly lacking during the dismal reign of previous boss Sam Allardyce – at least until they get thrashed 5-0 at Arsenal a week on Saturday...

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