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Ashley leaves Newcastle in chaos

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Phil McNulty | 10:10 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Kevin Keegan has not been sacked. Kevin Keegan says he has not resigned. But would you risk a large amount of money right now on him being Newcastle United manager for their next game at home to Hull?

No - didn't think you would and neither would I.

Talks are ongoing between Keegan and Newcastle over his future as the fog of uncertainty and chaos continues to shroud the Tyne's football followers.

One thing we do know with absolute certainty is that Newcastle is once again a club in chaos, with fractured relationships at the top of the club and a management structure that is fatally flawed.

Much has been made of the media's coverage - including here - of the tumult on Tuesday, so it is worth clarifying events.

The BBC and almost every other outlet received information from the most reliable and informed sources that Keegan had left his position. This would not have been reported had there been the slightest doubt.

Make no mistake this was no mass media invention, and even the belated statement from Newcastle, issued six hours after first reports of Keegan's demise filtered out, failed to clarify his position as manager.

So events move on, in bizarre fashion even by Newcastle standards, and today we are left with a shabby mess that reflects so badly on the regime of owner Mike Ashley.

He may mix with Newcastle's fans during matches, but has no grasp on how they feel about their club - and in particular how they feel about Keegan.

Mike Ashley

No matter how well his talks with Keegan progress, things will never be the same for the major players at Newcastle. Any truce will be fragile given the previous history between Keegan and Ashley.

Ashley has massively misjudged the mood in Newcastle and it is impossible to see how he can repair his relationship with the club's followers, and indeed Keegan.

We've all had our fun with Newcastle fans about their over-blown perception of just how big and successful they are - or not as the case may be - but no-one can question they have a unique bond with their team and have been shabbily treated again.

Ashley has not understood that and this is why he is now holed below the waterline in the eyes of Newcastle's fans. He cannot sit among those supporters again with his credibility so badly damaged.

Could it be that Ashley and his sidekicks only realised the magnitude of Keegan's potential depature once they heard and saw the incendiary reaction of the club's supporters to reports that he had left?

Is there any way back for Keegan at Newcastle even now? And even in this unlikely event, how long would it before it all flared up again?

If these discussions are actually focusing on football matters, Keegan will presumably be asking for complete control over transfers, a privilege that has been denied to him so far.

This is the least he should be given. Keegan is a good judge of a player and he is certainly as qualified, if not more so, than those who have been reportedly choosing those who are arriving at Newcastle.

It also means those who sign know they have the trust and faith of the manager - and Keegan will also know he lives or dies by his own choices as opposed to someone else's.

If Ashley agrees to that, it will effectively mean the demise of executive director Dennis Wise, who is very much the owner's man despite being an unpopular figure among the Newcastle support.

And it should also mean curtains for vice-president (player recruitment) Tony Jimenez and technical co-ordinator Jeff Vetere.

Keegan would be in a position of total power and authority with players and supporters. Would that be acceptable to Ashley?

It is difficult to see how Keegan's career at Newcastle can be salvaged without those huge compromises, and even the eventual departure of Wise, Ashley - or both.

Newcastle are left as a laughing stock once more. And no-one on Tyneside is blaming Keegan.


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