Keegan 'looking forward' to Ashley meeting

May 8, 2008

Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan will head off for talks with owner Mike Ashley tomorrow insisting he welcomes the chance to clear the air.

The 57-year-old arrived at the club's Darsley Park training headquarters following reports that he had been summoned to London in the wake of his comments on the club's prospects of breaking into the Barclays Premier League's top four.

Keegan was not about to discuss what he expects to be told by Ashley or what message he intends to get across as he conducted his normal pre-match press conference, which had been brought forward 24 hours as a result of tomorrow's meeting.

However, anticipating a grilling on the subject, he made a brief statement.

Keegan said: 'The reason we have fetched the press conference a day early is that I am going to London tomorrow to talk with Mike Ashley. That's a good thing and I will look forward to that.

'That's the only comment that I am going to make on anything to do with that today because this is a pre-match conference for the game against Everton and that's all I am going to talk about from now on.

'Any other questions, they will save for another day, I am sure, and I will try on that day, whenever it is, to answer them as honestly as I can.'

Some commentators have suggested Keegan is on the brink amid claims his relationship with Ashley has deteriorated alarmingly, but he was as ebullient as ever as he handled questions from television, radio and newspaper journalists.

Things came to a head on Monday evening when, after seeing his side beaten 2-0 by title contenders Chelsea at St James' Park, he admitted the gulf between the two clubs is enormous.

However, Keegan's assertion that the Magpies are currently 'a million miles' away from Chelsea and have little chance of breaking into the top four during the remaining three years of his contract no matter how much money Ashley gives him, has been interpreted in different ways.

Some have seen it as a challenge to Ashley, hence tomorrow's meeting, while others believe it is a reflection of his disillusionment with the way the club is conducting its recruitment drive under executive director Dennis Wise.

Whatever his motivation, he was sticking by his comments today.

He said: 'I know some people are disappointed that I am saying we are not going to win the league this time, but I would be in danger of being whipped off to the old nuthouse if I started saying that, because there is a big gulf.

'It is well-documented and has been well-documented, not just by myself, but by many, many other people in the game whose opinions are respected.

'The challenge is there, but I don't think it can be done in a year or two.'

Everton, as Newcastle had done before them, briefly broke the stranglehold the big four clubs have had on the corresponding league places in recent years, and Keegan points to their development since as an illustration of what he means.

He said: 'David Moyes has done a fantastic job there - I think they are the only team that has broken into that top four, so the best person to ask if it can be done is David Moyes.

'I remember the year after that, they finished down at the bottom because the problem then is you have more games and you need a bigger squad.

'There are other problems that come with success, but they are nice problems.'

Keegan was presented with a potential problem of a different kind today when he learnt that striker Mark Viduka could be sidelined for up to six months.

The 32-year-old went for a planned injection to address his long-standing Achilles problem knowing he was likely to be out for three months as a result.

However, the injury proved to be worse than feared and he will discover over the next fortnight whether or not he needs a minor operation and the extended period of rehabilitation that will involve.

Keegan said: 'He went to have this injection. He had the injection and the problem is slightly worse than was feared.

'He goes back in 10 days to two weeks having had the injection, and that may well solve the problem, as was originally thought.

'But there is a chance, the doctor informs me, that he might need something more than that.'