Keegan survives showdown talks with Ashley

May 9, 2008

Kevin Keegan was heading back to Newcastle tonight after an outbreak of peace at the club.

After days of speculation suggesting the 57-year-old's second spell in charge at St James' Park could be heading for an ignominious end, he emerged from talks with owner Mike Ashley in London with his position intact.

Keegan was summoned to meet the billionaire amid the stir caused by his comments after Monday afternoon's 2-0 home defeat by Chelsea in which he admitted that his club was 'a million miles away' from challenging the Premier League's top four.

But after the pair, along with chairman Chris Mort, newly-appointed deputy chairman Derek Llambias, executive director (football) Dennis Wise and vice-president (player recruitment) Tony Jimenez, got together today, the meeting at Freshfields ended with plans for the future in place.

Mort said: 'It was a good meeting. It was both productive and constructive.'

The brevity of the statement is perhaps understandable given the unwelcome publicity that has engulfed the club at regular intervals in recent years, and all involved will hope they can now get on with the business of building for the future.

Keegan headed south standing by his comments - although feeling that, in some cases, they had been taken out of context - and he did so making no apologies for wearing his heart on his sleeve.

The former England boss has never been afraid to air his feelings in public, although he was swift to dispel suggestions that his post-Chelsea reaction was a repeat of the infamous 'not like it was in the brochure' incident during his first reign at St James' Park.

Instead, he insists what he said was an attempt to tell it like it is - something he will continue to do.

Keegan said: 'Part of my job as manager of Newcastle United is to tell fans what's happening at their club.

'Part of the media's job is to report it correctly and keep it in context and not go off on tangents.

'You can take the same phrase three different ways, and it can mean three different things. You know that.

'I will continue to do what I have always done while I have been manager of Newcastle United, and at Manchester City and at Fulham and with England. I haven't changed.

'I am not scared of saying what I think the situation is, and I won't change that.'

Keegan arrived back at St James' in January promising to provide the club's fans with exciting football and the prospect of a return to the lofty heights Newcastle briefly scaled during his last spell in charge.

If his thoughts are now tinged with a little more realism after four months at the helm, he is no less determined to bring the good times back to Tyneside.

In the short term, that will mean ending a difficult season on a high at Everton on Sunday, where his side will take on a team looking to cement the fifth place Keegan believes has to be his goal for next season.

He said: 'That's our main target next year and that's a very good target to set ourselves from where we are at the moment.'

A positive result at Goodison Park would see Keegan eclipse the club's Premier League low points total of 43 under Glenn Roeder last season, something Keegan set as a target several weeks ago.

They will have to do it without key players, however, with striker Mark Viduka anxiously awaiting news of his Achilles injury which could yet rule him out for six months, and midfielder Joey Barton unavailable.

It is a measure of how much Barton has progressed under Keegan that he will be missed this weekend.

The 25-year-old, a £5.8million Sam Allardyce signing, endured a slow start to his Newcastle career after suffering a metatarsal injury in pre-season.

But he has started 13 of the last 14 games and is once again looking like the player he was at City.

Keegan said: 'Joey can be really pleased with his performances.

'What he has done here is win over the fans - he has certainly won over a lot of his team-mates, who didn't know quite what he was like before.'