Keegan sings praises of jubilant Toon army

Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan congratulated Mike Ashley on his decision to buy the club after handing him a derby victory.

Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan congratulated Mike Ashley on his decision to buy the club after handing him a derby victory.

A delighted Ashley danced a jubilant jig as the final whistle signalled the end of the first part of Keegan’s mission, securing Barclays Premier League survival.

On a day when the Tyneside public roared their side on against their arch-rivals, the manager cast his mind back to his first spell in charge and told the man who brought him back to St James’ Park that he will get that at every home game if he helps him build a team to excite the locals again.

Keegan said: “I read somewhere that he could have bought Leeds or Newcastle, so I just said to him, ’Aren’t you lucky you bought Newcastle?’

“No disrespect to Leeds, but you just can’t buy that. He has, but you can’t normally buy an atmosphere like that in a stadium.

“You have never heard anything like that at the end. I don’t care how many times you come to the stadium, when it goes like that and you hear them singing, it’s absolutely the only place in the world to be, as far as I am concerned.

“I have played at Liverpool and I have played in derbies, I have played in the Maracana, I have played in the Nep Stadium, but this is the best place in the world when you are winning.

“It’s a tough place if you are not going well, but hey, they are the rules of the game.”

Keegan admitted his side was far from at its best – indeed, his assessment was they were between 50-60% of full capacity – but they still had more than enough to see off the Black Cats.

Steve Harper had only one save of note to make, and it was a good one from Kenwyne Jones’ 68th-minute header.

However, opposite number Craig Gordon found himself in direct competition with the Magpies’ in-form striker Michael Owen, and it was the Englishman who came out on top.

Owen needed just four minutes to lose defender Paul McShane, who like Danny Higginbotham was drafted in as a late replacement when Jonny Evans and Phil Bardsley withdrew through injury, and head home Geremi’s cross.

Gordon may count himself unfortunate not to have kept out Owen’s 45th-minute penalty after getting a hand to it, and his manager was left to reflect upon the £17million man’s continuing emergence from his injury woes.

Roy Keane, whose side is just five points clear of the drop zone with three games to play, said: “Michael’s record speaks for itself. You don’t need me to go on about Michael.

“He’s got more goals at international level than all my players put together will probably every get, so that’s what you are up against.

“If you give one or two chances, you are going to be punished, that is the quality you are up against.”

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