Newcastle United have a wonderfully rich history and they are a club steeped in tradition. Aside from boasting world-class strikers down the years, they have been blessed to have had a plethora of household names work at the club.
Let’s reminisce on five of Newcastle’s best managers and examines how they injected and instilled values that endeared them to the St James’ Park faithful.
Kevin Keegan (1992-1997)
Having enjoyed a two-year playing spell on Tyneside, Kevin Keegan made a sensational return in 1992. After guiding the club to England’s top flight for the 1993/94 season, Keegan made an immediate impact and he brought a fearless brand of attacking football to the club.
Newcastle were dubbed ‘the Entertainers’ for their enterprising style and they came within a whisker of lifting the title in the 1995/96 campaign, however, they were pipped to the post by Manchester United. In January of that season, Newcastle had what seemed to be a near insurmountable 12-point advantage, but they crumbled dramatically. Approaching the climax, Keegan became very irritated and emotional and he reacted to Sir Alex Ferguson’s barbs by launching into a rant on Sky Sports in which he said he’d “love it if Newcastle beat them [Manchester United”.
Keegan’s side had real flair and while they came up short, he won over the hearts and minds of the Geordies.
Kenny Dalglish (1997-1998)
Heralded for his brilliant work at Blackburn Rovers where he guided them to the title in the 1995/96 season, eyebrows were raised when Kenny Dalglish replaced the charismatic Keegan. Although the Magpies were devastated when Keegan departed, it proved to be an inspired appointment.
At times, Dalglish unleashed his devastating attacking trident in the form of Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand and Faustino Asprilla, and in his first season, he guided Newcastle to a runners-up finish in the Premier League. The following campaign, he helped his side reach the FA Cup final, but they fell to a 2-0 defeat against Arsenal at Wembley.
Dalglish confounded many of his critics and while there were some questionable signings, he enjoyed many highlights, including a 3-2 win over Barcelona in the Champions League.
Sir Bobby Robson (1999-2004)
Although his heroics in charge of England first spring to mind as he led them to the World Cup semi-finals in 1990, Sir Bobby Robson transcended the game and was much loved on Tyneside. He made an immediate impact and this was exemplified when he stopped the club’s rot at home with an 8-0 thrashing of Sheffield Wednesday in the league with Alan Shearer helping himself to five goals.
Under Robson, Newcastle cemented a spot at Europe’s top table at the end of the 2002/03 campaign, and while he sadly passed away in 2009, he left behind a fabulous legacy and he had a statue erected in his name in the South West corner of St James’ Park.
Rafa Benitez (2016-2019)
Having previously managed Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid, Rafa Benitez landed on Tyneside with a big reputation and he certainly delivered. After bringing the Magpies back to the top flight, he tried to strike a balance between good attacking play and showing defensive nous, although his side shipped more goals (47) than they scored (39).
Throughout his spell at St James’ Park, he was given a miserly transfer budget by the owner Mike Ashley. The Spaniard’s departure sparked fury with BBC Sport pundit Shearer describing it as a ‘shambles’ and the fans pleaded for Benitez to stay but to no avail. Nevertheless, he injected life into a club that had lost its way.
Steve Bruce (2019- present)
Before Steve Bruce took over, there were exciting fixed odds prices that emerged at the time indicating Mauricio Pochettino would assume the Newcastle hot seat. Although he may not have been everyone’s first choice, Bruce was initially a firefighter, but he has worked hard to combat the stern criticism he has had to contend with.
More significantly, he has persuaded the frugal Ashley to relax his stringent transfer policy and Bruce has managed to land some of his key targets, which capturing Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser from Bournemouth and he will be looking to help the Magpies go from strength to strength this term.