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'Newcastle signed a childhood hero of mine as manager, and he didn't disappoint'.

GAVIN Peacock worked under three different Newcastle United managers in just three years.

Here, Peacock recounts the different styles of Ossie Ardiles, Kevin Keegan and Jim Smith.

"Jim was a great football man with phenomenal experience and had the ability to pick a player - to sign a good player," revealed the now 49-year-old former midfielder.

"For instance, Pavel Srnicek - where did he come from? Out of the blue and he turns into one of the great goalkeepers for Newcastle.

"Jim had the ability to watch training on a Friday and see a player he wasn't going to play look good in training. He would take a gamble on him and that player would inevitably score."

Smith left the club in March 1991, labelling the club "unmanageable" as a boardroom power struggle began.

He was replaced by Ardiles, who set about bringing players through the youth ranks, and Peacock holds fond memories of the Spurs legend.

He said: "All the young players loved Ossie because he made you feel good, gave you freedom to play and at the time there was a bit of fear at St James' because we weren't hitting the high notes and there was a bit of pressure there.

"So Ossie brought in the young players, who the fans liked because they were coming through the youth system. He gave them confidence to play. He said to me: 'You're a rough diamond and I'm going to polish you and play you at the head of the diamond.' That really was my best position. Ossie really began to help me flourish."

With United bottom of the second division and Sir John Hall in charge, Ardiles was sacked and Keegan was persuaded to leave the sunny beaches of Spain. But Peacock admits that there were tears when Ardiles left.

"Kevin had gone off for seven years to Marbella and played golf with Sean Connery," recalled Peacock. "Ossie gets sacked, there's tears from players and I'm driving over the Tyne Bridge and I hear on the radio that we've signed Kevin Keegan.

"Kevin was a childhood hero of mine and I just thought, 'This is great'. He just brought this instant energy to the club. The fans loved him for what he had done, it was masterstroke, getting him in, because even though he hadn't got the managerial experience he had football knowledge and the ability to motivate and to put players together on the field where they'd click.

"He was just one of the best managers I've ever played under -he was a great motivator. He'd do his Bill Shankly impression on a Friday. We'd be out doing our training session and he'd come over and pretend he's Bill Shankly: 'You're too quick for them, you're too quick for them, you're too powerful, and you're going to smash them tomorrow.' He'd get the lads going but he knew what to say to each player to get them ticking on Saturday."

Keegan brought a new approach to training and while it was positive and fun Peacock admits that it takes a special sort of coach to get the balance right. For Keegan, alongside assistant coach Terry McDermott, it worked perfectly.

"It's not always easy to keep the balance but Kevin did it well. He had an aura about him; you respected him. He could chew you out if you needed it and he did it to me a few times! But there was banter and he loved to give Terry Mac stick.

"Terry was good, he was an encourager, the buffer. He had been a great player and was very knowledgeable. I liked him a lot and they were just a great combination. Derek Fazackerley played a big part too."

The relationship between the Keegan and Peacock was more than just manager and player. When Peacock's son, Jake, was born without a right hand the family began looking to return to London and eventually Peacock signed for Chelsea.

"I would have stayed, I had a contract but my son was born just a couple weeks after that game," Peacock said.

"Kevin was brilliant. I told him my wife would like to move back to London. He said, 'I want you to stay. We've got Beardsley coming in and I think you could play well together.

"'But if your wife isn't happy, you won't be happy and your football won't be at its best.' "He showed great compassion."

He was just one of the best managers I've ever played under -he was a great motivator
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 12, 2017
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