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Keane's army is on the march.

Byline: By John Gibson

They are massing on the borders and complacency is not the answer.

Geordies are witnessing the resurgence of one-time yo-yo club Sunderland with Roy Keane their inspirational leader.

The tide is flowing but one way for the Wearsiders and the concern which must be gnawing away at the Toon Army is not that Sunderland will come up but that the unspeakable may actually happen.

The Mackems might just be more successful than the Mags within a couple of years because of the Keane factor.

While some Sunderland fans are still a little cautious having been stung so badly, the view from a distance is quite another matter.

Of course Newcastle supporters will have none of it publicly ( Mags rule OK? ( but privately the fear must be that Keane is their Keegan.

The pressure is therefore on Freddy Shepherd and Glenn Roeder to get United moving unerringly in the right direction ( and quickly. Status must be retained in black-and-white, Geordies demand, and this could be the most serious Wear threat in years.

United are terribly inconsistent ( Fulham followed by Liverpool, Wigan and Middlesbrough depression lifted by victory over Alkmaar. What next? Such extremes must be eradicated next season.

Keane and the red-and-white masses on the march ( 8,000 of them ( came away from Barnsley at the weekend with yet another victory, their ninth in the last 11 Championship matches, with the other two drawn.

Having climbed to third and the brink of automatic promotion, Stoke City are next up at the Stadium of Light tomorrow night when another big crowd is guaranteed. Then Hull at home again come Saturday.

Sunderland are the form team in the richest race in football, the charge to land a staggering pounds 60m next season in the Premiership.

But for having to play catch-up after a disastrous start to the campaign pre-Keane, Sunderland would already be counting the cash.

Of course the unrelenting run is happening a division down, which is hugely significant in judging it, but the similarity between Keane and early Keegan is there for all to see ( both made their considerable reputations with big clubs (Man U and Liverpool), both skippered their country, and both came to the North East for their first managerial job.

Both too, come to think of it, began needing a promotion to the top flight not having inherited status.

Next look at the personality traits ( strong-minded, opinionated, slackers not tolerated nor any opposition from within to the master plan. It covers both men, doesn't it?

From the coach who accidentally attempted to take over the technical area, Keane's domain, and received a ticking-off from his boss on the phone to the three players left behind at the weekend when late for the team coach, Sunderland's supremo stamps on those not abiding by his rules.

It's not a matter of which is the bigger club, thee or thy neighbour ( that can almost be indisputable regardless of results as we well know ( but who does better on the field of play.

United have dwelt in the bottom half of the Premiership virtually all season and must look to a fit-again Michael Owen and new signings to dramatically change that.

My overriding thought is if Keane can stir Newcastle into positive action because they visualise a definite threat on their doorstep then all the better. Whatever it takes will please all Geordies.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 12, 2007
Words:565
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