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United snap up a bargain at January sales; GIBBO'S WORLD JOHN GIBSON'S SPORTING SLANT.

Byline: JOHN GIBSON

UNITED have made some spectacular splashes in the January sales of recent times to inspire flagging spirits, but the arrival of Kevin Keegan this week borne on a chariot of optimism was something else.

Huge money deals for Jonathan Woodgate and Jean Alain Boumsong were two national headline catchers right enough. The biggest of that year.

However, slap bang in the middle of this transfer window, Newcastle have swept all the audacious player deals off the radar without a single foray into a transfer market we had previously expected them to raid more than once.

Keegan back as boss is a Hollywood production - a tale of romance, drama, and emotion never bettered. Tears all round.

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor weren't married as often as Keegan and United!

A huge framed montage of Kevin's arrival in the early eighties dominates the Press room at St James's Park with my front page Chronicle story the centrepiece.

It's a recognition of when a 25-year love affair first began. KK dominated proceedings on Wednesday night when United routed Stoke in an FA Cup replay, yet United's new manager wasn't even in the dressing-room or the dug-out. The mere fact that Keegan was in the building was enough.

Former Sunderland manager Denis Smith was up at the match - a Stoke legend as a player, he's now working for local radio - and even he was caught up in the emotion.

Smithh ad a successful five-year period managing the Black Cats leaving in December of 1991, only a couple of months before Keegan was appointed boss at St James's Park.

"This is a very special area that simply isn't understood by the rest of the country," said Denis.

"The passion is amazing - what is happening here with Keegan will puzzle a lot further afield who don't realise what the wee man means on Tyneside.

"They'll just see a guy who failed with England and turned his back on football after leaving Man City.

"I love all the hype and emotion. It's what football is supposed to be all about. Of course I miss the area and the rivalry between Newcastle and Sunderland. It was the best part of my managerial career. "

Aye, and the same applies to KK. Here the first half of the nineties has never been beaten for him, not with Fulham, England or Man City.

One last thought - if Alan Smith has felt he had something to live up to with owner Mike Ashley wearing his No 17 shirt in the stand, then bad boy Joey Barton has a real problem (apart from the obvious).

Barton was handed the No 7 by Sam Allardyce, which just happens to be the shirt revered by KK and United fans in his playing days here. Not to be sullied any more, I suspect, with Keegan in town.

"This is a very special area that simply isn't understood by the rest of the country" - former boss Denis Smith

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FAN TASTIC: A fan celebrates KK's return to United
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 19, 2008
Words:505
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