Kevin Keegan had to dress in disguise to return to Newcastle

The former manager says he will “always be persona non grata as long as the Mike Ashley regime remains in place.”

Kevin Keegan feels unwelcome at Newcastle United after his fall-out with owner Mike Ashley. Photo: Getty Images

Former Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan claims he had to use a disguise to watch his former club at St James’ Park after his fall-out with controversial owner Mike Ashley.

Keegan had two spells as Newcastle manager and also helped the team win promotion to the top-flight during his time as a Magpies forward in the 1980s. But the ex-England coach, whose second spell at Newcastle ended in 2008, feels unwelcome at the Premier League club after clashing with Ashley in the past.

He had to arrive in disguise for a private function at St James' Park, which has been his only visit to Newcastle's home in the last decade. “I will always be persona non grata as long as the Mike Ashley regime remains in place,” Keegan wrote in an autobiography serialised by The Times.

An exception

“The only time I have made an exception (to go back) came after an invitation to a private function at St James' Park one night when there was no football on. It was a leaving do for a lifelong Newcastle fan.

“My first response was to send my apologies and explain it would be impossible for me to attend. Then I started feeling bad because the guy was leaving for a new life in America and I knew everyone wanted to be there for his send-off. I improvised, I put on a pair of glasses, I found a flat cap and I turned up the collar on my overcoat to complete the disguise.”

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Keegan played 78 times for the Magpies, and managed the club for five years from 1992, taking it to the Premier League before narrowly missing out on the title to Manchester United. He returned in 2008, but was sacked after less than nine months.

‘Extraordinary club run by unconventional people’

Keegan was awarded GBP 2 million in damages after winning his case against Newcastle for constructive dismissal. “I know how absurd it must sound and, when I think about it properly, what kind of craziness is it that someone with my long emotional history with Newcastle now has to smuggle himself into the ground where the owner used to call me “King Kev”? But this is an extraordinary club, run by unconventional people,” he wrote.

“They have made a toy out of Newcastle United and, as much as it pains me to say it, I have no desire to be associated with the place for as long as that continues.”