Despite winning back to back European Footballer of the Year awards and managing his country, Kevin Keegan will always be best remembered for the greatest manager rant of all time.
It all occurred on the 29th April 1996, 26 years ago today.
An obvious place to start - the rant itself, the infamous 'Love it!' interview with Kevin Keegan, as he threw an Alex Ferguson sized wobbler and subsequently lost the 1996 league title race.[Watch Video]
Truly one of the great live TV moments of all time. It had everything. Anger. Finger pointing. Confusing conspiracy theories. Befuddled presenters not knowing whether to calm things down or stir the pot. The Euro 96 paraphernalia in the background. The old school radio headphones and the crappy faded Sky Sports microphone shield even made it all the more iconic. Most of all though, it was pure passion. For good or for bad, that's what Keegan brought. Was it helpful for Newcastle? Maybe not in the end, but they'll probably never be as loved again.
How it's remembered:
The interview has gone down in folklore as the perfect example of the power of Alex Ferguson's mind games and many blame the Kevin Keegan rant as the reason behind Newcastle surrendering their huge lead at the top to the Red Devils. However, that's not the full story.
Newcastle had just scraped a hard fought 1-0 win at Elland Road, their third 1-0 win in a row. It was a Monday night, the first of three games that week as the epic 1995/96 season came to an end.
Newcastle had kept themselves alive with that win, and were three points behind Manchester United with a game in hand. They had two games to play. United had one. Alex Ferguson's team had a six goal superior goal difference too, which meant a win in their final game at Middlesbrough would likely be enough, though this was not a guarantee.
With goal difference and goals scored tight enough for concern, there was even contingency plans made for a playoff at Wembley to decide the champions.
What was actually going on at the time:
The truth is the wheels were already falling off the Newcastle wagon at that stage.
Keegan's team were famously 12 points clear in January of 1996, and looked for all the world to be ready to win Newcastle's first title since 1927. However, their form took a serious nose dive in the New Year, while United went on a classic title winning run.
From the 22nd January, when United fell to 12 points behind, they would go on to win 12 of their remaining 14 games, with their only defeat coming in that infamous game at The Dell. Once United ditched the grey jerseys - crucial - they got their shit together again, beating Leeds and hammering Nottingham Forest to get back on track.
After United's slip up in Southampton, Newcastle did manage a slight bounce back from their worrying slide. Three 1-0 wins in a row, against Villa, Blackburn and Leeds was an impressive run of results, given the pressure that was on and the opposition. However, much of the damage had been done. The win that night at Leeds was the first away win since the 10th February. In that time, they'd lost four of five away from St. James' Park, including the famous 4-3 defeat an Anfield.
The similarity of opponents for the two teams at the backend of the season was quite remarkable and played right into Ferguson's hands, prompting some of his comments that irked poor Kev so much.
What Ferguson said to annoy Keegan:
Basically Leeds United, under Howard Wilkinson, had come to Old Trafford and almost got a result, after playing with 10 men for 73 minutes and Lucas Radabe in goal, only for Roy Keane to score a late winner for the home side.
Leeds finished 13th the table that year, just five points clear of relegation. For Fergie, trying against Manchester United and not doing it against the top teams was an affront.
After the match Ferguson said:
I can't understand the Leeds players. I'm absolutely in support of their manager. He doesn't deserve his players. If they had played like that all season they'd be near the top. They raised their game because they were playing Manchester United. It was pathetic. I think we can accept any club coming here and trying their hardest, so long as they do it every week.
How Kevin Keegan took it:
He basically saw it as a slight at Newcastle United ahead of their match with Leeds, as he thought Ferguson was implying that weaker teams would try harder against Manchester United than they would against Newcastle. Newcastle managed a hard fought win over Leeds on the night in question, but I think you've got to send Alex Ferguson a tape of that game, haven't you?
Where Stuart Pearce comes into it:
I have searched and searched and I cannot find anything to do with Pearce. One website said that Ferguson had apparently said Forest wouldn't be up to much against Newcastle because Keegan had agreed to play in Pearce's testimonial but I can't find any credible source on that.
Of course, Keegan did claim that Ferguson objected to Newcastle playing Notts Forest on Thursday. United had just taken care of Forest with a 5-0 drubbing the day before the Leeds vs. Newcastle game so he certainly can't have had an issue with them raising their game for United. In fact, that result was instrumental in making sure United's goal difference was close to uncatchable, and took the title race out of Newcastle's hands.
In the end, Forest, Pearce and all, welcomed Newcastle to The City Ground on the Thursday, over the apparent objections of Ferguson, came from behind and kept them to a 1-1 draw, thus making a Middlesbrough win on the last day of the season essential to Newcastle's title hopes.
What happened next?
Newcastle's draw at Forest meant they needed to either hammer Spurs by six goals on the last day of the season and hope Middlesbrough could get a point, or more realistically, they had to beat Spurs and hope their north-east rivals, who would finish 12th in the table, on the same points as Leeds, would raise their game for the famous Manchester United and beat them.
Of course, they didn't. United cruised to a 3-0 win at the Riverside and Newcastle's 1-1 at home to Spurs was irrelevant.
United went on to win the league by four points.
Keegan was gone by January 1997. Ferguson went on to win ten more titles with Manchester United, as well as two Champions Leagues.
How Ferguson viewed the Keegan rant:
Fergsuson always claimed to be a bit surprised at Keegan's reaction because he claimed he wasn't trying to rile Newcastle but was instead looking to light a fire under the Leeds players. Either way the former United boss looks back on it as a moot incident as he felt United would have won the league either way.
This video below – a clip from the documentary 25 Years United: Sir Alex Ferguson – discusses Ferguson's reaction in more depth.
The Kevin Keegan rant bits we forgot about:
Barry Venison for starters.
Andy Gray's tie that appear to have little suns on them.