Keegan kick-start trick has Newcastle dreaming of star signings
Newcastle United 3 Reading 0
Before leaving a most satisfied stadium, Kevin Keegan's last words on Saturday focused on turning such satisfaction into anticipation. Asked about names that are floating around his head for recruitment in the summer, Keegan replied: "I've got an idea who I'd like to bring here, but I might be dreaming."
Dreaming is often an accusation in football, but not on Saturday. Keegan has Newcastle United, and himself, dreaming again, just 21 days after he was supposed to be on a precipice.
Optimism is a Geordie condition that will have others harrumphing but if there is a Keegan trademark, it is his ability to kick-start a battery gone flat. He did it at Newcastle first time around, at Fulham and at Manchester City.
It may have felt like a long time before his foot even located the pedal this time but almost a third of Newcastle's 38 points have been won in Keegan's 11 league games. This was the third win in a row and, on the back of the rousing 4-1 defeat of Tottenham, helped erode the feel-bad factor.
So now today is all about tomorrow. And the dream.
And the dream is Thierry Henry. Keegan said it a few weeks ago to a young boy on a local phone-in and he repeated Henry's name again this week at one of the many low-key functions Keegan attends on Tyneside. Henry may sound like fantasy football but Keegan has also expressed pragmatism – "We need at least one new left-back."
But a tone has been set and it is over to Mike Ashley, absent here. "The owner is the one who's going to have to find the finances for whatever's going to happen," Keegan said. "Mr Ashley said he wanted to win something in three and a half years. When we sit down in the next few weeks we'll see how desperate he is to win something in that time.
"That will become clear when we see the players this club will go after in the summer. You hope you could appeal to some of the players who go to the top four clubs and don't play every week, that here at Newcastle you'd get regular first-team football. Those players, like Hargreaves and Nani, go to places like Manchester United wanting to play first-team football every week. I'd like to think we can still go for those players."
After spending the first two months "firefighting", Keegan's talk now is of "setting the place alight". There are examples of Keegan's capability in Michael Owen, in Obafemi Martins, who opened the scoring and in Habib Beye and Joey Barton, starting to relinquish the shackles.
Mark Viduka is another expressing himself. His goal completed a comfortable victory over a Reading team that started well but faded. Safety should be theirs, however, and Steve Coppell can start planning. too. Presumably a bit differently from Keegan.
Goals: Martins (18) 1-0, Owen (43) 2-0, Viduka (58) 3-0.
Newcastle United (4-3-3): S Harper; Beye, Edgar, Faye (Diatta, 83), Enrique; Geremi, Butt (Smith, 79), Barton; Owen, Viduka (Duff, 74), Martins. Substitutes not used: Forster (gk), Carroll.
Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Rosenior, Bikey, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Oster (Convey, 60), J Harper, Cissé (Fae, 73), Hunt; Kitson (Long, 73), Doyle. Substitutes not used: Federici (gk), Duberry.
Referee: L Probert (Gloucestershire).
Booked: Reading Bikey.
Man of the match: Beye.