Kevin Keegan has insisted Newcastle will always be a big club even if they do not always act like one.
Keegan twice managed the Magpies, but eventually ended up fighting and winning a claim for constructive dismissal after walking out of his second spell at St James’ Park in September 2008.
He was back on Tyneside on Monday to witness the unveiling of a statue of striker Alan Shearer, who was signed for a world record B£15million in 1996 during Keegan’s first reign at the club.
Asked if Newcastle have not always felt like a big club since the highs of his time in charge, Keegan replied: “It is a big club, it just sometimes doesn’t act like one.
“That’s happened with a lot of clubs, not just Newcastle. You could say the same about loads of clubs.
“I don’t have anything to do with inside there now, but you’ll never lose what these people feel about this football club. They might not like certain things at certain times, but they’ll still be there, they’ll always be there.
“They’ll always surprise you like they did when Alan signed – 15,000 people turned up.”
The Magpies were relegated from the Premier League for the second time in owner Mike Ashley’s nine-year reign at the end of last season.
However, the retention of manager Rafael Benitez on a permanent basis coupled with a summer rebuilding programme and a positive start to the new campaign have gone much of the way towards dispelling an air of gloom hanging over the club, and Keegan is convinced they are once against heading in the right direction.
He said: “Newcastle should be in the Premier League. They are not in there at the moment, but they will be this time next year.”
But it was the past rather than the future which occupied minds on Tyneside on Monday as Shearer unveiled Tom Maley’s statue of him in celebration of his decade and club record 206 goals in a black and white shirt.
Keegan said: “It’s wonderful. Most times when you get a statue put up to you, you’re dead, so that’s a big bonus for Alan that he’s actually been able to unveil his own statue! Not many people get that privilege.
“But he deserves that. He came to this club when he could have gone to Manchester United. He wanted to play for this club.
“All right, it’s not in the grounds of St James’ quite, but it’s probably in a better position here on the road where everybody who walks past every day can see it.
“It’s a fitting tribute to a great guy who wanted to play for this club despite the fact that he probably gave up quite a few trophies he could have had.”