International Soccer
Owen and King Kev hope to turn back the clock for Newcastle

By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's been 12 years since Kevin Keegan had Newcastle on the brink of winning the Premiership title, while a little over 10 years ago, a precocious 18-year-old named Michael Owen scored one of the most dazzling goals in World Cup history against Argentina.

Keegan's 1995-96 Newcastle side would eventually blow a 12-point lead to Manchester United and finish in second place, while England fans are still waiting for Owen to live up to the unbelievable expectations that were cast upon him after he announced his arrival on the world stage in such grand fashion.

"King Kev" eventually quit in January 1997, and although he enjoyed a spell as England manager, he was never able to get back among the EPL's elite.

Owen has been the recipient of some extremely bad luck in his pursuit to become England's next great striker. Foot and knee injuries along with an assortment of muscle strains have kept him from fulfilling his promise over the last 10 years, but this season has provided both striker and coach another opportunity for redemption.

Michael Owen has been the recipient of some extremely bad luck in his pursuit to become England's next great striker.
Fans on Tyneside have suffered through some lean years of late, watching their beloved Magpies finish no better than seventh in the last four EPL seasons.

The team got off to a brutal start under former manager Sam Allardyce last year, and on January 16, Keegan was surprisingly named head coach despite having spent the last three years out of the game.

He was a popular choice for the Toon Army, and although the team didn't respond right away to its new manager, an offseason of work under Keegan seems to have the ship sailing in the right direction.

Newcastle has taken four points from its first two games, a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford against defending champions Manchester United, and a 1-0 win over Bolton this past Saturday that saw Owen bag the game-winning goal after coming off the bench.

The former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker had missed all of Newcastle's pre-season work because of a calf problem, and he was unable to take part in Newcastle's opening match at United, but when his team needed him the most, Owen stepped up in a big way.

Starting strikers Damien Duff and Obafemi Martins were both injured, giving Keegan little choice but to throw Owen into the scoreless game. The manager had not planned on giving the recovering striker many minutes, but it paid off in the end.

"He's a top-class player with a great goal record," Keegan said. "He was 75 percent fit, and I was going to put him on for the last 15 minutes if we got on Easy Street, which we were never likely to be today."

Owen's goal-scoring prowess has never been in doubt since he signed from Real Madrid in August 2005, but his health has been an entirely different issue, and one that Owen hopes will be put to rest.

"When I've always struggled it's when I've been stop-start," Owen said. "The first 10 training sessions and the first two or three games after I've got injured are very important to me and as long as I can get through the next couple of weeks, the next couple of games, then I'm off and away."

Newcastle fans will no doubt be keeping their fingers crossed in the coming weeks, and hoping that Owen can improve on his impressive goal record of 21 tallies in 48 appearances for Newcastle.

While Owen's health is likely to be a big question throughout the season, one thing that looks to have returned is the fire that Keegan brings to a team.

After quitting at St. James' Park 11 years ago, Keegan has returned for a second spell that he hopes will be as successful as his first stint from 1992-97.

During that time, Keegan helped Newcastle earn promotion to the Premiership and become title challengers shortly after arriving, an accomplishment that endeared him to the Toon Army.

Now, King Kev has set his sights on returning Newcastle to prominence, while the ability of a certain striker to rediscover his old magic will go a long way towards making that dream a reality.



Comments? Criticism? Applause?
Contact Tim Keeble at tkeeble@sportsnetwork.com
Contact Brian Westfall at bwestfall@sportsnetwork.com

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