Kevin Keegan – Breaking into Heaven


kk-debut

Newcastle United v. Queens Park Rangers 28 August 1982

Just a goal. That was all we wanted. A goal. Not cups or league titles. Not world dominance. Just a goal. Just one man scoring. Make this day better, Kevin. Make it even more magical. Give us a memory to take to the grave.

I’m ten, Kevin. Make me understand. Make me get what this club means to everyone, to every member of my family. Make me love it, Kevin. Truly love it. Make me crave it for the rest of my life. Set the bar in the gods. Score today. Just do that.

I don’t understand why you’re here. No one does, not really. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s beautiful and the ground is twice as full as the last time I was here. People are locked out. The excitement is something I don’t know yet, but I will never forget it.

We had to get here in the morning, and the place was rammed with people. There were thousands of them, all desperate to get in. It still stands out.

Everywhere you looked there were Newcastle fans: happy, excited, expecting something special.

You don’t forget magic. You don’t forget falling in love, or seeing your children for the first time. That day was just as vivid. It was twelve o’clock, three hours before kick-off, and on Strawberry Place you couldn’t move for people.

They had King Kevin scarves for a pound and there were queues of supporters everywhere you looked trying to get in.

They tangled like boxed-up Christmas tree lights in the old West Stand car park. The stand had huge letters on that read out the name of Newcastle United FC. There were steps leading up to the entrance. It seemed perfect. Walking up to heaven. They were the steps you had to stand on when a cameraman asked you to wave a King Kevin silk scarf.

There wasn’t an inch of space in the ground. St James’ Park has never been squeezed that full since. Crammed full of people, full of hope and dreams and men injecting their club into their souls.

You can’t touch disbelief, but you could feel it.

You’d been European Footballer of the Year twice. They call it the Ballon d’Or now. You were Messi. You were at Newcastle. In Division Two.

It didn’t make sense. It woke up a city.

Just a goal, Kevin. Score. Please score.

And on the hour, you were put through. The crowd inhaled. You can hear it if you go on YouTube. The crowd inhaled and hoped and prayed that once, just once, it would all make sense. And you hit a shot that you later claimed the sardine-packed terraces of the Gallowgate End sucked into the goal.

In the 60th minute a football ground exploded. It was like thunder. It could have woken the dead. You were engulfed. People were delirious. They had to drag you back to the Newcastle half to restart the game.

I watched men fall in love with Kevin Keegan that afternoon, on 28 August 1982.

‘I didn’t want to come out of the crowd,’ you said. ‘I just wanted to stay there forever.’

It was the perfect day.

Newcastle fans have never stopped believing in their dreams since.