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McDermott: Newcastle’s Cockney Mafia stitched Keegan up — like when Schweinsteiger was going to replace Milner

Date Posted,March 28, 2017

During his first spell at the club, Kevin Keegan had virtually run Newcastle United with the backing of Sir John Hall. There was mutual trust.

There was definitely not the same rapport with the ­characters involved second time around.

Owner Mike Ashley had ­surrounded himself with what the fans dubbed the Cockney Mafia.

There was Dennis Wise, ­director of football, along with Tony Jimenez, the vice-chairman, plus Derek Llambias, who was effectively the chief ­executive, and Jeff Vetere, the chief scout.

During Kevin’s short time back at Newcastle, we didn’t see much of Ashley.

After training in the first few weeks we would go into Kevin’s office, sit round a table with Dennis and his mates and ­discuss targets.

McDermott says Wise (left) advised Keegan to check out potential signings on YouTube (Photo: Getty)

They would suggest ­potential signings and we didn’t have a problem with that – provided the manager had the final say.

Sadly, it didn’t work out like that.

The job was nothing like the brochure.

Over the months, Kevin’s ­distrust of Dennis began to grow. Rightly or wrongly, he didn’t think Dennis and the rest of them had any passion for Newcastle, that it was merely a job for them.

You sensed it was all going to end in tears.

Kevin didn’t have any time for Jimenez at all, but was ­prepared to stick at it because he really loved the club and the fans.

Things came to a head as we prepared for only the third game of the 2008-09 season, a trip to Arsenal.

Kevin got a call from Jimenez saying the club had received a “magnificent” offer from Aston Villa for James Milner . He was a good player who could do a job in a number of positions. Villa had offered £10million but Kevin insisted James was staying.

New Aston Villa signing James Milner at Aston Villa training ground, Bodymoor Heath
Milner did go to Villa, but Keegan didn’t get the replacement he had come to expect (Photo: Birmingham Post and Mail)

We were flying down to ­London for the game when Kevin took a call from Jimenez saying the Villa offer had been increased to £12m.

It was a decent offer, so Kevin asked who would they get to replace him. It would have to be someone really good because Milner was a crucial player.

Jimenez said they had ­accepted the bid and that it looked like they could sign Bastian Schweinsteiger from Bayern Munich.

Kevin said it was a no-brainer – just do it.

Then Jimenez said that, as Kevin knew Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who was on the board at Bayern, could he give him a ring?

“What for?” he asked.

“To ask if Schweinsteiger would be interested in coming to Newcastle,” he was told.

Kevin was incensed.

We were losing Milner but in ­reality had no replacement lined up. I told him it was a joke and Kevin replied: “The swines have stitched us up.”

Bastian Schweinsteiger pours beer over the head of Louis van Gaal after after winning the Bundesliga on May 8, 2010
Newcastle bid €5m for Schweinsteiger — Bayern wouldn’t have sold for ten times that (Photo: Bongarts/Getty)

There was only one thing for it – Kevin would have to ring Rummenigge.

He ended up getting Karl-Heinz on the phone and switched it to speaker mode.

In English, he explained the reason he was ringing him – that he had been told by his club they might be able to sign Schweinsteiger.

Karl-Heinz immediately started laughing.

He revealed Bayern had ­received an email from ­Newcastle that morning offering five million euros for him.

“Kevin, we couldn’t stop laughing,” he added. “If you had offered 50million euros we still wouldn’t have sold him – but five million?!”

After the conversation ended, I looked at Kevin and he was ashen-faced. We had lost a very good player with no ­suitable replacement.

The club had hoodwinked him.

Bayern chief Rummenigge LAUGHED when Keegan called to discuss buying Schweinsteiger (Photo: Bayern/Getty)

The next morning, we were out for a walk in London’s ­Canary Wharf, where our hotel was situated, and the phone went. It was Jimenez, asking about Schweinsteiger.

Of course it all went off.

The air turned blue, with Kevin letting Jimenez know ­exactly what he thought of him. I’ve never seen Kevin so incensed.

He also found out the club was trying to sell other players, like Michael Owen and Joey Barton, behind his back. He was blazing mad. He knew then that was it.

I think one of the problems for Kevin was that Ashley wasn’t involved enough.

After the row with Jimenez, I advised him to ring Mike and tell him what had happened.

McDermott also claims there were attempts to sell Owen behind Keegan’s back (Photo: Getty)

“King Kev, how are you?” were Mike’s opening words. He always called Kevin “King Kev.”

Kevin asked him if he had known what had gone on with Schweinsteiger.

Mike replied he had not known and he would give Llambias a ring. That was it – he never heard from him again on the matter.

I had just finished my ­Sunday roast the day after the game at Arsenal, which we lost 3-0, when Kevin rang and asked me to pop round to his house.

I could tell he was annoyed.

He told me two players were having medicals at Newcastle. Sure enough, a little later ­Dennis rang Kevin and told him the club were signing both players – Xisco for over £5m and Nacho Gonzalez on loan.

Newcastle United Chief Executive Derek Llambias
A blazing row with Derek Llambias was the end of Keegan’s reign, says McDermott (Photo: Getty)

Kevin said he had not ­sanctioned the deals, so how could they sign them? Dennis asked him to have a look a them, insisting they were good players.

“Take a look at them on YouTube,” he said.

That didn’t go down well.

Kevin phoned Ashley again and asked him if he knew of any players Newcastle were signing that day. Ashley said he didn’t, but he would get back to him.

He didn’t.

In a desperate attempt to sort things out, Kevin did agree to go to a meeting at St James’ Park the day after the transfer window had closed.

It was a meeting which ended in a blazing row between Kevin and Llambias, with Kevin leaping into his car and leaving the ground for the last time.

* Adapted by Mike Walters from Terry Mac: Living For The Moment by Terry McDermott , published by Trinity Mirror Sport Media, RRP £18.99 hardback

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