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AT THE start of the Eighties decade, United had declined dramatically and were languishing in the Second Division. Gordon Lee had replaced Harvey as boss yet he in turn soon gave way to Richard Dinnis and then Bill McGarry.

But it was Arthur Cox who steered United back again to the First Division with ex England skipper Kevin Keegan the focus of the side having joined the Magpies in a sensational deal in 1982.

Keegan captivated everyone on Tyneside and United stormed into the top division in a style only bettered by Kevin's own brand of football in the next decade. Alongside Keegan were youngsters Peter Beardsley and Chris Waddle, as well as seasoned campaigners like Terry McDermott and David McCreery.

Paul Gascoigne soon followed, as did Jack Charlton as manager. Newcastle consolidated their place in Division One but then a period of selling their best players - Beardsley, Waddle and Gazza - rocked the club, as did a share-war for control of Newcastle United.

The Magpies tumbled back into the Second Division and were in a perilous state. They had little money, star players headed south and crowds dwindled.

With the club hovering on the brink, Newcastle United needed a saviour. They not only found one, but two, as Sir John Hall and Kevin Keegan joined forces to create a formidable duo.

When Keegan returned to Tyneside to replace Ossie Ardiles as manager on a short term contract in 1992, United were struggling at the wrong end of Division Two. Sir John had all but taken control of the club and he needed a small miracle to stop the Magpies from tumbling into the Third Division for the very first time in their history.

If Sir John was to transform the near bankrupt club they simply had to survive relegation. Just as before, Keegan's mere presence captivated the region. United's disgruntled supporters became excited, expectant ones over-night.

They packed St James Park again and United survived. Sir John Hall now turned his attention to a master plan to develop Newcastle United into one of the superclubs of Europe. Kevin Keegan stayed on as manager and immediately the powerful duo swung into action.

The club's finances were transformed; St James Park redeveloped into a stadium as good as any, now accommodating over 52,000. Keegan brought in new players, many international superstars. It was the start of a special five years under his guidance.

The First Division Championship was secured and Premier League clubs were faced with a new influence in the game. The Black'n'Whites joined the elite for the 1993-94 season and United very quickly became recognised as a force claiming two Runners-Up spots and just missing out on the title trophy.

The club invested heavily in players and United's squad has been a virtual all international one containing players from throughout the globe. Players like David Ginola and Tino Asprilla from abroad, and British stars like Alan Shearer and Duncan Ferguson.

The Tyneside club has built up a reputation of playing an attacking brand of soccer and under the management of Kenny Dalglish, Newcastle entered the Champions League and reached the FA Cup final in 1998 only to fall to Arsenal. With another world personality in control, Ruud Gullit, Newcastle again reached the FA Cup final only to lose, this time to Manchester United.

The club finished the century with Sir Bobby Robson at the helm who manoeuvred the Magpies back again into the UEFA Champions League.

Copyright: P. Joannou, Newcastle United Club Historian