City No2 Lee Clark was this morning reported to be a wanted man back on Tyneside following Kevin Keegan's sensational return to club management yesterday.
Keegan, 56, was in the directors' box at St James' Park last night to witness Newcastle United's 4-1 FA Cup demolition of Stoke City – less than four hours after the club announced on its official website that the Geordie hero was back in the hot-seat following Sam Allardyce's exit.
Coincidence or not, down in Spain and ex-Fulham boss Chris Coleman was resigning as manager of Real Sociedad. Fifth in the league and with just one defeat in their last 11 games, it was a surprise decision by the 37-year-old – one that immediately had the gossip-mongers installing him as Keegan's No2 at St James'.
The Guardian this morning then continued the Craven Cottage connection when their North-East correspondent Louise Taylor suggested that Keegan would look to add Clark to his backroom staff with the 35-year-old returning to St James' Park as first team coach – less than four months after leaving it to join ex-Toon boss Glenn Roeder in Norfolk.
The 'Fulham connection' doesn't quite hold water – Clark made his ?3 million move to the capital in July, 1999, two months after Keegan had left to take the England manager's job on a full-time basis. Clark would, however, have teamed up with Coleman on the banks of the Thames.
Keegan and Clark would, likewise, have coincided at St James' Park in the former's five-year reign at the helm of the Toon Army.
Indeed, it was Keegan who gave Clark his Premier League debut as a 20-year-old in the summer of 1993; Clark was likewise a mainstay of that thrilling Keegan team that stormed to a 12-point lead at the top of the Premiership in January, 1996, only to famously blow up as the finishing line neared.
The fact that Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has reportedly promised Keegan a ?50 million war chest for both this window and the summer suggests that the Toon hero will have the wherewithal to pick exactly who he wants for 'Team Kev' with The Guardian insisting that Keegan was looking to have his major pieces in place ahead of this weekend's home clash with Bolton Wanderers when he is officially unveiled in front of an adoring Gallowgate.
Already a clutch of Clark's long-time team-mates at St James' are rolling out the welcome mat with United keeper Shay Given describing Keegan's return as 'a dream come true'.
He told reporters: “You dream like the fans dream that Kevin Keegan would come back and maybe Alan [Shearer] would come back as well. But until it was announced today you thought it was just a dream.
“Kevin Keegan has a lot of work to do with the squad and the team but hopefully there are exciting times ahead. We hope to get back to where we were the last time [he was in charge]. He nearly won the league. Everyone remembers the entertaining football we used to play under Kevin Keegan.”
Shearer, apparently, has not been on speaking terms with Keegan for a while; something that might thwart his hopes of joining the latest Keegan revolution – freshly armed with the Ashley's millions.
Speaking after last night's game, Keegan himself was clearly ready for another roller-coaster emotional ride – one that will certainly have Clark's black-and-white blood pumping. Even if it is from afar in his new, Norfolk home.
“It was not a big decision. I love this club, I don't think anyone would ever doubt that, so from that point of view it was very easy,” Keegan told reporters last night.
The fact that the owner Ashley has been watching games in the stands, drinking in the Bigg Market and had, therefore, picked up the very special place Keegan holds in the supporters' hearts was all part of his thinking.
“I met the owner and like him very much,” said Keegan. “I met the chairman and just asked them what they felt was needed at Newcastle and what they wanted. Having spent an hour with the owner it convinced me to come back.
“There may be a bit of unfinished business,” he added, in clear reference to that failed 1996 title bid.
“Everyone has got opinions about what people should and should not do, but I feel this is right. It is exciting – and I am just as excited as when I came here to play at 31 and when I came to manage here for the first time.”
Hearts are beating that much louder this morning among Sir John Hall's famed 'Geordie Nation'. Clark qualifies by birth; Keegan by adoption.
“A lot of people outside the region don't understand this club, I do,” added Keegan. “I know what they want, I know what they don't want, and as long as they are realistic and a little bit patient I think we can try again and help them dream of something.”
Should any approach come, it would be a big test for all concerned as Roeder's new managerial team settles in so well to life at Colney. Clearly, however, a call to arms from Keegan to Clark would have many an attraction – the heart strings might be pulled that hard that Roeder himself would feel in little or no position to stand in his way.
Equally, having been given his opportunity to coach at first-team level by Roeder following his elevation to the reserve team role under Allardyce, Clark may feel he has a debt of honour to stay in Norfolk; that this is where he has made his bed…
Likewise the call, of course, may never come. Read 'The Sun' and Keegan will turn to Manchester City and seek to make his old No2 Derek Fazackerley his right-hand man back on the Tyne.
But with little immediate sign of movement on the transfer front, it is Clark's name that will be filling the messageboards today.