First and foremost we have to bear in mind that Keegan has done nothing wrong. The tribunal ruled that he was constructively dismissed and was forced out of a job he didn’t want to leave.
So what would you estimate that has cost him? First of all it’s cost him the £8.6m outstanding on his contract, which is easy enough to calculate because it’s all down in black and white on the contract. Then there’s his claim for ‘stigma damage’. I do think that’s a fair claim because, let’s face it, this isn’t going to have Premier League teams jumping over themselves to employ him. It doesn’t matter that he’s innocent in all this – mud sticks.
So if Keegan, because of the dirty deeds of Ashley and co, is unable to work as a Premier League manager again, how much do you think that will cost him? I can see that it might all add up to £25m when you get down to it.
In the end, thanks to a clause in his contract limiting compensation payments, Keegan got £2m. Even forgetting the ‘stigma damage’, that puts Keegan down by £6.6m, which is a pretty harsh loss for being illegally forced out of a job you don’t want to leave. So yes, I do think Keegan was robbed.
There are ‘side issues’ too in all this of course. The sentimentalists will say “how can he try to take £25m from a club he supposedly love?” but I’m afraid in the real world of solicitors and legal boffins preparing a case for tribunal, that sort of fairy tale thinking is irrelevant. Keegan’s solicitors will have wanted to prepare the best case they can for him, illustrating the damage this has caused him as emphatically as possible.
Personally I don’t think he ever really expected to get £25m from Newcastle United. I think he may have hoped for more, but not £23m more. If Keegan and his solicitors really did think he was going to get £25m then I would expect this case to be taken on to the High Court (which either side can do regardless of agreements not to). It’s not as if we’re talking a couple of million difference here – £25m is an order of magnitude more than the £2m he eventually got.
But I don’t think it will go to the High Court because I don’t think he expected £25m anyway. I think Keegan will be happy with things as they are, having cleared his name.
From a personal perspective, I’m quite happy with the way things turned out in the end. Even though I have argued here that Keegan was robbed, I don’t really want to see Newcastle United paying out huge sums of money it can ill afford. It wouldn’t be Keegan’s fault if it did have to pay out big money of course, but nevertheless – whichever way you look at it – it is money taken from the club I support and I’m happy it turned out to be a mere £2m.
I still think there needs to be balance in all this though. Ashley and co have screwed up big-time with all this and there’s no denying that, but it is just one incident. It’s a pivotal incident certainly, but it’s not the totality of Ashley’s tenure at Newcastle United. It was Ashley who brought Keegan back after all – however misguided a move that might have been it was something he did to try and please the fans. The Keegangate incident is what Ashley will be most remembered for but I think that’s unfortunate because I truly believe that in other areas he had the right idea.
To us fans it’s irrelevant in some ways. Keegan is gone and won’t be returning. Ashley was going anyway and I can’t imagine that has changed as a result of this tribunal. In fact the only thing that remains constant is us.