In April 1996, Kevin Keegan spoke his mind in a bizarre post-match interview, live on Sky Sports. His Newcastle side - having just beaten Leeds United 1-0 - were lying second in the league, 3 points behind Manchester United and with two games in hand. The title race was still on and it was a real possibility that 'Special K's' Magpies were about to win the Premier League.
The 95/96 Premier League season marked a real change on numerous fronts - it was the first 20 team league campaign, having been reduced from 22. Manchester United formed a new era under Alex Ferguson, as the scotsman got rid of a number of high-profile, established players and promoted the now infamous class of 92' to the Old Trafford ranks - a masterstroke in football hindsight. Liverpool also posed a real threat as potential champions elect - whilst Tottenham and Chelsea finished way off the pace. Similarly Manchester City - who were relegated come May.
The Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen, expressed his view that 'You don't win anything with Kids' - in response to Manchester Uniteds 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa in August 1995 - a comment which would later haunt him for the rest of his career. It was though, somewhat of a surprise when First team trio; Kanchelskis, Mark Hughes and Paul Ince were allowed to leave and replaced by younger, lesser known fledglings, David Beckham, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes. Perhaps the Geordies up north relished a title challenge against the Youth team prospects.
Blackburn Rovers, having just won the 1994/95 league season, failed to live up to expectations. A reluctance to further improve the squad effectively proved costly, as they languished in a disappointing 7th place. A less than harmonious dressing room at times, The Rovers did however possess Alan Shearer still and even though the season was a less than successful one, Shearer still managed a healthy 31 goals this season - and the golden boot for that matter.
As the season panned out however, there were only really two teams in this title race - Liverpool threatened at times - but for the majority of the campaign, it was the Magpies to lose. 'The entertainers' as they were dubbed, certainly had a knack of entertaining. With David Ginola, Peter Beardsley and Les Ferdinand in their squad, their ability to score goals shone through on a weekly basis. Keegan's 'we'll score one more than you' approach to football, on the whole paid off. That is of course apart from famously dropping points at Anfield, in which a late Stan Collymore winner left a forlorn Keegan slumped over the advertising hoardings - in complete deflation, having watched an incredible 4-3 clash in April of 1996. That aside, Newcastle at one stage had a 12 point lead over the Red Devils - a lead which at the time, seemed enough.
Manchester United did have history of winning league campaigns - a history Newcastle did not, which seemed to count for something as the season crept to its conclusion. Having welcomed back the slightly unpredictable Eric Cantona to their starting eleven, after a lengthy 9 month ban for Karate Kicking a fan the season before, Fergie knew the importance of the Frenchman. A some may say, lenient approach to Eric's crime, Ferguson was willing to support him - a decision which proved a clever one, as Cantona hit many a match winner in their pursuit of Newcastle. The 2-1 win against the Toon Army in December, set them on their way as goals from ex Magpie Andy Cole and Cantona himself, dropped a little reminder that they weren't to be forgotten about. Another narrow defeat to United later in the campaign, followed by a miserable 4 defeats in 6 games suddenly meant the impetus was now with Fergies Boys, not Kevs.
However draining his sides sudden drop off had been, Keegan still had a little glimmer of hope. Although Newcastle were now effectively relying on Manchester United to slip up, the Newcastle Gaffer sensed an opportunity to react to Fergies viewpoint that opposition sides, such as Nottingham Forest, who were due to play Newcastle in the remaining matches of the season - were likely to not try as hard against them, so that they can stop Manchester United winning the league. Keegan Nibbled, the much publised rant followed and his boys later drew with Notts Forest 1-1. Newcastle later drew with Tottenham 1-1 too, subsequently gifting Manchester United the title. Turns out you can win something with Kids, if they are indeed actually quite good.