Kevin Keegan has backed Rafa Benitez to take Newcastle United back into the Premier League.
Benitez’s side lead the Championship by three points ahead of Saturday’s home game against Fulham, after taking seven points from a tough run of three away matches.
And Keegan – who guided the club to promotion in 1992-93 – is confident that Newcastle can maintain their charge towards the top flight.
“Football means so much in this region,” said Keegan, who was in Gateshead this week to record a song with Special Olympics athletes.
“It’s so important that they get back in the Premier League, and I think they’ll do that this year.
“They’ll win the league and they’ll get back to where they belong.
“And then it’s tough, but it’s a big enough club to carry it and it’s got all this fantastic support.”
United’s home gates this season have averaged more than 51,000, and Keegan isn’t surprised to see that the club has been so well backed in English football’s second tier.
“The club will be there forever,” said Keegan. “People will come and go, but the club will be there forever.
“They’re great supporters, even when they’re at their lowest after a bad game on a Saturday. They say they’re not going to go next week.
“Then, by the time Monday comes, they’re thinking ‘ what will I do?’. Then Tuesday comes and they think ‘I’ll probably go again’. By the time it’s Wednesday, they’re going to go again.”
Meanwhile, Keegan recorded a new version of “This Time”, England’s 1982 World Cup song, with athletes from the region.
It will be played as the Northern Region athletes walk out at the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics GB National Summer Games in Sheffield this summer.
Keegan recorded the song with athletes from Gateshead Special Olympics club.
“Sport’s really the way forward for everybody,” said Keegan. “It’s something that everyone can do.”