Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Kevin Keegan Talks About African Players

The legendary Kevin Keegan, former Liverpool star and current manager of Premier League side Newcastle United, has hailed the impact of his side's African players, saying they are 'vital' for the future.

It's nice to see African players making an impact.

"I'm lucky, most of my African players have experience of big leagues; they're very important to us," Keegan told the BBC last week.

The Newcastle side have struggled since Keegan took over a few months back. But things are starting to change. Nigeria's Obafemi Martins and Geremi of Cameroon have played key roles in Newcastle's recent turnaround in form.

Both scored in the Magpies recent 4-1 away win against Tottenham Hotspur.

"They are all very experienced. Obafemi Martins has played in Italy (Inter Milan), Habib Beye in France (Strasbourg and Marseille), and Abdoulaye Faye (Bolton Wanderers) and Geremi (Chelsea and Middlesbrough) have played in the Premier League for a long time," Keegan added.

"They're all great trainers and very professional - and that's something you don't always get with young players from elsewhere."

DR Congo's Kazenga LuaLua, brother of Lomana, has broken through the youth ranks this season and with the recent signing of Senegal's Lamine Diatta, Keegan now has six players from Africa at his disposal. (My POV: Keegan's side will rival Chelsea's soon. Jose Mourinho was synonymous with drafting Africans into his side, players like Didier Drogba and Jon Obi Mikel.)

Keegan continued fawning over Africa, saying the African profile in world football has heightened since his last time in charge.

"Africa is a place you can't ignore now because there are so many talented players there. You just have to look at the Premier League which is just littered with players from the continent. There's evidence of players who have come to England and performed very, very well."

Super Eagles' striker Obafemi Martins thinks Keegan has been like a 'breath of fresh air' to the side.

"Things weren't going right with Sam Allardyce so the owner decided to do something about it.
Our training now is sharper and we look to attack more when we have the ball, so that's been good for me. It's good to have Kevin Keegan here."

Former Real Madrid and Chelsea star Geremi was signed by former manager Allardyce and made club captain. But despite his recent demotion the Cameroonian has relished the opportunity to prove himself to Keegan.

"It is always difficult because every manager has their own mind. I respect that and the fact that it took some time for him to get to know the squad. But now he knows us all better and we hope we are going to do a lot of good things together," Geremi said.

After a stuttering start to his reign, Keegan is now targeting a top 10 finish for the Magpies.

If he achieves his aim, Newcastle's African contingent will surely have played a big part in that success.
(My POV: It's great to see another Premier League side relishing the contributions of their African contingent. In time, many more will feel the same. This is only the tip of the iceberg ... Africa is indeed the 'wave of the future.')

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