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By ESPN Staff

Keegan coy on Toon return

Kevin Keegan has allowed Newcastle fans to dream of a stunning return to St James' Park.

The former United boss, who led the club through the most uplifting period of its modern history during his first, and thus far only spell in charge from 1992-97, refused to rule himself out of the running to replace Sam Allardyce today.

While also taking care not to enter himself into the race to become the Magpies' eighth manager in the last 11 years, at least for the time being, it appears the lure of the north-east remains strong for the man who led the Tyneside club to the brink of the title in 1995-96.

When asked outright whether he would welcome an approach from club owner Mike Ashley, he told Sky Sports News: 'I really don't know, you're asking a lot of questions I can't really answer.

'I'm not ruling myself out or in or anything.

'It's a club I love, that's what I am prepared to say, everyone knows that, and it's a club I've managed before.'

That Keegan, still only 56 years old, is even willing to entertain the idea of taking the reins at St James' shows the depth of his feeling for the club.

Just three months ago he appeared to rule out his ever returning to top-flight management, saying: 'I don't think it will happen.

'I think my life has gone in a different direction.

'You never know, I mean I do get offers to go back into football, but I made a decision that I would come and do something different with my life.'

Less-than-successful spells with England and Manchester City appeared to have doused Keegan's passion for the game, but it looks increasingly likely that an approach from the United hierarchy could be the spark to rekindle his fire.

Whether his appointment would be alongside or instead of Alan Shearer remains a mystery, although with neither man yet to rule themselves out of the equation, fans' hopes of a Geordie-legend double act remain intact.

By bringing in Keegan alongside United's record goalscorer, it would allow the board to make good on their vow to bring in an experienced head, while also allowing them to benefit from the feelgood factor Shearer's arrival would generate.

With first choice Harry Redknapp having already chosen to stay at Portsmouth, Blackburn boss Mark Hughes remains the bookies' favourite to take over after he too refused to rule himself out following yesterday's win over Bolton.

However, it is the possibility of Keegan, Shearer, or both taking the helm that will most excite the Newcastle faithful - and arguably most tally with Ashley's desire to bring the excitement back to St James' Park.

Meanwhile, Alan Smith has been handed a two-match ban by the Football Association following his sending off at Manchester United on Saturday.

Smith was shown red in the closing seconds at Old Trafford as his former club completed a 6-0 rout over the managerless Magpies.

Smith will now miss the FA Cup third round replay against Stoke on Wednesday and the Barclays Premier League clash with Bolton.

Another former Red Devils midfielder, Nicky Butt, is also out of the club's next two fixtures after he was cautioned for the 10th time this season in the first match against the Potters.