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By ESPN Staff

Report: Keegan and Ashley hold talks

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has reportedly met Kevin Keegan for talks in London tonight.

The subject of the talks was unknown, and it was unclear whether Keegan could be in line for a return to the club.

Keegan resigned as Newcastle manager on September 4, stating: 'It's my opinion that a manager must have the right to manage and that clubs should not impose upon any manager any player that he does not want.'

Sky Sports News have reported Keegan met Ashley and that discussions took place before the meeting came to an end.

Keegan's departure led to a backlash from supporters against the Newcastle board, and specifically owner Mike Ashley and executive director of football Dennis Wise.

Protests have been planned ahead of tomorrow's Barclays Premier League match against Hull at St James' Park.

Keegan may have to pay compensation to Newcastle for leaving his post after less than eight months, and discussions over that issue could also have prompted a meeting with Ashley.

Keegan made a celebrated return to Newcastle in January when he replaced Sam Allardyce, whose reign at the club had been short and unsuccessful.

Although his team struggled in his opening games, Keegan had Newcastle playing attractive football towards the end of the season and an impressive run of results saw them pull well clear of relegation danger.

Hopes for this season were high, and the signings of players including Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez appeared to strengthen Keegan's squad.

However the dealings in the final week of the transfer window left Keegan dispirited and led to his departure.

Keegan's assistant Terry McDermott and reserve team coach Adam Sadler have also left the club this week.

McDermott had been taking first-team coaching since Keegan's position at the club were first cast into doubt on September 2.

McDermott had a long coaching association with the club dating back to Keegan's first stint in charge in 1992.

Tomorrow's match will provide the first real focal point for a mass demonstration by supporters and the city's police chiefs are preparing for a large-scale operation.

Some supporters are expected to boycott the fixture, while others are set to march in protest against the board.

Newcastle captain Michael Owen has insisted he and his team-mates cannot afford to be distracted by events off the pitch as they attempt to collect three vital points.

He said: 'Whatever the events of the past couple of weeks off the field, all the players here are proper professionals, we are all paid to do a job, and we have to go out and continue to do that job.

'The only thing the players can do is play to their best and get good results for the club, and we have to focus on doing that.'

Owen added in his programme notes: 'We are all in it together, we all have to pull together and we all want the best for this football club.'

Whether Ashley will be at St James' to take his usual seat in the directors' box tomorrow remains to be seen. If Keegan is present, it would represent a staggering turn of events.

Caretaker boss Chris Hughton had seemed likely to be at the helm for as many as three matches.

More than a week of speculation has seen a host of names put forward as manager but three -- those of Tottenham number two Gus Poyet, Blackburn boss Paul Ince and former France captain Didier Deschamps -- emerged at the top of the pile.

The apparent meeting between Keegan and Ashley tonight led some bookmakers to stop accepting bets on who would be the club's next manager, after a plunge on the former England boss.

One of Keegan's reasons for deciding to leave the club was his belief he had not been able to strengthen his squad enough to compete, and his fears appear to have been well-founded with injuries leaving it desperately thin.

James Milner's departure and Joey Barton's suspension apart, the Magpies have concerns over Habib Beye and Gutierrez, who suffered a shoulder injury on international duty with Argentina, while Jose Enrique and Damien Duff are also sidelined.

Geremi and Claudio Cacapa are available again, but on a day when fans have been urged to boycott club outlets, they could face an uncomfortable afternoon watching their team.

Newcastle old boy Peter Beardsley has urged the Toon Army to give their backing to the players.

'Whatever happens tomorrow, the most important thing is that the crowd gets behind the team and we get a win,' he said.

'Newcastle United the football club will always remain the most important thing.'


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