20 years on: The story of how Newcastle almost won the Premier League

Newcastle fans

It's been 20 years since Newcastle came closest to capturing the Premier League, and the way it transpired was quite the story.

General view outside St James' ParkGeneral view outside St James' Park

Having only been back in the top flight for a few years, Newcastle were relishing life back in the big time in 1996 with successive top six finishes bringing European football to the North East. The man leading the turnaround was none other than Kevin Keegan who had actually played for the club back in the early 80s.

When he took over as manager in 1992 his former side were in trouble, teetering on the edge of dropping down to the third tier. The future looked dark until Keegan transformed them into a side capable of challenging for the title - which is exactly what they did 20 years ago.

After spending around £16 million on the likes of Les Ferdinand, David Ginola and Shaka Hislop, the Magpies made a storming start on the pitch as they essentially led the league from August onwards.

By Christmas they'd established a 10-point advantage at the top of the table as the prospect of a first Premier League crown looked increasingly likely. Faustino Asprilla and David Batty made their way to St James' Park in the new year as the side went from strength to strength, predominantly off the back of Ferdinand's phenomenal goal-scoring form.

QPR chairman Tony Fernandes and director of football Les Ferdinand in the standsQPR chairman Tony Fernandes and director of football Les Ferdinand in the stands

Despite a loss to closest rivals Manchester United, the Geordies extended their lead to 12 points with just 15 games remaining With fans ready to start their celebrations, a dramatic dip in form coincided with the Red Devils' sensational surge for the title as they were winning games for fun. A clash between the two saw Alex Ferguson's men take home the spoils, ending Newcastle's 100% home run in the league in the process.

The standard Fergie mind games were in full flow as they eventually overtook their rivals, inevitably leading to infamous Keegan rant live on Sky Sports where he declared "I would love it if we beat them, love it". However that would never come to fruition as results on the final day confirmed Manchester United as the champions of England once again.

With the club coming so close yet so far and now residing down in the Championship, one wonders whether or not they'll ever reach those lofty heights again.

Kevin Keegan - Newcastle United ManagerKevin Keegan - Newcastle United Manager

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