Kevin Keegan’s ‘Entertainers’ were unique, insists former Newcastle United wing-wizard Keith Gillespie

Keith Gillespie in action against PSV Eindhoven during his Newcastle days
Keith Gillespie in action against PSV Eindhoven during his Newcastle days

Newcastle United may never produce a team like the Entertainers again. In fact, football probably won’t ever see their like again.

That’s the view of former star Keith Gillespie.

Keith Gillespie

Keith Gillespie

Gillespie was a part of Kevin Keegan’s famous United side of the mid-1990s, which came within a whisker of breaking the club’s trophy drought, running eventual champions Manchester United close in both 1995/96 and 1996/97.

But Gillespie accepts while they’ll never be remembered for success, the fact they are remembered so fondly, and at all, is compliment to their quality.

“I always say to people, could ask you who came second in the league two years ago and you’d be scratching your head,” said the pacy Northern Irish winger.

“Not many people remember the side who comes second but because of the style we played, people will always remember that.

“It was unique. That team was amazing to be part of it.

“I probably doubt Newcastle will see a team like it because we had a gung-ho attitude and a manager who just told you to go and play, go and entertain.

Managers now have too many strategies. It was 4-4-2 and Kevin would come in and do a team talk – it was, ‘Same team, same again lads.’ That’s how easy it was.

“You didn’t need to complicate it because the previous week you’d maybe gone away and won three or 4-0 so why come in and waffle about anything?

“Times have changed and I don’t think we’ll ever see that sort of gung-ho attitude, trying to entertain, in football again.”

Gillespie is in Toon to play in a special commemorative match to mark 20 years since Keegan’s Entertainers beat Manchester United 5-0 at St James’ Park.

Instead of pulling on the famous black and white, Gillespie will be turning out for the Manchester XI at Kingston Park on Sunday.

And he’s hoping he, alongside the likes of Tino Asprilla, Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand and Rob Lee can rekindle a bit of that magic tomorrow.

Reflecting back on that match itself, Gillespie said: “I had a good view of it because I was sub that day!

“It’s iconic now isn’t it? Philippe Albert’s chip. It’s a Sky Sports moment.

“It’s not very often Man United come to town and you do that to them.

“Unfortunately it was a one-off because we didn’t end up winning the league again. We had such a good squad and on that day we proved it.

“We didn’t do things easy. I struggle to remember a 0-0.

“We had them kind of players – 4-4-2 with myself on the right, David Ginola on the left, Lee, Peter Beardsley, Ferdinand, Shearer – you’re going to entertain with those sort of players and you’re going to have high-scoring games.

“That’s what fans want to see. They don’t want to see drab games.”

Quite possibly Gillespie’s most memorable moment at Newcastle came almost 12 months later.

Keegan was long gone, so too was Ferdinand. Shearer was injured but Champions League football was on Tyneside for the first time in the Magpies’ history.

It was his cross from the right on to the head of Tino Asprilla that put United 2-0 up against Barcelona.

“Tino was unplayable that night,” said Gillespie.

“It was a performance you wouldn’t see again – he was that good. And he was playing against Barcelona. Some of the things he did in training were incredible.

“Without a shadow of a doubt it’s the best game I’ve ever played and when I look back on it and you think, who would you want to have your best ever game against, you’re going to go Barcelona. Why not?

“I remember putting a couple of balls in to Tino.

“It’s a good job we didn’t play another five minutes or we would have lost again.”