Two games still to play but 'realistic' Keegan already writing off Newcastle's hopes for next season

Last updated at 14:29 03 May 2008

Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan admits his side are a long way away from scaling

the heights reached by Chelsea this season.

The Blues head for St James' Park on Monday determined to keep themselves

firmly in the race for the Barclays Premier League title having already booked a

Moscow showdown with Manchester United with the Champions League trophy up for


Keegan briefly closed the gap on the big boys during his last spell in charge

on Tyneside, and Sir Bobby Robson too flirted with the upper reaches of the

table during his reign.

However, a club which at one point this season was too close for comfort to the

relegation zone has fallen away in recent years and knows there is much hard

work to be done before they can mount a credible challenge once again.

Keegan insisted on his return to Tyneside that would be his mission, although

he is realistic in his assessment of how long it could take.

He said: "Newcastle fans are realistic. We are a long, long, long way from


"It doesn't give me pleasure to say it, but I say that because it is a fact.

"You can look at it and admire it, but you know it's not going to be there for

us next season.

"I know it as manager and the fans know it, if they are honest.

"They might say, 'There might be a chance if they get bogged down with


"Yes, of course you can dream, but the reality check says that we are not

going to be competing in games like that.

"This is our big game and our chance just to measure ourselves against


That said, Keegan is looking for his players to continue their encouraging

finish to the season by pushing Chelsea all the way and denting their title


The Magpies are unbeaten in seven games, a return which has seen them climb

from the fringes of the fight for survival to the relative comfort of


While that might be way short of their expectations at the start of a turbulent

campaign, a positive result against one of Europe's form sides would go a long

way towards setting the stage for an improved showing next season.

Keegan said: "It's a chance to test ourselves to see if we have progressed, or

is it a false dawn? Have we rebuilt ourselves enough so we can play these


"All those possibilities are there for us. We could spoil their party and stop

them winning the championship.

"If we give them a good game, we will take something out of it; if they cause

us a lot of problems, we will learn something from it.

"If we beat them, we can then maybe start to think that this squad is so much

better than the league position suggests.

"We have got a lot of big name players here as well. They might have more than

us, but we have got a few."

Keegan hopes to have defender Abdoulaye Faye back after he missed the 2-2 draw

at West Ham with a groin problem, although David Edgar, who deputised at Upton

Park and suffered a cut head, should also be available.

James Milner will return to the squad after almost two months on the sidelines

with a foot injury, but there is likely once again to be no place for unsettled

Frenchman Charles N'Zogbia.

The 21-year-old has been unable to force his way into Keegan's plans in recent

weeks and it would be no surprise if he left St James' this summer.

Keegan, however, has urged him to follow the example of Alan Smith and Damien

Duff, whose response to being left out of the team has been to redouble their

efforts on the training pitch.

He said: "Charles has got to wait for his chance to get back in."

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now