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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tough Test, Uncertain Era For Newcastle

LONDON -- Newcastle United enter an uncertain era when they play Aston Villa in an English premier league match at Villa Park on Saturday without the inspirational Kevin Keegan in the dug-out.

Keegan quit as manager Wednesday in the biggest shock of the season so far.

His departure made headlines on both the front and back pages of newspapers, and it will be a huge test of Newcastle's character and real title potential when they meet Brian Little's side, beaten only once in their last eight matches.

Newcastle assistant manager Terry McDermott and wily old veteran manager Arthur Cox will be in charge Saturday while the club continues the hunt for Keegan's replacement. Peter Beardsley is reported to be the fans favorite, while the Newcastle board are said to be wooing John Toshack and Kenny Dalglish among others after former England coach Bobby Robson formally turned the job down Friday.

But it is not inconceivable that if McDermott and Cox can string a good run together while negotiations continue they could keep control of the team.

Newcastle's season is by no means over. It is just five points off the pace in the title race with a game in hand, in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup and also still in the F.A. Cup.

Soccer is eagerly awaiting Saturday's match to look for Newcastle's reaction, to see whether Keegan's departure will end their title challenge -- or galvanize them into a side capable of winning silverware without him.