BLACKBURN goalkeeper Brad Friedel has revealed how he almost signed for Kevin Keegan and Newcastle United 14 years ago.

Rovers' Mr Dependable nearly became part of the Keegan revolution, during the former England boss's magical first spell on Tyneside in the mid-1990s.

But, despite spending three months with the Magpies, Friedel was forced to return to America because of problems over a work permit.

Now almost a decade and a half later, Friedel returns to St James' Park tomorrow, looking to heap more pressure on Keegan, who has yet to win a game since he agreed to go back to Newcastle for a second spell as manager.

Reflecting on his time under Keegan's wing, Friedel said: "Back in 1994, I did sign a contract with Newcastle but I got denied on the work permit.

"I spent around three months with the club whilst we lodged the appeal. Kevin Keegan was the manager back then and everyone was buzzing down there.

"If you speak to most Newcastle fans, they will tell you it was a very exciting time for the club.

"Kevin is an infectious guy - the type of person players want to play for.

"I know he's only been back a short time but he will be an asset to the club, because of his energy and the way he motivates people.

"Given time, he will eventually come good but, hopefully, not this weekend!"

During his first spell at the club, Keegan was hailed as the Messiah after he saved the Magpies from relegation to the Second Division, and then led them to promotion - and the promised land of the Premiership - in his second season.

More success followed in the top flight, and they should have won the title itself in 1996, only to blow a 12-point lead during the run-in.

Not long after that, Keegan left but, after an 11-year absence, he then made a dramatic return last month, when new owner Mike Ashley bowed to popular opinion and invited him to succeed Sam Allardyce.

The fans were quick to hail it as the Second Coming', but Keegan has since discovered the size of the challenge he has agreed to take on, with Newcastle losing four and drawing two of the six games he has overseen so far.

On top of that, the appointments of Dennis Wise (as director of football), and Chris Hughton (as assistant manager), seemingly without Keegan's prior consent, have further muddied the waters.

His immediate brief must now be survival - the Magpies are only six points above the bottom three - and only then can he start focusing on the major rebuilding job that faces him.

"I can't really comment on that," said Friedel.

"I don't know much about Newcastle now and the way things are run there, especially since the new owner arrived, so it would be wrong for me to talk about what they do and don't need.

"I think there's been a big change in the infrastructure, from top to bottom, and it's a totally different club now to when I was there.

"I just hope they don't start getting it together until after this weekend."

Although Newcastle appear to be in a tailspin after conceding 16 goals - and scoring just three - in Keegan's first six games in charge, Friedel insists the Magpies still have enough quality to get out of their present predicament.