31
Aug 04

Bye bye Bobby

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Bye bye Bobby
“We’re in a dog-fight, so the fight in the dog will get us through – and we’ll fight.” – Sir Bobby Robson

I knew Sir Bobby’s days were numbered on Saturday when he left St Alan of the Gallowgate on the bench for the game against Aston Villa.

Poor, muddle-headed old fella. Didn’t he know his Newcastle United history?

The faithful had seen it all before. Wednesday 25 August 1999. Sunderland v Newcastle United. Magpies’ manager Ruud Gullit, attempting to settle a score with Alan Shearer, leaves the St James’ Park icon out of the first XI for this bitter match against their local rivals. Newcastle lose 2-1 in the pouring rain. Three days later, Gullit is resigned from his post.

Five years and two days on, we’re looking for another new manager.

“What he found out on Wednesday night was that football is chalk and cheese, and it will be the same on Sunday. I don’t know whether it will be chalk or whether it will be cheese.” Bobby on Kieron Dyer.

Things have been going pear-shaped at NUFC for some time. The bad start to the season (two points from four games), the string of poor results that goes back much further, the rows between Bobby and Alan, Bobby and Dyer, Bobby and Robert, Bobby and Bellamy. The bizarre outbreak of conjunctivitis in pre-season. The sale of the club’s only top-flight centre half. The ludicrous chase for Wayne Rooney, a trophy player, sure, but not one who’d stop the leak of goals at the back, something that amounts to a betrayal of our world-class goalkeeper.

And the chubby chairman, Freddy Shepherd (remember him?), a loathsome man who models himself on Ken Bates and Doug Ellis, and fancies himself as being the real boss of the team. That’s Bobby’s real downfall. That’s where the real story lies.

“Robert said I was picking the wrong team. At the time I was – because he was in it.”

For all the fact that we’ve never been anything other than a top-six also-ran during his time, Bobby was loved by the fans.

We were able to forgive him the odd miscalculated South American purchase, the inability to remember his own players’ names, the lack of any silverware during his reign. Because he was Sir Bobby. Probably our biggest failing, but one that I was happy to live with – at least for the time being, til the end of his last season, so long as we were safe.

Usually there’s some sense of closure – often even joy – when a failing manager is sacked by one’s club: Dalglish and Gullit being the two most recent examples for the Gallowgate faithful.

Not this time. Not surprise, either. Just emptiness.

It’s probably best for the club. The new man will get the chance to buy a couple of players, offload a couple of deadweights, maybe even string a few results together. Who knows, we could even win a trophy – something that’s never been done in my lifetime.

Whatever happens, I’ve no doubt that however successful Newcastle is in the future, Bobby will be missed and fans will look back on his tenure as a happy time.

Maybe he had to go now, maybe this time he wouldn’t have been able to turn round our traditional poor start, maybe we’d be struggling to stay in the big time come season’s end. We’ll never find out.

But this much I do know: the grand old man of English football deserved better.

“It’s over, forget about it, it’s gone. We’ve enjoyed the ride, brilliant. We’ve paid the money, got the ride, got off the tramcar – let’s go again.”

Wise words.

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