Robson - 30 games in...
Biffa's Analysis of the first few months of Robson's Reign appeared on NUFC.com Friday 18th Feb 2000.
In many ways the rise and rise of the Robson-managed Geordies mirrors the early days of Kenny's reign on Tyneside. Where the miserable Glaswegian took over an inconsistent team and presided over a good run home and away towards Wembley and Europe, so Bobby has grabbed the collar of the Rudi Rabble and shaken it sufficiently enough to land in a quarter final and upper lower league placing.
In both cases, the players who formed the basis of the achievement were already pulling a wage (with varying degrees of customer satisfaction) before the new man posed for the cameras on the pitch. The initial work was to mend internal rifts and recreate team spirit, leading to an improvement in the mood of the club and supporters. When the cheque book came out however, the influx of gypsies, tramps and thieves ultimately led to Kenny being attacked in a Rotherham car park by toon loons and having a public dispute with his one-time employers over who had left who.
Uncle Bobby has certainly made rapid progress in an upward direction, to such an extent that it's almost possible to look upon the 2-1 monsoon defeat by the red 'n' whites as a blessing, for the consequent trapdoor-opening effect it had on a certain Dutchman. And all achieved with a 500 grand midget from Blackburn and some borrowed blokes.
Assuming that we don't slide back into the muddy waters of the relegation spots, the results in the next few weeks will shape what we see for the next few years. By that I mean that Bobby will have whatever money he makes from selling our tat plus the NTL investment to spend on fresh faces, should he feel the urge. Anyone who wants to stick around has a very limited time left to impress the Manager, and the likes of Howey, Goma, Marcelino, Given, Glass, Ketsbaia, Maric, Brady, Serrant, Charvet, Griffin and Hamilton are in severe danger of being asked to vacate the premises by the management. The Miami Dolphins may need a forty two man squad but we certainly don't.
The signing of Gavilan seems at first glance another exotic United purchase, but given the time Robson spent checking up on youngsters before he left Barcelona (remember he missed the Tino 3-2 game on Tyneside to attend a youth tournament in Egypt), the two million pounds spent seems like a genuine investment in the future. At best, the lad will give us a few years before attracting sizeable bids from elsewhere, at worst it's a risk worth taking for a young lad who is cheaper, coachable, shows more promise and has more sell-on potential that say, Silvio Maric.
Perhaps the most telling statistic so far in the Robson era came against Manchester United, where only two of the starting eleven weren't full internationals from the home countries, messrs Helder and Dabizas. Although circumstance slightly forced his hand (Pistone and Solano would surely have started if available), from a fans perspective it's heartening to see that we seem to have emerged relatively unscathed from the dark days of dubious imports (Karelse, Perez, Georgiadis, Andersson, Guivarc'h etc. etc.)
While John Hall is again taking up acres of newsprint with his grandiose dreams of the future and revisiting his famous "team of geordies" quote, perhaps finally Robson is the man Newcastle fans deserve, to preside over an era of commonsense. We've tried the cheque book approach, which has bought us wanted and unwanted media attention in the satellite age, but singularly failed to capture anything tangible. A bit less show and a bit more go perhaps is the way we're rightly heading. Local talent has to be harnessed and a successful side on the park is the best way of doing just that. Whether an impressionable laddie is more or less likely to opt for us if he sees his heroes in black and white coming from Tow Law rather than Tulua is arguable, but the League of Nations approach adopted by Chelsea and other clubs will surely only result in a repeat of the situation where we paid fifteen million notes for a Gallowgate ballboy.
The story of a Newcastle supporter setting off from Langley Park to St.James' Park via London, Birmingham, Suffolk and large parts of Europe is a great one, let's hope for all our sakes it has a happy ending.