Newcastle fans have a lot to thank Kevin
The Sunderland striker's goal meant the end of Ruud Gullit, led to Alan
Shearer staying on at St James' and Bobby Robson taking over.
Robson's first job was to recall Rob Lee, frozen out and forced to watch the
Sunderland game on his sofa - a match he admits he wanted the Magpies to
lose. Lee lifts the lid on his Ruud awakening in skysports.com's BIG
Newcastle fans can thank none other than
Sunderlands Kevin Phillips for the fact that Alan Shearer is still the
talk of the Toon. Thats the verdict of Magpies midfielder Rob Lee.
The former Charlton man believes that had Phillips not struck a 74th-minute
winner in last seasons North East derby, Shearer would have left St
James' Park. The then England captain had been dropped to the bench by Ruud
Gullit and, as one of several senior stars to suffer under the Dutchman, Lee
believes he would have left the club had Newcastle not lost 2-1. Lee
Everybody saw their relationship wasnt made in heaven. Alan Shearer
was left out of the derby and if theyd have won, then maybe hed have
been left out of the next game. At the time he was England captain and you
cant have the England captain not playing.
Some senior players had already left
and I dont think hed have been too far behind.
Phillips scored though, Sunderland won 2-1 and Gullit flew the Magpies nest
within the week - and no-one was happier to see him leave than Lee. An
England international with 21 caps to his name, Lee was not even given a
squad number when the dreadlocked one swept onto Tyneside - and this
Saturdays derby does not bring back happy memories. If Shearer thought he
had it bad on the bench, his pal and former international team-mate was
stuck at home on the sofa - cheering Sunderland on. That's the worst
possible thing a Newcastle player could admit to, but the 34-year-old had
his reason - Gullit.
I didnt even have a shirt, never mind any involvement in the match.
So I didnt even go to the game. It is the only time I have ever missed a
Newcastle United game. Quite bluntly I did not feel as though I was
welcome and I stayed at home. I sat and stared at the text until Kieron Dyer
scored. I then turned it off until 10 minutes from the end when I put it
back in and found that we were losing. And I have to say that I was happy.
It was the only time I ever wanted Newcastle to lose.
There was talk of a return to former club Charlton, but Lee rode the storm
while Gullit departed under a cloud - leaving his reject to return to the
fold in the number 37 shirt. Lee said:
At the start of the season, the lads werent exactly excelling
themselves for whatever reason. I think we were bottom or second bottom
after five games. I felt that if that went on there was only one conclusion
and that was the manager leaving. And while there was a slight chance
that he could leave, I was going to stay. Luckily enough for me and in my
opinion, the club, it went well and we got the right man in the end.
That man was the grandfather figure of
English football - Bobby Robson. A Geordie who had enjoyed club success in
Europe, and totally different to Gullit. He bought Lee straight back into
the side and although his return to these shores started with a defeat at
Chelsea, Robsons first home game saw Lee return to the side and Shearer
hit five as Sheffield Wednesday were crushed 8-0. Robson guided Newcastle to
the relative security of mid-table and although Lee admits that they can
do much better this season, he has no doubts as to what has made the
difference. He said:
Basically we did it with exactly the same players, apart from Kevin
Gallacher, who we bought and did well for us. But other than that he had
exactly the same players as Ruud Gullit. So I think its down to man
management, the way he treats his players, the way he speaks to them and
gets the best out of them.
Lee will line up in his new-found role as
sweeper - at 34 he is nicknamed Matthias Zimmer by his younger colleagues -
against Sunderland and he is likely to come up against a certain Kevin
Phillips. Newcastle fans will do well to remember: no Phillips goal could
have meant no Shearer. Its a funny old game and at last, Rob Lee is the