1012: PREMIERSHIP: Sacking Robson wo
by : Chris Sherrard
A great manager was sacked when Newcastle United and Sir Bobby Robson parted ‘by mutual consent’ this week. It’s a definitive sign of the times that the pampered, under worked young millionaires, otherwise known as footballers, at St James Park have finally got their way. Player power is alive and kicking and has prematurely ended Robson’s love affair with his hometown club.
For whatever reason, Newcastle’s players were clearly not playing for their manager in recent times. The seed of poison was probably instilled when the club failed to overcome Partizan Belgrade and take their place in last season’s Champions League proper. Since then, with the exception of some notables, the players seem to have stopped playing. And for all his tremendous managerial record and standing in the game, Bobby Robson couldn’t get them to switch on again.
That’s a shocking indictment on modern footballers, particularly some of those who have been assembled on Tyneside. What marks a good player out from the rest is his determination to win every game, scrap for every ball. Even if they are gazing straight at a defeat, they keep going. Too often last season certain Newcastle players didn’t want to know. Except to collect their bumper pay cheque at the end of the week. The manager can only do so much in that situation. If it was a question of getting his own passion for the black and white shirt over then it’s baffling how he could have done any more. It’s as obvious as the Tyne Bridge that there are few characters who love Newcastle United as much as the ex-England manager.
But once you have lost the dressing room it’s time for the manager to go. Which is truly a sad situation in this case. Robson was still fighting as hard as ever to bring silverware to the club, even if it was clear his playing staff weren’t. It was his lifelong dream to win a major trophy for Newcastle. That dream has been ended. Not by anything he did, but what his players didn’t do: respect him.
The fact that some of his players obviously didn’t respect Sir Bobby speaks infinitely more about them as people than about the man himself. But it’s not just the manager that those players have little or no respect for. By refusing to step onto the pitch in a Newcastle shirt, Kieron Dyer shot a bolt through all the hard-working Geordie supporters who work themselves to the bone so that they can afford to sit in the Gallowgate and roar on their team. They could overlook the extortionate wages that Dyer picks up every week if he was trying to win a football match for them. The proof is that he has no interest in sweating for the cause. Devoid of all respect for the many thousand Toon fans who would cut off a limb to represent the club, Dyer is at the root of all that is wrong with the game right now.
But he is not alone at Newcastle. His cohorts in flattering-to-try include French winger, Laurent Robert, and Lee Bowyer. Here are two men who were handed a big chance by Robson to play top class football in front of adoring supporters. Both let him down. Craig Bellamy has always been weighed down by his excessively big mouth but, by speaking publicly how the manager’s tactics were wrong and then threatening his own departure if Wayne Rooney was brought to the club, he too has shown the lack of respect inside the dressing room for the fallen manager. Is it a coincidence that both times a Newcastle manager has relegated Alan Shearer to the subs bench they have been removed themselves just days later?
Sir Bobby Robson is a man who deserves better than the indignant end he was given. He has conducted himself, as always, with great decorum despite coming under fire from all sides at the club this season. It was clear from Freddy Shepherd’s comments that this was going to be his last season at the club. The pressure that must have put the manager under is immeasurable. And just when he needed the players he has invested so much of his reputation and the club’s cash on, they let him down. But, I believe, he still has much to give to the game. He would have been the perfect man for Alan Shearer to learn from at the end of this season. Now that won’t happen there are plenty of clubs who could use Robson’s services in some capacity, whether as full-time manager or footballing advisor to a young manager somewhere.
Newcastle can get rid of the manager because it is their cheapest option. But if they are going to win anything they need to eradicate the chronic malaise which is so evident in a lazy dressing room. The players need to wake themselves or the club will find themselves as a ‘sleeping giant’ for quite a few more years to come. Robson’s epitaph as a Newcastle manager deserves to be one where he had won the club a trophy. Unfortunately the rug was well and truly pulled from under him by the young men he trusted with so much.