Football: Shining Knight Calls the Toon to Promised Land ; with a Treasured Champions' League Spot Secured, Robson Looks a Powerful Contender for Manager of the Season
Turnbull, Simon, The Independent (London, England)
It was rather different when Bobby Robson guided Barcelona to a Champions' League place. Back then, in the summer of 1998, he was given the Spanish equivalent of a P45. He had won the Cup-Winners' Cup and the Spanish Cup for the Catalans, as well as qualifying them for the European big league. But he had lost La Liga by two points - to Real Madrid. He was moved sideways to make way for a new coach at the Nou Camp.
Perhaps it would be the same at St James' Park if Newcastle United were to win the Uefa Cup and the FA Cup but finish second in the league to Sunderland. As it is on Tyneside, in the absence of first-class silverware for a 32nd successive season, Newcastle's success in securing a place in the final qualifying round for next season's Champions' League has prompted a clamour for Robson to be rewarded with a knighthood.
The Evening Chronicle launched its "Arise Sir Bobby" campaign on Wednesday lunchtime, less than 24 hours after Bobby's boys made sure of fourth place in the Premiership with a 2-2 draw at Blackburn. It received swift backing from Newcastle City Council and from at least one Sunderland fan, Steve Cram, although the final approval before the forwarding of a nomination to Buckingham Palace would rest with a scarf-waving (if not season-ticket holding) member of the Toon Army.
It would be difficult to imagine Tony Blair failing to apply his rubber stamp - if nothing else, as a reward for saving the Treasury four years of pension entitlement. If Newcastle made it to the second phase of the Champions' League next season, Robson would be pitting his wits against Europe's elite as a septuagenarian manager. He turns 70 on 18 February. That is not so much an overt ageist observation as a respectful mark for a remarkable man who happens to be an inspiration for those of us wondering whether there is life after 40 - never mind for the senior citizenry of the nation.
At the very, very least, he deserves the Manager of the Year award that must surely be coming his way. As Alan Shearer put it at Ewood Park on Tuesday night: "What a transformation in two and a half years! From the bottom of the league into the Champions' League. It's unbelievable."
It is actually not quite true. Newcastle were second from bottom of the Premiership when Robson inherited Ruud Gullit's ramshackle team in September 1999, and they have to negotiate a third qualifying round tie - on 14 and 28 August - before taking a place in the Champions' League next season. The transformation has, though, been astonishing: an achievement to rank alongside the best in the managerial career Robson launched in Vancouver in 1967. It has also earned him a chance of the challenge he was denied at the Nou Camp five years ago.
Robson's one big regret from his time at Barcelona was not being granted the opportunity to …
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Publication information: Article title: Football: Shining Knight Calls the Toon to Promised Land ; with a Treasured Champions' League Spot Secured, Robson Looks a Powerful Contender for Manager of the Season. Contributors: Turnbull, Simon - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: April 28, 2002. Page number: 5. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.