Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fifth Not Good Enough

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fifth Not Good Enough

Article excerpt

Byline: By Simon Rushworth

Freddie Shepherd has broken his silence on Newcastle's frustrating season and insisted Saturday's fifth-place finish in the Premiership is unacceptable for a club of United's size and stature.

The Magpies' chairman made it clear that much more was expected from Sir Bobby Robson's squad following pounds 64m worth of investment over four years.

But Shepherd suggested Newcastle's manager will not be made to pay for an ultimately disappointing campaign after Uefa Cup football was secured at Liverpool on Saturday.

"I'm disappointed, the manager is disappointed, the players are disappointed and I know the fans are disappointed," said the man responsible for bankrolling Kenny Dalglish, Ruud Gullit and now Robson.

"Fifth place is not acceptable. Fourth place was the minimum I expected from this season.

"Now we have to look at everything from the top down, and we'll do that this week."

Shepherd and Robson meet regularly to discuss on-field matters, but this week's showdown talks will see Newcastle's chairman take a hard line with the coach who led United into the Champions League two seasons ago.

It is understood an urgent review of the club's backroom staff is at the forefront of Shepherd's mind, but he added: "Sir Bobby will be the first person to discover what I plan to say in the end-of-season talks. All I can say is that he has another year remaining on his contract. I don't think you sack Sir Bobby Robson."

Losing Champions League football for the second time in 10 months has been a bitter pill to swallow for Magpies' fans everywhere, but the prospect of fewer funds and losing the club's top players has provided genuine cause for concern.

Shepherd, however, does not foresee any unnecessary sales and will release the money Robson requires to strengthen key areas of a team ravaged by injuries this season.

"Newcastle have a reputation for always coming up with the cash to support their managers, and Bobby has spent pounds 64m in four-and-a-half years," he added. "I can never be accused of keeping my managers short of funds. …

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