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Anorak | Aiming Low

Aiming Low

by | 30th, August 2002

”’TWO years ago, we would never in our wildest dreams have imagined we’d be here,” says Bobby Robson in Monaco, scene of yesterday’s Champions League draw.

Sir Bobby was, as ever, optimistic about their chances

”It’s exciting, it’s great, it’s everything we worked so hard for last season. It’s demanding, it’s exhausting, but we can’t wait for it to start.”

It’s also another episode in the mawkish life of Newcastle United football club. Robson’s rheumy-eyed chatter is infested with all the ingredients that go into making Newcastle United the team most likely to induce feelings of nausea.

It’s the hilarious belief that in this modern era of football, when winning is everything, Newcastle operate as a Corinthian throwback. Manchester United, Arsenal and the rest can chase the mighty euro, but good old Newcastle are just happy to be in there, and, hey, who knows, they might just trip up a few big shots and fancy dans on the way (twinkly-eyed wink to camera).

This bilge has been seen before, notably when Newcastle did become a well-loved team under Kevin Keegan. But under Robson, the Magpies are nothing special. Their fans are not a breed apart, but the same as all others: hungry for success, happy when they’re winning and upset when they don’t.

They do posses a terrific captain in the form of local boy Alan Shearer, who has yet to win anything. But beyond him, true Geordie boot boys are thin on the ground. They have tried to be all things to all people and ended up winning nothing.

But the team that could have won the Premiership is now the team that is happy just to be taking part. And looking at the money they’ve spent in the past few years, can that really be good enough? Bobby, at least, thinks so.

”I kept saying to the chairman,” Bobby tells the Times today, ”give us Barcelona, give us Barcelona.” Why Barcelona? Barcelona have never won the Champions League, are a team in turmoil and are overshadowed by Spanish giants Real. As it is, Barcelona are in another group, and Bobby has to do with some others.

”Juventus, Feyenoord, Dynamo Kiev – all great names, aren’t they?” says Sir Bobby, encouraging an answer to the affirmative. ”But we’re no mugs either and we’re going to enjoy it.” Why not just stick on a hard hat and grab a Tommy gun while you’re at it, Bobby?

Listening to Bobby Robson anyone would suppose Newcastle were a Europe-bound Wimbledon, who had risen from nowhere to give the big boys a bloody nose. They are not. They are part of large public company that wants to make money – and lots of it.

And the reason they are in Robson’s fairytale land is less down to them and more down to the success of Manchester United, Leeds and Arsenal, whose relative successes earned another berth for an English team.

It’s just a shame that it was Newcastle and not a side of genuine no-hopers, rather than the Magpies’ perennial doe-eye failures.’



Posted: 30th, August 2002 | In: Back pages Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink