Sir Bobby - Gone but never forgotten - Part 3
Some of the finest moments of Sir Bobby's Newcastle time came in the 2002/03 season. Despite lacking the time at the top of 2001/02, we ended up finishing third, whilst juggling a second run in the Champions League. It was Europe where the drama really lay. Sir Bobby guided the team past Zeljeznicar (with a 4-0 win on my 21st birthday!) before being drawn Juve, Feyenoord and Kiev in the group stage. Losing 2-0, 1-0 and 2-0 to Kiev away, Feyenoord at home and Juve in Turin, we were dead and buried. Not to Sir Bobby.
In a feat never managed before we beat Juve 1-0 at a raucous SJP with Griffin scoring before seeing off Kiev 2-1. Finally in Rotterdam the impossible was made possible with a 3-2 win, Bellamy x2 and Viana notching in a last minute sensation as Juve reserves beat Kiev in the Ukraine.
The second stage saw equal madness as we drew Inter, Barca and Leverkusen. Two wins over Leverkusen, the one in Germany on Sir Bobby's 70th Birthday as we sung it to him from the stands, masked a game at SJP where we lost 4-1 to Inter and lost Shearer and Bellamy for most of the game and second stage campaign. A two all draw in the San Siro saw us come so close, before Barca dashed the dream 2-0 at SJP.
2003/04 saw us finished fifth and grizzle at it. Perhap now, as we sink rudderless and directionless in the league, we should appreciate what a bunch of spoilt brats we really are and were. Sir Bobby was criticised for speaking out against the fans following the 1-1 draw with Wolves which saw us finish fifth. How justified he was now with hindsight.
The season got off on a bad foot with the loss to Partizan Belgrade in the CL qualifier. Freddie Shepherd's relationship with SBR seemed to dip after this meaning it was heading to one of those inevitable NUFC conclusions...
Despite guiding us to fifth, we found ourselves untypically down the bottom after four games. Shepherd 'shot Bambi' as his succinctly points out and ever since we've been quite simply a joke. Souness, Roeder, Allardyce, Kinnear, Hughton - men not fit to tie his shoelaces.
Sir Bobby's time as Newcastle was so special for me personally. Working full time following leaving university it meant I was able to watch Newcastle week in and out for the first time and Sir Bobby's boys meant it was a pleasure as opposed to the chore / obligation / duty we find ourselves in now. Under his stewardship I met my fiancee at the match, a lady as equally as distraught with the great man's death as I am.
Without overexaggerating Sir Bobby and Newcastle dominated both our lives from our late teens through to mid twenties. He provided happiness and a little heartache but invariably humour and humility. He made Saturday a day to look forward to and watching him go from prowling the touchline to being rolled down it in a wheelchair in less than five years has been so hard to take.
The frailty of the human body could not be better demonstated by this giant of a man being bowed but never beaten by the sickness that ailed him. Sir Bobby, whereever you are, may you rest in peace. Thank you for the memories and for a period of happiness at NUFC that won't be replicated ever again as it won't be under your management.
SBR - The Legend