Date:Friday December 30 2005
Ex-Newcastle hero Robert Lee has warned Graeme Souness he has to improve on United's current Premiership position - or risk losing top players such as Michael Owen, Scott Parker and Shay Given. Fat Fred says the current squad is 'the best in the history of the club', but Lee laughs it off and says the present squad couldn't live with the side that Kevin Keegan built.
Lee, described by Kevin Keegan as the best 'pound for pound' signing he ever made, helped the Mags to five top-six finishes in 10 seasons on Tyneside. And how can forget 1996 when Kevin Keegan's side somehow blew a 12-point lead to Manchester United to throw away the title?
Lee: 'Tenth place is not good enough for the Toon fans. They want to win something but a decent Premiership position helps too.
'When I was there we came so close under Keegan but the gap has opened long since then. Even Manchester United, who were challenging us then, are way behind Chelsea now. The gap should not be that big and the top teams should be trying hard to bridge that gap.
'These days managers live or die by their signings and you can understand fans' frustrations when you look at the Premiership table.
'Newcastle should be trying to build a team around Michael Owen, Scott Parker and Shay Given and there is also the need for a top-class defender. All three are top-class players. Michael speaks for himself, Scott has proved himself already this season and Shay is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. United need to use those three as the spine of the team and build around them.
'The problem is, if they do not win anything these players will want to leave because there are plenty of teams who will win trophies for whom they are capable of playing. They have not come here to earn money - they are here because they want to win things.
'To be honest, United are a million miles away from the team which almost won the Premiership in 1996. I hate to say that, but in those days we used to have no problems against teams of the calibre of Wigan, Bolton and Aston Villa. It was only the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United and Southampton, who seemed to be our bogey team, who would test us.
'We have the foundations there with the current side but there is some way to go.'
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