Choice of boss is pivotal

EVEN more important to Newcastle United’s future than finding the right buyer for the club will be appointing a top manager to lead it, according to Sir Bobby Robson.

Sir Bobby Robson

EVEN more important to Newcastle United’s future than finding the right buyer for the club will be appointing a top manager to lead it, according to Sir Bobby Robson. And the former England and Barcelona boss believes either Alan Shearer or Kevin Keegan would fit into that category.

The Magpies go into tonight’s Premier League home game against Manchester City in turmoil. Owner Mike Ashley is currently trying to sell the club while Joe Kinnear, in the dugout for the first time after a touchline ban, is only interim manager.

While Ashley’s replacement will be important, Robson believes the identity of the next manager will be even more so.

“The club, financially, has to be stable,” he acknowledged. “But the most important thing for me is the same as it’s always been. The appointment of a top manager is crucial. He’s the puppet master, he pulls the strings.

“All the big, successful clubs have top managers who know the game, can impart that knowledge, who are a good judge of a player, a good tactician, an enthusiast, who get on with the players and know how to handle big players and discipline them.

“Without that sort of manager, you will not run a big club. All the top managers have it: Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, I’d like to think I was one of them. And it takes time. I was at Newcastle five years and it took two years to get it together. Then we finished third, fourth and fifth and then they sacked me.

“What Newcastle needs is a top-class manager and without that, they won’t succeed. We need someone who comes to Newcastle and lives in Newcastle.” Along with Robson, Keegan has been the only manager to inspire real success at St James’s

since the 1970s. His second spell ended acrimoniously in September, though he has persistently been linked with a return. As former Newcastle strikers and popular captains, Keegan and Shearer could expect to be given more time by a fanbase impatient for success.

“Whether Kevin will come back or whether they’ll give it to Alan or a combination of the two or someone else entirely, I don’t know,” Robson said. “But I think both (Shearer and Keegan) are realistic prospects. And I think they’d be welcome, too. Alan might not have any experience, but he knows what the club is all about, knows the supporters, knows how they feel and he’d be dedicated to it. I think Alan will make a good manager.”

With Michael Owen injured tonight, Kinnear needs a replacement striker. Obafemi Martins is rated 50-50 to return from a groin injury but 17-year-old Nile Ranger did his hopes of a Newcastle debut no harm with a hat-trick for the Under-18s in their 3-1 win over Barnsley on Saturday.

SIR Bobby Robson was diagnosed with cancer – this time of the lung – for the fifth time in February 2007.

He has set up the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation to raise money for the early detection and treatment of cancer in the North East.

To donate to the fund, which has already raised over £700,000, visit www.justgiving.com/thesirbobbyrobsonfoundation  or post a cheque payable to the “Sir Bobby Robson Foundation” to: The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, PO Box 307, Heaton, NE7 7QG.

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