JOHN Carver felt the spirit of Sir Bobby Robson on his shoulder on his return to Newcastle United’s training ground.
Newcastle’s new assistant manager made his name in the game as Sir Bobby’s right hand man and admitted he had been full of emotion as memories of the United great came flooding back this week.
But Carver, who was moved down to the Academy by former chairman Freddie Shepherd when Robson was controversially sacked as manager in August 2004, is confident his former mentor would have been delighted to see him back at the club he loves.
“It was amazing really,” said Carver, who has signed a contract as Alan Pardew’s number two until the end of the season. “It was tough going through the gates, but when I stepped through the doors into what used to be his office, there was a lot of emotion.
“There is a massive photograph of him behind the manager’s desk, which I think Chris Hughton put there, but I didn’t know anything about it so it took me by surprise.
“We have a staff meeting in there every day, and it really hit me the first time I went in and saw him looking down from the wall. I have a lot of memories of him and we spent a lot of time together in that room.
“I’m not being funny, but I felt him there on my shoulder at that moment. I know he will be looking down and smiling because he knows how much this club meant to me, and he will be pleased I’m back.”
Carver continued: “I always hoped I would come back, but I never believed I would. There was sadness and, if I’m honest, a bit of bitterness about the way I left the Academy. I lost my job through no fault of my own really, but that’s football.
“I’ve come close to returning a few times, without going into too much detail, and I’m really happy I’ve finally done it. You should always expect the unexpected in football and when I got the call it was totally out of the blue.”
Carver’s appointment ends a long search for an assistant manager as the position has remained unfilled since Colin Calderwood left to become Hibernian manager in October. The highly-rated coach, who has held similar positions at Leeds United, Plymouth Argyle and Sheffield United, as well as spending a year as manager of Toronto in Major League Soccer, admits he is on trial at St James’ Park as he has never worked with Pardew before.
He said: “I’ve only got a contract until the end of the season and that is absolutely the right thing to do, for the club and for me.
“As soon as I walked back into the club I could sense the special atmosphere around the place and there is no point giving me a long-term contract if I’m going to upset the apple cart as it were.
“The manager has got to find out if he can work with me and whether I can work with him. I’d love to have some stability in my life, I’m getting to be known on the circuit as Phileas Fogg as it feels like I’ve been around the world in 80 days.
“But we’ll see how things go over the next few months. Everyone knows the club’s main priority at the moment is survival and stability in the Premier League. Once we have achieved that, then we can start thinking about what the future holds.”
Meanwhile, Alan Smith is likely to be sidelined for several weeks with an ankle ligament injury after he was sent to London for a scan.
United’s medical team will get the results of that scan this morning, but they do not expect the midfielder to receive any good news after picking up the injury in the 1-1 draw with Sunderland last weekend.
Smith has been first reserve midfielder this season, but Danny Guthrie did well against the Black Cats, while Dan Gosling is also pushing to show what he can in the first team following his summer move from Everton and subsequent recovery from injury.