SIR Bobby Robson thinks Newcastle United should “easily” avoid relegation after Saturday’s morale-boosting win over Fulham – but has warned they face a busy summer, with five new signings needed to turn the Magpies into contenders for Uefa Cup qualification.
Robson’s last job in management was at United between 1999 and 2004. And since returning to the ranks of supporters he has been a regular in the St James’s Park directors’ box.
The 75-year-old officially launched his Sir Bobby Robson Foundation in good spirits yesterday following the 2-0 win which lifted Newcastle six points above the relegation zone.
“I’m a fan now, which is very different and strange for me sometimes, but I still enjoy it,” he said. “Saturdays are still for football and I go to games as often as I can. When Newcastle attack I’m on the edge of my seat, and when they defend I’m on the edge of my seat, so it’s a wonder I don’t fall off.
“Newcastle needed the confidence Saturday will bring but they needed to play a bit better as well. I saw the match against Birmingham City where in the second half they did make an improvement in the way they played – a better attitude, better type of football, better shape and not so many weaknesses. They got a valuable point.
“The win can only bring a more relaxed attitude, although they will still have to be very determined about how they play the next matches. I saw more players have better games (against Fulham) than in recent weeks. Recently I’ve come away and thought one or two players were poor but not so much against Birmingham and on Saturday.
“Now when they play better teams, can those players play to that level? If they can there’s no doubt Newcastle United will be in the Premiership next season and they will do it easily.”
Having led the Magpies into two Champions League campaigns, Robson is saddened to see them at the wrong end of the table. However, he expects owner Mike Ashley to provide the funding needed to rectify that.
“Newcastle have the resources to take things on in the summer and I hope they do,” he said. “There will need to be a bit of rebuilding. I think they’ll need five new players better than what they already have and that will entail spending a fair bit of money but that
shouldn’t be a problem. When you see Aston Villa, Portsmouth and Blackburn Rovers up there … why shouldn’t Newcastle be challenging too?”
With Sunderland and Middlesbrough also winning on Saturday, the prospects for all three remaining in the division are improving, leaving Robson to look forward to April 20’s Tyne-Wear derby.
“The derby promises to be a real humdinger,” he added. “I’ll be the first in the stadium for that one! I’m black-and-white through and through and always will be, but it’s a great passion of mine that all three clubs should survive and prosper in the division. I’m confident they will. Sunderland and Middlesbrough are very important to this region.
“Sunderland’s victory probably topped the lot. Going to Villa Park and returning with three points was probably the biggest victory they’ve achieved under Roy Keane. If they’re all there next year, which I’m sure they will be, you can see the three of them sparking off each other and pushing each other to do better.”
Robson was delighted to see Michael Owen and Mark Viduka score against Fulham as he expects both to be pivotal in what is left of the campaign.
“It’s great to see Michael Owen getting two goals in two games and he’s still a vital player,” the ex-England manager commented. “Mark Viduka has been a maestro. He’s the kind of player who can have you purring with delight when he’s playing well or tearing your hair out when he’s not, but he’ll be very important in the next few weeks.”
Robson’s foundation will fund cancer research and treatment, a cause close to his heart after contracting cancer five times, including inoperable tumours in his lungs.
The hope is to raise an initial £500,000 to fund 12-bed treatment rooms, a laboratory, and consulting rooms for a new Cancer Care Centre at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, though he has no intention of stopping there. Donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/TheSirBobbyRobsonFoundation or by posting a cheque to: Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, PO Box 307, Heaton, NE7 7QG.