Rob Lee might be one of the most underrated players of the Premiership era. He was certainly far too often overlooked at international level in favour of more household names. At club level Lee was magnificent, a driving force from midfield with an extraordinary ability to score and create goals. You may not partner Lee with the technical skill of Ben Arfa or the range of passing of Cabaye but Rob Lee was an all-round midfielder who did everything to a very high standard. His passing was excellent because he hardly ever gave the ball away. He knew when to release a pass and when to hold on to it, possessing that brilliant turn with the outside of his right foot to change direction in an instant. He was a supremely intelligent footballer who had tremendous consistency.
He also developed his game beautifully evolving from attacking midfield to holding, forming a great partnership with Gary Speed in the Robson days. Previous to that, Lee also had a run in with Gullet who disgracefully refused to give him a squad number. Robson instantly reinstated him to the squad when he took over from the disillusioned Dutchman. But Lee’s greatest days for the club undoubtedly came under the guidance of Keegan as United drove towards the top of the Premier League in the early to mid 90s. In the ‘So Close’ season many praised Ferdinand and Ginola in the early months, and rightly so, but Lee was in incredible form. Keegan described Lee as ‘the best midfielder in England’ half way through that season, and his performances cemented that. For some reason the media never really embellished Lee’s ability in the same way they did with other players of the era. And so, Rob was left as the nation’s understudy to players with bigger names, if not superior talent.
But for Newcastle, Lee continued to be an instrumental player. His link up with his pal Shearer was clearly evident in some of Shearer’s greatest goals as Lee laid on some superb assists for our record scorer. He was an adopted Georgie too, with a clear affinity with the club and the people of Tyneside as he did more than his fair share for the community.
A great player, Newcastle stalwart and a gentleman, Rob Lee comfortably makes my top five.