It was after the 25th of August 1999 that Newcastle United changed forever. After a devastating 2-1 defeat to our local rivals Sunderland, it left the then manager Ruud Gullit in a perilous position. After rumours of disagreements with Robert Lee, Nikos Dabizas and legend Alan Shearer, his position as manager looked more and more untenable.
On Saturday the 28th of August, a press conference was held where Ruud resigned publicly. He cited interference from the media and intrusion in his private life for the main causes for his resignation but the clubs poor performance was the main reason.
He started reasonably well when he took over in August 1998 after a 4-1 reversal to Liverpool and a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa, 4 wins in the next 4 games moved Newcastle up into 6th place.
Like 1997/1998, Newcastle finished in mid-table but were never at risk of being relegated and from April the 5th to the last game of the season, they did not win a single match only mustering draws from the Tottenham game to the last home game of the season against Blackburn.
Media speculation was rife over who would replace Gullit. Robson’s name was bounded around before but it was not given too much credence as he was managing Barcelona at the time. This time he was available and Robson came home to Tyneside.
He spoke enthusiastically in his first press conference of unifying the team and of trying to keep his beloved Geordies in the Premier League. For the first time since Kevin Keegan, we had a manager who cared about the club and wanted to do it for the fans. There was no self-preservation or ego which was prevalent under Gullit. It was all hands to the pump and the Newcastle ship was sinking. It had to be saved.
Robson’s first game came against Chelsea who spent handsomely under the guidance of Gianluca Vialli. A valiant 1-0 defeat showed a markedly better performance than the pitiful 5-1 capitulation weeks before.
The next home game, Robson’s homecoming was pure fairytale. A newly revitalised Alan Shearer scored 5 goals in an 8-0 defeat of Sheffield Wednesday.
On October the 25th 1999, we won 2-0 against Derby and moved out of the bottom 3 for the first time in the 1999/2000 season.
Newcastle never looked back. Notable wins such as a 5-0 defeat of Southampton and a 2-1 win over Tottenham followed. However, the highlight was a great 3-0 win over Manchester United which was the highlight of the season.
After a turbulent start which nearly saw consigned us to the then Nationwide Division 1, Robson galvanised Newcastle and guided us to a credible 11th place. A FA Cup run also followed with a rather unjust 2-1 defeat to Chelsea where we were the better team in a cup semi-final played at the old Wembley.
The old Newcastle; the entertainers were back under the guidance of Sir Bobby Robson. Newcastle’s revival under Sir Bobby had begun and to borrow the words of the great Kevin Keegan, we were loving it.