Ruud Gullit’s tenure at St James’ Park will always be remembered for his crucial decision to drop the ‘undroppable’ Alan Shearer against local rivals Sunderland on that awful, wet August night in 1999.
The image of the despondent Dutchman in the St James Park dugout, rain pouring, and his number nine alongside fans’ favourite Duncan Ferguson in the background, is ingrained in the minds of the Toon Army faithful.
Many remember the scoreline that day – 2-1 to the visitors – but not everyone recalls who was given the nod to replace the Geordie icon and the fiery Scot to lead the line – the cauldron welcomed Paul Robinson.
The then 20-year-old striker, signed from Darlington a year earlier, admits it wasn’t only a shock to the fans, but also to him that he was included.
“I had the feeling of ‘how could I play instead of Alan?’ He was a legend and it was all a bit crazy but I got my head down and had to think about the game.”
In fact, it was Robinson who set up Kieron Dyer to dink the ball over Thomas Sorensen for the opening goal before the away side took all three points thanks to finishes by Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips.
The boyhood Sunderland fan admits it was a tough decision to sign for Newcastle in the first place:
“It was definitely a hard choice, but football is football and I was just doing my job.”
He was grateful though, as it gave him the opportunity to play under Sir Bobby Robson, a man he calls an ‘outstanding coach and manager’ and he thinks that in hindsight, he shouldn’t have left the Magpies.
However, come Sunday, he will be firmly rooting for a red and white victory and isn’t convinced that Newcastle’s recent 6-2 thrashing of Norwich will affect the outcome:
“It’s all about who wants it more on the day. The derby is all about bragging rights. Nobody wants to lose the game and for me, Sunderland v Newcastle is the biggest game in English football. I have mates who won’t speak to their Geordie pals in the build up.”
Robinson, who left Newcastle for Wimbledon in 2000, believes the Black Cats are in need of stability and isn’t a fan of the frequent manager changes at the Stadium of Light, but thinks the appointment of Sam Allardyce is great news for the club.
He also shrugs off any issue with the new man in charge having links with their bitter rivals, saying: “I’m sure Sam will want to turn Newcastle over just as much as every Sunderland fan to make it six in a row!
“I think it’s a fantastic appointment as he seems to get the best out of the players wherever he has been and I can’t see it being any different at Sunderland.”
He believes that the two sides will never get cut adrift from their Premier League rivals – as Gary Neville recently suggested – but he does think the pair’s lack of success recently is a cause for concern.
“The North East always produces fantastic talent but with the way the game is going and the money that is involved, it is very difficult to compete with the attraction of the big hitters in the Premier League.”
You can follow Jamie on Twitter @jir1987