It is now eight years since the death of Sir Bobby Robson and the manner in which he was ejected from the club he so loved, still hurts.

After building such an exciting, young team, that had still not really reached its potential. Only by now having Rafa Benitez in charge do we have a manager who receives the same levels of adulation as received by Robson.

Yet just four games (two draws and two defeats) into the 2004-05 season, Chairman Freddie Shepherd decided SBR’s time at St James Park was up after five years. The fifth place finish from the year before was also put forward as a reason, a season described by Shepherd as a disappointment.

The next time we finished fifth, eight years later, it was regarded as an incredible season. How times change quickly. Sir Bobby was not faultless towards the end of his tenure. For all the poor luck with injuries, United did blow the chance to finish in the top four the previous season with awful draws against Wolves and Southampton at the end of the season. Robson also sold two key players in his excellent team during his final calendar year, Nolberto Solano and Gary Speed.

Both would later show they were sold when they still had a lot left in the tank (and managed to prove so at the clubs they moved onto). Losing two experienced pros from the dressing room probably didn’t help Robson’s cause either but it was also an example of one of his main philosophies during his Newcastle tenure – buy young players with real potential. He brought in James Milner as a Solano replacement, who wasn’t exactly a bad buy. It was a shame SBR never got the chance to nurture one of the brightest talents in the English game.

Yet after a crazy 4-2 defeat at Villa that was it, five thrilling years ended in one of the most brutal fashions. That sacking is still one of the most unjust I can remember, and looks so even in 2017, when managers come and go all the time. As bad a decision as it was from the board, it still could have been rectified had we made a great appointment to follow Robson, or at least damage limitation. Enter Graeme Souness, perhaps one of the greatest examples of a manager dismantling a team. He arrived having had a reasonably successful spell at Blackburn, although an underwhelming appointment.

There was no reason to particularly think our place in the top six would be under threat. He had inherited a squad with reasonable quality. Apart from Milner, the other signings that summer were Stephen Carr (a logical upgrade on Andy Griffin), N’Zogbia (Robson’s long-term replacement for Robert), Nicky Butt (Speed replacement) and the controversial signing of Patrick Kluivert (thought to be pushed by Shepherd).

Souness still had a reasonable squad and made a reasonable start in going unbeaten for eight games – but he never had the same squad harmony Robson did. An initial unbeaten streak and some impressive performances had raised hopes that we could once again challenge for a European place. A classic Souness false dawn. Despite having a fully-fit Craig Bellamy, he never used him wisely. Bellamy may have been controversial, but whenever the Robson team looked close to peak, Bellamy was usually a key man.

Obviously, as we all know, eventually that working ‘relationship’ came to a head, but it’s not surprise when you consider how often during that season, Bellamy was shoved out on the right wing to accommodate Kluivert. Anyone who thought of pairing Big Al and Kluivert together at that point in both men’s careers, should have been nowhere near the club. Neither had any pace to stretch the better defences.

graeme souness

Bellamy was always the perfect foil for Shearer and yet he was shunted. Souness should have seen sense and aimed to keep him under wrap but instead let his own ego hurt the team. Yet this was the manager who received financial backing.

Nowadays Rafa has to work with virtual pennies compared to the rest of the league, back then we were considered big spenders. Only Newcastle United.

Near enough all his buys were shocking. Boumsong and Babayaro to replace Woodgate and Bernard respectively, were absolute car crashes. He managed to dismantle the side in near spectacular fashion. Great players of the previous few seasons, like Jenas and Robert, were alienated under Souness. The harmony was so bad even Bowyer and Dyer ended up knocking lumps out of each other during a game. The club had gone from being genuine title contenders at the start of each season, to almost farcical levels.

It’s a classic example of a manager trying to stamp his mark on a club but in the process destroying it. His buys after the end of that first season got even worst. The names of Owen and Luque still bring shudders to many round these parts and with good reason.

It is even more incredible when you consider the damage was done so quickly. Within five months of replacing Sir Bobby, Souness had Bellamy shipped off to Celtic. No replacement striker was bought.

The chairmen of that time seemed to give the manager keys to the castle. Now in 2017, we have the exact opposite problem.

We have a manager that has the backing and support of the fanbase, yet it seems for most of this year, he has worked with his hands tied. It’s a shame similar restrictions were not imposed on the dour Scot when he replaced Sir Bobby. Every time football pundits get rated, I am amazed when anyone actually has him (Graeme Souness) down as a good one.

There is a reason he has not worked as a manager since then…

He took over a team that had finished fifth and managed to get them down to 14th, even with decent cup runs that should have been considered unacceptable. It was, and remains, one of the worst jobs done in Premier League history.

When you really study the job done, only one question remains. How did he last as long as he did? For me he remains the most incompetent manager in Newcastle United history.

You can follow the author on Titter @JackLaceyHatton

(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])

  • Kneebotherm8

    That egotistical buffoon,Freddie Shepherd,had a lot to answer for. He’s the one that took the club to the brink of financial and footballing disaster.

    • Leazes Ender

      He took himself and his family to a financial cornucopia at the same time….. I think the two things are linked.

      • Oooh bobbi fleckman

        Oh blimey, Leazes, you do actually understand figures! Yes, they were linked, a cash cow cannot be milked forever.

  • Lord

    I can never read enough articles highlighting how bad Souness was for us. And although Shepherd is as culpable for his disgraceful treatment of Sir Bobby, at least we don’t have to put up with Freddie on Sky Sports every week acting like he knows it all.

    Shocking manager, arrogant, egotistical man and we’ve been in decline ever since.

    • Jezza

      Or to bo more precise, a shocking manager, arrogant, egotistical man with a bad toupe.

      • Rich Lawson

        Not noticed that,does he really wear a wig ? Brilliant.

        • Jezza

          Yes he wears a wig. 100% it’s a syrup. Look at footage from the 1992 FA Cup final and you will see his hairline noticeably receding. Now he’s got full coverage. If you look closely at him now you can clearly see it’s a toupe.

  • Leicester Mag

    Souness fantastic footballer, sh!tehouse of a manager and person.

    • Jezza

      I saw him play in the flesh many times and never thought he was a fantastic footballer, decent, yes but not world class. He was also a real thug on the pitch. Never liked him.

      • Rich Lawson

        Agreed,and his idea of man management was to offer any discenting voices out in the car park after the team talk.Dour thug on and off the pitch.

  • Paul Patterson

    Note- Gary Speed was a Shepherd sale, not a Robson one.
    And Stephen Carr ‘a logical upgrade on Andy Griffin’? – Not really.

  • steve

    As much of a hero as Sir Bobby was, the dressing room had been lost before Souness arrived, Shearer and Bellamy hated each other, N’Zogbia and Dyer had overinflated ego’s and it was well known that the younger players were taking advantage of Robson’s deteriorating mental state.

    • Big Al 1967

      I also have it from a good authority that a player who shall not be named had a major say in Sir Bobby’s sacking

      • Oooh bobbi fleckman

        Tell us, Big Al…..err 1967, who could it be? Shearer certainly had a role in the appointment of Sourness.

  • Leazes Ender

    Its such a shame what Charnley has done to Rafa….

  • Mal

    Whenever the sacking of SBR comes up in an article/comment written by a supporter it is nearly always stated how shocking it was. It seems to be conveniently forgotten that one of the main reasons he was sacked was because a large number of supporters wanted him out. I think he had gone something like 12 games without a win and in the last game of the previous season the ground almost emptied at the final whistle and those that were left made their feelings known to the manager and players.
    What I find annoying is ex players such as Bellamy and Dyer saying he was the best manager they ever had, yet the way they conducted themselves contributed to his sacking.
    Sometimes peoples’ memories get clouded by the passage of time.

    • Lord

      I remember the booing at the Wolves game where we drew 1-1 and effectively ruled us out of a Champions League Spot but not the widespread discontent that wanted SBR out. But then we didn’t have the Mag back then to see who was moaning and we could be in our own little bubbles.

      Still, there’s ways and means to get rid of a manager and abruptly 4 games in was an undignified way to treat Sir Bobby, he deserved better. He certainly deserved better than to have his team ripped up by Souness.

    • goggsy

      Agree with you there mal,you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone.its obviously sad to say but there wasn’t many who disagreed with the sacking and nearly all wanted it. At the same time most also thought that the appointment of souness was a very odd choice. Personally I despise the man profusley (souness)but I hate that horrible fat headed,real Madrid candidate more.

  • MadMag83

    There’s no smoke without fire, fans wanted him out. Thought it was a terrible decision at the time, still do. I remember being dismayed at the appointment of Souness, he’d done little at Blackburn to suggest he would be a suitable replacement. Hate the man along with Shepherd. Between them they turned this once proud club into a joke.

    • Jezza

      I think the time was right for him to leave, not least because of his advancing years and health problems. Top be fair Fat Fred did offer SBR a “retirement package” at the end of the previous season but he turned it down.

      • MadMag83

        Sir Bobby was a football man, he would have wanted to manage Newcastle for as long as he could. The situation shared some parallels with Wenger towards the end of last season. Arsenal finished 5th, everyone called it a disaster and said it was time he walked away but he hasn’t but if he had done they would be struggling to find a new manager to emulate the success he’s had with the lack of money spent in comparison to those around the top 6.

        • Jezza

          It was really time for SBR to step aside for his own sake as much as anything. Managing NUFC is no job for a man well into his 70’s and in failing health. Agreed he wanted to stay on, he was very stubborn that way but removing him from the job at that time was essential for his own as well as the good of the team.

          • MadMag83

            Maybe, but not for Souness! I can’t recall who else was around at the time but he certainly wasn’t the smart choice. They could have moved SBR upstairs so to speak, they didn’t need to sack him in disgrace like that. I remember Fat Freddy likening it to shooting Bambi, if only someone had shot the fat controller before he sold out to the pie man.

          • Jezza

            Couldn’t agree more. It was definitely time for SBR to go but replacing him with Souness was all wrong. As you say Souness was not the smart choice. He wasn’t the first choice either or even fifth or sixth. He got the job in the end because nobody else Fat Fred had approached wanted it.

            The shooting of Bambi was unfortunate but it could have been avoided had SBR accepted the “generous retirement package” Fat Fred had offered him at the end of the previous season.

          • Big Al 1967

            Let us not forget that Blackburn were on the verge of sacking Souness so they were delighted to get compo from Fat Freddie instead of them paying it out

          • Jezza

            Yes that situation just added to the utter farce of the Souness appointment.

      • Oooh bobbi fleckman

        I sort of agree that Bobby needed to take a bit of a back seat but it was a wonderful opportunity to have continuity and bring in someone to work with Bobby for a season and then for Bobby to gracefully move into a DoF role. Carver should have remained too.

  • Jezza

    “Yet after a crazy 4-2 defeat at Villa that was it, five thrilling years
    ended in one of the most brutal fashions. That sacking is still one of
    the most unjust I can remember,”

    To be fair we had only won one of our last 12 games at the time. Most managers would be very lucky to survive a run like that.

  • glassjawsh-got-banned

    Not sure the photo of a fan giving a [email protected] salute was the best choice here, Jackie.

    • Lhc


  • Peter Stabler

    I’ve always thought Sir Bobby was very unlucky that Dyer and Bellamy were hardly ever fit at the same time but when they were defences were terrified.

  • Antenociticus

    To answer the question in the title, he’s not even in the top 3 worst managers.
    You’ve got a short memory, what about:
    John Carver
    Gordon Lee
    Fat Sam
    Ruud Gullit
    Honourable mention to Kenny Daglish for dismantling of the entertainers.

    • Mal

      Not to mention McClaren

    • Jezza

      We’ve had some bad ones over the years it has to be said. You could add Richard Dinniss, Bill McGarry and that vile excuse for a human being who held the job during the 84/85 season.

      • Oooh bobbi fleckman

        Jackie Charlton? Apart from negating the ability of Pedro and waddle as well as buying reilly and whitehurst, why so down on him?

        • Jezza

          A vicious thug as a player who only got picked for England because his brother pulled strings to get him in the team. A racist. A bully. An animal murderer. A Tory supporting class traitor. A thoroughly arrogant, unpleasant, short tempered and obnoxious human being.

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            I suppose on the plus side he doesn’t vote labour. I’m not so sure of your other accusations, ok he likes a bit of shootin but why not?

  • Lhc

    So say if we’re languishing near or in the bottom 3 come crimbo will the wolf pack mob be on Benitez’s case like they are with every other manager?

    • Kneebotherm8

      No we’ll be on Ashley’s case,just like we’ve been for most transfer windows since he’s been at the club.The only reason the Pardews,Mclowns,Kinnears and Carver’s got stick was because they were Ashley puppets.

      • Lhc

        Well do you not see Rafa being that as look at how this transfer window has panned out. Tbh I’m surprised Rafa hasn’t walked as he’s been given a shoe string budget

  • magpiefifer

    I always despised Souness – as a thug of a player,and as a very poor manager.
    I’d like to know how much he trousered with signings such as Boumsong, who was ludicrously overpriced!
    Many years ago I met a guy who had pointed out to Souness that he had had a quadruple heart by-pass op – as opposed to Souness’s triple by-pass – so won 4-3! Souness didn’t see the funny side – he obviously had a sense of humour by-pass too!!!

  • Simon Mccabe

    I gave up my season ticket after 17 years when that fool arrived.

    • Ken

      Me too after a year of him that was enough.

  • TheFatController

    I always remember shepherd making manager choices on the basis of eradicating a current problem rather than any long term vision for the club, as follows:-
    Sounness? Get rid of player lack of discipline and respect with ‘tough guy’ manager
    allardyce? get in a manager using sports science to overcome huge number of injuries at club

    Yes, addressing current problems but not really bringing in men who fitted the culture of the club. And results bore that out.

    • Jezza

      Discipline was just Fat Fred’s excuse for appointing Souness. The real reason Souness got the job was because six or seven other managers had already been approached and turned it down and Fat Fred was getting desperate.

      • TheFatController

        Probably yes.

        I think he arrived in a cab paid for by Blackburn supporters – the irony of Carver turning over souness’ Blackburn in the game after Souness was announced (but not in charge of us for) was not lost on Blackburn’s fans – it’s as if they knew something we didn’t ….

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      Dalglish? Get in a manager that would shore up the defence and play to Shearer’s strengths, forget the fact our strength was the creativity provided by the midfield.

      You make a good point.

  • Albert Stubbins

    Shteeeeve makes Souness look like Sir Alex by comparison!!!

  • Steve Pearce

    Are ye on some of sort of mega-skunk?

    The Great Minge Headed Idiot was not only the most incompetent manager in our long history but also a completely delusional raving lunatic.

    Mind I heard from a Portugese friend of mine who’s sons were on the youth team of whichever side he managed over there that Souness spent a lot time in the dressing room watching the lads in the baths….

  • TC Toon Army

    We’re on the rebuild. Ashley aside im enjoying it. We have some good players and a good manager. But agree we should be re signing Nolberto Solano immediately. What’s Rafa playing at.

  • GToon

    Souness did make mistakes but I thought Owen and Luque were not his idea. He wanted Boa Morte and Anelka instead.

    • Lhc

      A would of took anelka before he went to Bolton, very good player. Went to Bolton for 7million if I remember correctly, steal! A player that should of played for Newcastle along with Defoe in his younger days.

    • Jezza

      Probably true. Fat Fred was certainly behind the Owen signing. Nevertheless I always thought there was something very dodgy behind the club paying £8.5 million to sign the utterly useless Jean Alain Boumsong from Souness’s old club Glasgow Rangers who had got player on a free transfer just four months previously.

      • Oooh bobbi fleckman

        Who was Boumsong’s agent? Will Mackay? Didn’t that nasty Mike Ashly refuse to deal with Mackay?

  • Scottie Chugger Dearden

    And that’s why every time he’s on sky giving his opinion, I think why do people need to listen to your opininon, that goes for any overpaid pundit, wankers!

  • George

    How can you cite Souness as the worst NUFC manager when there was Gordon Lee, I still hate that man, he sold Supermac, and replaced him with a pudding Gowling. Then there was Richard Diness. A nice guy, but a manager, know way, the players picked his teams.

  • Elizabeth Wrintmore-Little

    Newcastle united built their team around Alan Shearer and have never been able to replace my idol