Robson duly steered the rocky ship to mid-table safety, ensuring that the newly expanded St James Park remained a Premiership venue.
After the financial backing offered to his predecessors, Robson was forced to err on the side of prudence during the summer months. There was to be no record-breaking buys to capture the imagination of the fans, Robson could not play fantasy football — he was forced to play chancellor of the St James’ coffers.
Despite laying out roughly £7m on Carl Cort from Wimbledon, the former England manager, in football terms, more or less balanced the books — spending just over £10m and recouping just over £9m.
Despite an opening day defeat to Manchester United, Newcastle started the season positively — winning three and drawing one of their first five games. Robson’s side even headed the table during this run, which was soon to be derailed.
The team lost three and won two and drew one of their next six before doing the unthinkable — losing to Sunderland. A similar result last season marked the end of Ruud Gullit’s reign, but Robson simply apologised to the fans and took it on the chin.
Robson has since admitted a feeling of jealousy that he has not been afforded the funds that were available to Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish and Gullit — what manager wouldn’t? Robson has been forced to cut his cloth accordingly and is doing so with a degree of success.
In the aftermath of defeat to Sunderland, Newcastle have overcome Liverpool, Leeds and shared the spoils with Manchester United. The downside being Worthington Cup elimination to Birmingham and a 5-0 trouncing at Arsenal.
Talisman Alan Shearer is now marked absent following a knee operation and there is still no sign of Cort returning after a lengthy absence. Lomano Lua-Lua is enjoying an earlier than expected opportunity to impress as Newcastle sit in a comfortable seventh place in the Premiership.
They may not be jousting with Manchester United at the Premiership summit anymore but, with Robson at the helm and considered messiah by the faithful, Newcastle may not be out-of-Toon with the leaders for too much longer.
Make no mistake, Newcastle were in crisis when Bobby Robson swept back into his home town in September 1999. All thoughts of ‘Sexy Football’ were banished as perhaps the most exotic Dutchman of was replaced by one of the north-east’s very own — a local boy made very good.