In 2003 at the start of the 2003-2004 season, Sir Bobby Robson and Newcastle got off to a very poor start in both the Premier League and the Champions League.
John Carver and Sir Bobby Robson circa 2003
We had finished 3rd top of the Premier League in May of 2003, but in our qualifying game against Partizan to get to the group stage of the Champions League, we were knocked out and that was after winning the first leg in Partizan 1-0.
We lost the return leg 1-0 at home, and after extra time we lost on penalties 4-3, and went down to the UEFA Cup as it was then known.
Would you believe that Shearer, Dyer, Woodgate and Hughes all failed to score from the penalty spot that night.
In the Premier League we had just 3 points from our first six games – three defeats and three draws – much like we have started this season.
This is how we did in the first three months of that season back in 2003.
August Wed 13 19:45 A Partizan CPLG 1-0 Sun 17 14:00 A Leeds United PREM 2-2 Sat 23 12:00 H Man Utd PREM 1-2 Wed 27 19:45 H Partizan CPLG 0-1 Sat 30 15:00 H Birmingham PREM 0-1 September Sat 13 15:00 A Everton PREM 2-2 Sat 20 15:00 H Bolton PREM 0-0 Wed 24 19:45 H NAC Breda UEFA 5-0 Fri 26 20:00 A Arsenal PREM 2-3 October Sat 04 15:00 H Southampton PREM 1-0 Wed 15 19:45 A NAC Breda UEFA 1-0 Sat 18 15:00 A Middlesbrough PREM 1-0 Tue 21 19:45 A Fulham PREM 3-2 Sat 25 15:00 H Portsmouth PREM 3-0 Wed 29 19:45 H WBA LGCP 1-2(aet)
As you can see in October we won all four Premier League games, and in the UEFA Cup we reached the semi final the following May, only to be beaten 2-0 in the second leg in Marseilles after we had drawn the first leg 0-0 at home.
A certain Didier Drogba scored both goals for Marseilles in that game.
We finished 5th in the league, and so it is possible to pull away after a poor start to the season, and of course it helps if you have a manager of Bobby Robson’s’ skill, experience and temperament.
But as we know Sir Bobby had a poor start to the next season too, and in the first four games we picked up only 2 points in August of 2004, and Robson was fired on Monday, 30th August by Freddy Shepherd, after we had been beaten 4-2 at Aston Villa, and his sacking happened to be the day before I retired from IBM.
Newcastle United have been in continual decline ever since Bobby left.
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