There’s a good illustration today of just how good Sir Bobby Robson was with his players, and if any coach could get the best out of what he had available, it was Sir Bobby Robson.
Former Newcastle midfielder Jermaine Jenas is now an analyst for BBC Sport, and in his column for Yahoo Sport today, he has opened the door on when he signed for Newcastle United back in early February of 2002, and he was thrown in at the deep end by the manager, for his debut against Sunderland – at Sunderland.
Jermaine Jenas while at Newcastle
You could see that at Ipswich where Sir Bobby initially managed for 13 years, and he had Ipswich in the top six in the old Division One more times than not, even though he had precious little money to spend.
The real definition of coaching is what you can get out of the players at your disposal.
This is some of what Jenas has said today about his exploits at Newcastle:
“The chances I was given at a young age by Forest and Newcastle hugely influenced my career. In my head I felt like I was going in a certain direction, and any young player will feel the same way.”
“They’ll feel loved by their club and that they’re on a track that will ultimately lead to the first team.” “But if you get to 21 and realise you’re still classed as a ‘kid’, that’s weird.”
“I was playing for England by the time I was 19 and it all stemmed from the fact that Bobby Robson put his head on the block for me” “I was made captain of Nottingham Forest at 17 and then I moved to Newcastle at 18 for £5M – massive money at the time.”
“But my first two weeks on Tyneside were a nightmare. I was nervous, and I was rubbish in training. I remember thinking: ‘What have I done? I’m just not the player I was at Forest.”
“Then on the Thursday before the Tyne-Wear derby Sir Bobby Robson came to me and said: ‘You’re playing on Sunday by the way.’” “I was shocked.”
“There’s no bigger game at Newcastle. But the minute I played that game, those two weeks of training were irrelevant.” “We won 1-0, I performed well and that earned me the full respect of my teammates.”
“Coming out the other side of that match gave me so much confidence. I felt like I’d passed my hardest test, especially mentally.”
We remember that game against Sunderland well, and not only was Jenas good in that game – he was the best player on the field. and so cool and composed for such a white-hot atmosphere.
And when you consider he was just 18 – he obviously seemed to have the temperament of somebody who could become a big player in the future – and the Geordie fans took to him immediately.
Nicos Dabizas after scoring winner – February 26th, 2002 at Sunderland
We won by a goal from Nicos Dabizas midway through the second half – Shay Given had a blinder – and Newcastle climbed back to second place in the Premiership – those were days alright.
It didn’t quite work out for him at Newcastle, and when Graeme Souness was in charge Jermaine was moved to Tottenham for £7M in the summer of 2005.
That’s when he made that famous quote that playing for Newcastle was like being in a goldfish bowl.
There is significant pressure on players at Newcastle, because that’s all the City and Geordies think about – football – and yes it’s a religion on Tyneside.
Always has been always will be.
Jenas is now retired even though he’s only 32, so he never did reach the great potential he showed while he was at Nottingham Forest and Newcastle United – but nevertheless he still had a very good career.
But Jenas does seem to have a new career ahead of him in the media – he’s a sensible lad and as we have seen in his column today – he’s certainly willing to tell the truth about things.
Note: 18 year-old Harvey Fitzpatrick is a Newcastle fan and an avid reader of this site – and he is fundraising for cancer research as part of the Macmillan’s ‘Brave the Shave’ campaign they are currently running.
On 18th of August Harvey will be shaving his hair off in support of the cancer fund drive – please see if you can support Harvey by donating on his Brave the Shave site.