Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United get Champions League backing as scout recalls Sir Bobby Robson’s unforgettable European trip
The club were preparing for what would prove to be a very special season – home and away.
Sir Bobby Robson had transformed his beloved club in the previous two years following an emotional comeback – and a fourth-place finish helped the side qualify for the Champions League.
Then, as now under Eddie Howe, fans savored what was to come.
The day Sir Bobby Robson went on the attack – and his Newcastle United injury…
Woods’ relationship with Robson dates back to 1969, when he was a player at Ipswich Town.
“I was a Sir Bobby player at Ipswich,” said Whitehaven-born Woods, who began his playing career at Newcastle.
“I was in the locker room when he came through the door and became manager. I was there for a few years and then he saw how good I was and moved me! And then, about a year and a bit later I came back as coach of the youth team and was there the whole time he was coaching.
Robson – who won the FA Cup and UEFA Cup while in charge at Portman Road – called Woods up after he was appointed to relegation-threatened Newcastle in 1999 following the sacking of Ruud Gullit.
“I was Tottenham’s head scout at the time, and he just phoned to say if I could come and have a chat with him,” said Woods, who had also worked with Sir Bobby during his time as England manager. .
“I said, ‘Well, I’ve got a good job here, Bob. He said “look, just come northeast and have a chat”. So I went upstairs, and he persuaded me to come. This is again my association with him at Newcastle.
Robson guided the club away from the relegation zone, and in his second full season the club finished fourth in the Premier League.
It was Woods who signed the mercurial Laurent Robert, a hugely gifted player who quickly lit up St James’s Park after leaving Paris Saint-Germain in 2001.
“He had a wonderful left foot,” Woods said. “He was not very good defensively, but he was very good in attack. I think that powerful left foot he had, I think Alan Shearer thought ‘that’ll suit me, I’m going to get on the end of those (crosses)’.
“Bobby was a good judge of a player so whatever team he took out he had looked at them, don’t worry. I think throughout his career he was very particular about who he was signing. Extremely.
“He had a good staff at the time. Gordon Milne was, I would say, director of football (and) Mick Wadsworth, David Geddis and myself. We had a good, safe ship at the time.
Woods caught up with another of his rookies, Hugo Viana, at last weekend’s Sir Bobby Robson Celebrity Golf Classic in Portugal.
“I was with Hugo Viana in Portugal this weekend,” Woods said. “I remember going to Switzerland to watch the European Under-21s, and he played and was outstanding. I came back and said to Bobby ‘I like him’.
“A few weeks later, we signed him. Like Jonathan Woodgate, he was a very good player. Sylvain Distin. Bobby had never seen Sylvain Distin play. But I had.
“He hadn’t seen Robert play, but I had. He took my word for it and signed them both, and they were good players.
Something special is happening this summer. Newcastle, under new ownership, are recruiting good players again, and it is hoped that the club will be able to compete in the Champions League again in the years to come.
“I’m sure it will happen,” Woods said. “The new manager (Eddie Howe) needs time. You have to give him his own players, with whom he will sign and work. I think the future looks bright.
“The training ground needs updating so that’s part of it, but if he signs a few good players I think there’s a great future here. I like the way they look (the signings of this summer), and if he gets one or two more, it will be even better.
Flashback to the 2002/03 season, when the club, who lost their opening three Champions League group games, would make history and advance to the second leg with a dramatic 3-2 win over Feyenoord at De Kuip. Craig Bellamy scored twice and Viana also found the net.
Shola Ameobi, now Newcastle loan coordinator, would score a famous goal in a 3-1 defeat at the Nou Camp the following month.
Woods also found the net against Barcelona while wearing black and white in his own playing career. Now 81, Woods, a striker, came off the bench and scored in a 4-3 friendly defeat for United at St James’s Park in the summer of 1960.
“I was a young player at Newcastle and the manager was Charlie Mitten,” Woods said. “He put me in the team and I was on the bench.
“We played Barcelona in a pre-season friendly in 1960, and after 10 minutes Ken Hale got injured, and Charlie said ‘go ahead’. After 10 minutes I continued, and I think we were 3-0 down and lost 4-3. I managed to score at the Leazes End.
Robson, of course, would also manage Barcelona during his long and distinguished managerial career, and Perkins – who is raising money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Northern Center for Cancer Care in thanks for the care he received after his last diagnosis of cancer. year – drove a “banger” 2,000 miles to the Camp Nou.
“We are very lucky to have such brilliant hospitals here in the North East,” Perkins said. “The way they looked after me and my family was just amazing.
“I was determined to do something to say thank you for the treatment I received in Newcastle hospitals as soon as I had the chance, and by raising money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation I have knew I was doing something that would directly benefit the people of our Region.
“I had such a warm welcome when I moved here and I feel like my family and I have been adopted by the North East. And, as I come from a sporting background, I always admired Sir Bobby, so supporting the work of his charity seemed like a very natural choice.
Work funded by the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation directly benefits cancer patients in the region – and also funds valuable research. Robson – who died in 2009 – described the charity as his “last and greatest team”.
Of Sir Bobby’s legacy, Woods said: “Beloved in Ipswich, he was loved in the North East. He had a great time in England, it ended abruptly. When you see people like Lee doing things for his foundation, I think it’s remarkable.
Perkins has already raised over £40,000 for the two charities, and to follow his journey and sponsor him head to his JustGIving page.