Never has a title been quite so apt. The image on the back cover of the book; Sir Bobby Robson proudly stood in front of the Champions League advertising hoardings at the Camp Nou, club badge on the lapel of his blazer, black and white tie, immaculately combed white hair, perfectly polished shoes. Robson was a proud knight, ready to take Newcastle United into battle with anyone who stood in the way.

As a youngster, I used to get my weekly football fix from watching the Football Italia magazine show, hosted by James Richardson on Saturday mornings. This would be followed by the screening of the big game Serie ‘A’ game of the weekend on the Sunday afternoon. I became obsessed with Juventus, mainly because they also played in black and white and had a fella who played up front with a cool name- Alessandro Del Piero. I quickly became infatuated with Italian football;the stylish names, the fancy strips, the big stadiums, even the referees looked cool. The sight of Richardson sitting in a piazza, sipping his espresso and flicking through the Gazetta Dello Sport, seemed like a world away from watching my club Newcastle United on a cold afternoon in the early 90s. Ten years later, however, my team would play competitively against ‘the Old lady’ of Italian football in the Stadio delle Alpi, all thanks to the work of one man.

Sir Bobby Robson believed Newcastle could take on anyone. He knew the area, the people, the passion and the pride in the shirt. I remember the time when Look North News were regularly reporting from the check in desk from Newcastle airport as the playing and coaching staff boarded their flight on to the next step of their European adventure. Robson knew all about the European giants; he’d been there, done that and got the tee-shirt, he wanted Newcastle United to dine at the same table. Having been lucky enough to remember the Keegan years, I had come to assume that Newcastle could regularly fight for the Premier League title and attract some of the biggest names in Europe. Therefore, it was quite a glum time when we finished 13th two seasons running under Kenny Dalgleish and Ruud Gullit. It took Robson some time to build a squad to mount a title challenge but when he did it was quite the roller-coaster of a journey.

Not only has author Harry De Cosemo enabled me to relive my teenage years supporting Newcastle United, believing I could run at players like Craig Bellamy or strike a ball like Laurent Robert, (I did in fact take out a neighbours’ window re-enacting Robert’s free-kick against Man Utd in the 4-3-win) but the writer produces an important revisionist history of the narrative surrounding the Robson era at Newcastle United, crucially important as I believe it helps to tackle some of the myths surrounding the club in the present- day.

When Robson left the club in August 2004 the national media were keen to stress that the Newcastle board believed that he could no longer manger a young squad of mis-fits. Robson signed Craig Bellamy, Jermaine Jenas and Titus Bramble and along with Kieron Dyer, previously signed by Gullit, they formed the ‘brat pack’, a phrase coined by the red tops in order to depict Newcastle as a soap opera club that was in decline following a 5th placed finish to the 2003/4 season. However, De Cosemo tears up the narrative, including quotes from those players who all insist that Sir Bobby was an excellent man manger, who was quick to put them in their place when necessary but likewise throw an arm around them and take them out of the limelight to protect them when needed. De Cosemo includes an anecdote of Robson having words with Bellamy, following a tantrum over a refusal to play out-wide, to remind him that he was a mere drop in the ocean compared to the names Robson had managed whilst working on the continent.

Furthermore, the author draws on the fact that Sir Bobby was undermined by the board on a number of occasions before his dismissal. The ambition Robson’s Chairman Freddy Sheppard had for Newcastle United cannot be criticised, but Shepard brought players in over the manager’s head and against the advice of Robson’s chief scout Charlie Woods, when Robson and Woods were sceptical over whether the players would fit into the team. The signing of an out of contact Patrick Kluivert from Barcelona in the summer of 2004, for example, was not particularly welcomed by Robson. A big international name, yes, but Kluivert came on big wages and Robson was after a defender following Jonathan Woodgate’s injury problems the following season. Robson was right to be sceptical. Rumours of Kluivert’s liking for the drinking establishments on the Quayside soon circulated and the Dutchman departed after just one season. Robson knew football and he knew players.He knew what he wanted his sides to look like. It was not surprise therefore when Graeme Souness took over as manager it all fell apart and players really did start showing disrespect; Bowyer and Dyer fighting on the pitch and a certain French wingertossing his kit into the crowd and doing laps of St James’s after his final appearance.

De Cosemo also highlights the fact that when Sir Bobby departed the media and to some extent the board viewed the club as being in decline. Technically, they were correct, with Newcastle having slipped to a 5th place finish in the 03/4 campaign. However, the goal posts had moved following Roman Abramovich’s purchase of Chelsea in July 2003. The Premier League competition stepped up another level as the Blues brought in 14 players that summer, with a net spend of £111 million. Meanwhile we signed Lee Bowyer on a free. We also reached the UEFA Cup semi-final, losing to a Didier Drogba inspired Marseille without Bellamy, Dyer, Woodgate and Jenas.We began the 04/5 season slowly, gaining only 2 points for the first 4 games, but we’d started other seasons slowly and recovered well. We were only a Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink handball away from victory at Middlesbrough and should have had a penalty at Villa Park.

Perhaps the frustrating media narrative of the “expectations” of Newcastle fans comes from the final games of the 03/4 season, when the players did their lap of honour following the 1-1 draw with Wolves in the final home game and only a third of the stadium remained behind to clap them off. We still had a chance of qualifying for the Champions League at that point, with 2 games to go, and had just returned from the defeat in the south of France.

However, in Sir Bobby we had a leader who made us believe the impossible. He never talked of how ‘difficult’ it was to be manager of Newcastle United. He took us on a journey where our hopes and dreams were realised. That’s all we want, to dream, and not about playing 5 at the back against Sheffield United.

Sir Bobby; a true Black and White Knight

 Adam Morrison @AdamMor41788032