Lee is in shock at Toon fall
NEWCASTLE legend Rob Lee cannot quite comprehend that his former club are teetering on the brink of a third relegation in just over a decade.
Twenty-five years ago, Lee was a key member of Kevin Keegan’s Entertainers battling it out at the top of the table.
Today, Newcastle head for Burnley fighting for their Premier League lives.
It is a far cry from the days when Lee and his team-mates rubbed shoulders with the elite, being pipped for the title, finishing runners-up twice and reaching successive FA Cup finals.
“When we lost out to Manchester United in 1996, it was bitterly disappointing but we all consoled ourselves with the fact that we’d be challenging again,” he said.
“All of us believed we’d win silverware, not out of arrogance but because we had so much faith in each other.
“OK, we didn’t manage to win a trophy, but Newcastle were still recognised as one of the best teams in the land.
“If someone had told me we’d be relegated twice and facing a third relegation in the two decades since I left, I’d never have believed them.”
Former England midfielder Lee was cold-shouldered by one of Keegan’s successors – Ruud Gullit – but he bounced back under Sir Bobby Robson.
He added: “Even under Gullit, the team was never under serious threat of relegation.
“Sir Bobby rescued the club but in my opinion, Newcastle have never really recovered from the day Keegan left. Some of the magic went out of the door with him.
“And Sir John Hall (former chairman), who did so much to transform the club, recognised that when billionaires like Roman Abramovich (at Chelsea) arrived, the whole landscape had changed and Newcastle could never really compete at the very top.
“Even so, none of us envisaged battles for survival year after year.
“It’s a sad state of affairs and it’s not a happy place these days unlike back in my day when the whole city was rocking.
“I like Steve Bruce and wish him well but clearly things aren’t rosy and it could go right down to the wire. I’m just hoping my old team can pull through.”