Former Newcastle stalwart Robbie Elliott’s pioneering career in Portland – and the city’s ‘Geordie mafia’

Robbie Elliott
Robbie Elliott

There will be a familiar face in the crowd at Providence Park.

Robbie Elliott will take his seat and watch the Newcastle United’s friendly against Portland Timbers (3.30 kick-off BST) like any other fan.

When I broke my leg at Bolton, I had my lightbulb moment. I tried coaching, but didn’t enjoy it. When I broke my leg, it was a sink or swim situation.

Robbie Elliott

Only Elliot made well over 150 appearances for the club in two spells at St James’s Park.

However, Gosforth-born Elliott – who played under Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson – didn’t go into coaching after hanging up his boots seven years ago after a season at Hartlepool United.

Now working for Nike in Oregon, Elliott – who also represented Sunderland – had a spell as fitness coach at Newcastle before a new opportunity beckoned in the USA.

“I’m at the research lab at Nike,” said the 41-year-old.

“Basically, we’re trying to get an understanding of the athletes for all sports.

“I don’t just work soccer now, I work NFL, basketball, skateboarding ... basically, any sport out there. We’re just trying to understand the capabilities of the modern athlete. It’s an incredible job.”

Elliott – who has also worked for US Soccer – started thinking about his future after breaking his leg at Bolton Wanderers.

“When I broke my leg at Bolton, I had my lightbulb moment,” said Elliot, who cycled 3,500 miles with triathlete Phil Gray in support of the Sirt Bobby Robson foundation three years ago.

“I tried coaching, but didn’t enjoy it. When I broke my leg, it was sink or swim.

“It was a time when there wasn’t a lot of staff at football clubs. Basically, there was one physio, and that was it, and his job was to get the players fit for the weekend. I was sat in the gym for a few days wondering what to do.

“I went back to college, and when I re-signed for Newcastle, I moved that on to a degree at Northumbria University.”

While Elliott is 4,600 miles from his home city, his former club is never far from his thoughts.

And Elliott – and the “Geordie mafia” at Nike – is looking forward to seeing them turn out in Portland.

“There’s a big English and Geordie contingent here, so for us it’s fantastic,” said Elliott. “I ’m just looking forward to seeing the lads on the pitch.

“We have a Geordie mafia here at Nike. There’s a lot of people who worked at Doxford Park and then move to London and Amsterdam and then made their way here.”

Last season, when Newcastle fought to stay up, made for miserable viewing in Portland.

“It was a really disappointing season and in the end we were fortunate to escape,” said Elliott. “Obviously, changes have been made, and we all know they need to bring some more players in.”

Elliott fondly remembers the highs under Keegan and Robson.

“We all know those days aren’t going to be coming back any time soon,” he said.

“That was an incredibly special time. But realistically, we can’t attract the same players as the top five or six clubs.”

A cup run, however, should be realistic for a club of Newcastle’s size, something owner Mike Ashley has belatedly accepted.

“The fact that the club came out and mentioned the cups the other year (not being a priority) was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” said Elliott. “We’re not going to win the league – we have to go after the cups.

“When I was a player you wanted to play in those games, and as a manager you want to pick your best team.”

Portland’s “Geordie mafia”, like everyone back on Tyneside, lives in hope of a trophy.