Newcastle United need a 'Geordie Roman Abramovich' – Rob Lee talks takeovers, Michael Owen & his mate Alan Shearer
Newcastle United have been a steady decline and require a ‘Geordie Abramovich’ to breathe life into the football club – that’s the view of former midfielder Rob Lee.
Lee spent 10 years on Tyneside between 1992 and 2002, playing Champions League and UEFA Cup football at St James’s Park as well as fighting for titles and getting to cup finals.
The midfielder is increasingly saddened to see how far United’s stock continues to fall under Mike Ashley.
And he hopes that one day an investor with Sheikh Mansour or Roman Abramovich type cash will rid the club of Ashley – and he’d love it to be a Geordie.
In an interview with online betting operator GentingBet, Lee said: “Newcastle were on the up from the days I joined in 1992 with the likes of John Hall and Kevin Keegan on board.
“Since they went public it’s been a steady decline. That’s when they needed to invest. We were on par with your Man Uniteds and your Arsenals. The club’s been slowly on the decline as a result for quite a while.
“With Mike Ashley running it not as a football club but as a business, unfortunately in the Premier League you can’t progress, not without the investment. Newcastle are not progressing.
“I’d love to see an Abramovich come in, a Sheikh Mansour come in. I’d love to see a Geordie come in and take control of it and invest some serious money in it because it does need some serious investment.
“Training grounds were done just after I left in the early 2000s. You look at Man Citys and Tottenhams and probably every other club in the league. It’s way behind – it’s average at best.”
Lee is a former teammate of both Alan Shearer, who is a very close friend, and Michael Owen from his playing days.
And has his own take on the very public rift which has broken out between the former strike pairing.
“I played with Michael when he was 18 at the ’98 World Cup when he had just come through. He was a fantastic young player and probably could have won the World Cup with us - he was that good,” said Lee.
“Towards the end of his career, personally I don’t think he wanted to go to Newcastle. I don’t think he wanted to leave Real Madrid. He wanted to go back to Liverpool, and he stated that. I just don’t see why he went to Newcastle, unless, it was for the money.”
“The rift started when Alan was manager and he needed his best players to play. Whether or not he was fit - Michael says not, Alan says yes - what I would say is if it was a Champions League final or FA Cup final, would you be playing? Would you start? I think you would. I think you start and if you break down, then you break down. Michael had other ideas and that’s where the rift started.”
Lee continued: “When he mentioned about Alan leaving Newcastle - it doesn’t matter how loyal you are to a club, and Alan’s the most loyal person, he joined Newcastle when he could have joined Man United or teams abroad.
“He chose Newcastle when he could have got more money somewhere else.
“Alan wanted to give his best years to his hometown club. A lot of people, myself included, played for our hometown clubs when we were a lot older, and he wanted to play for his hometown club in his best years. But if you’re at a club for that long, there comes a stage when you do think if you’re not playing or you’re not in the manager’s plans, as it happened with Ruud Gullit and a little bit with Bobby (Robson), you do think about leaving. He never left.
“Don’t tell me one player who hasn’t thought about or had the opportunity to leave a football club. It doesn’t matter how much you love that club. Steven Gerrard at Liverpool is a prime example. Chelsea were in for him big time and he could have left, but never did. He thought about it so it could have happened. So, for Michael to say that he’s not loyal because he thought about leaving, is irrelevant really.”
Ahead of today’s visit to Anfield, Lee has praise for manager Steve Bruce – who he thinks should have got the job at his hometown club ‘years ago’.
“He should have been Newcastle manager many years ago,” said Lee.
“He’s a Geordie, loves the area, loves the people, his family are from there. But the problem is that he’s following Rafa Benitez, with an owner who is despised by Newcastle fans.
“He wanted to take the job, he knew it would be tough. I’ve always said that in order to manage Newcastle, you have to know the area, know the people. Kevin Keegan bought me and understood what Newcastle was all about. Bobby Robson, a Geordie.
“Rafa, not a Geordie, but he understood the area, got to know the people and that’s what they loved about him. Steve Bruce does that.
“Let’s not forgot that the person Newcastle fans should be having a go at is Mike Ashley, the owner. He’s the one that’s caused the decline.”