‘All the way back to that game, it has been a slippery slope’: Rob Lee pinpoints Newcastle’s dramatic 4-3 defeat by Liverpool in 1996 as start of club’s decline as the teams prepare to renew their rivalry once again
- Newcastle visit unbeaten table-toppers Liverpool in Premier League clash
- Liverpool beat Magpies 4-3 in famous 1996 Premier League title-race match
- Former Newcastle midfielder Rob Lee insists the club has declined since that day
- He also believes Kevin Keegan could have emulated Sir Alex Ferguson’s success
Newcastle legend Rob Lee believes that the Magpies’ infamous 4-3 defeat by Liverpool during the 1995/96 Premier League title race marked the start of the club’s decline from the upper echelons of the English game.
Stan Collymore clinched a dramatic win that day – having earlier levelled when Les Ferdinand, David Ginola and Tino Aprilla cancelled out Robbie Fowler’s brace to end the Magpies’ title challenge against Manchester United.
Ahead of the two sides meeting this weekend, with Liverpool unbeaten at the top of the table and Newcastle 17th after one win in four under new boss Steve Bruce, Lee outlined how the club’s fortunes dipped after that fateful game.
Rob Lee believes Newcastle have suffered a long decline after their title challenge in 1995/96
Former Magpies midfielder Lee, speaking on behalf of GentingBet, said: ‘All the way back to that game when we didn’t win the league, it has been a slippery slope.
‘We were on par with Manchester United but we let it slip and we could never catch up in future seasons.
‘Sir John Hall was sending us out to the Middle East long before anyone else. He appreciated the value of shirt sales and building your fan base more than anyone.
‘Once Sir John sold and went public it has been downhill.
‘Now, Mike Ashley is a businessman, he runs it like a business. Smaller clubs you have to run a tight ship, but at the big clubs you have to do more and he is not.’
Stan Collymore struck a last-minute winner to help Liverpool overcome the Magpies 4-3
Lee also called on supporters to have more faith in Bruce amid widespread unrest at his appointment, claiming the 58-year-old ‘gets’ the club.
‘I think Steve Bruce could and maybe should have been manager ten years ago, I’ve always liked him. I think he gets stick for his record, but so what?
‘He is a Geordie, he is a genuine guy, he loves Newcastle and his mum is from Newcastle. He gets it. All the best managers at Newcastle – Bobby Robson, Kevin Keegan – they all get the fans and what Newcastle is.
‘Rafa Benitez, he gets it. He’s not a Geordie, but he got the fans, the area and how things are. Steve gets it too.
‘He gets a lot of stick because he is following a great manager. They are not going to be pleased with anyone after Rafa left. He is on a hiding to nothing anyway.
‘He has looked at it and thought; ‘This is my dream job am I going to get another chance? Probably not.’
Lee also believes that supporters should support new manager Steve Bruce in the role
Lee hit out at the lack of investment made by owner Mike Ashley, claiming it undermined Bruce’s efforts.
‘The thing all the managers have in common is the owner saying one thing and doing another thing.
‘I think all the managers have had that problem, is he going to back them?
‘He says he has spent £40million on a striker but they got £30million back for Ayoze Perez so it’s hardly pushing the boat out, it’s still balancing the book.
‘They need a new owner who is going to pump money into the club because it is a long way behind going for titles and cups.’
Kevin Keegan (left) could have emulated Sir Alex Ferguson (right) according to Lee
Lee, who made 379 appearances for the club over 10 seasons after joining in 1992, felt that the club may have achieved success similar to Manchester United had Keegan stayed as boss for two decades.
He said: ‘Keegan leaving was the start. 95% of managers leave when doing badly, not many leave at the top. We were still in the cups and in the league, it wasn’t because of how the team were doing.
‘That was when the club started going. We needed Keegan to stay like Ferguson did at Manchester united for 20 years
‘If it had been this day and age when Ferguson started he would have been sacked.
‘Man United did everything they could to keep Ferguson at the club for a long time, I think Keegan would have had similar success with the same amount of time.
‘He was always pushing, always making the club better and going for the biggest players.
‘If he had stayed for 20 years, I genuinely think we would have been as big and as a good as Manchester United were.’
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