HE led Newcastle United through many European adventures and Alan Pardew admits Sir Bobby Robson’s achievements during his time at the club are an inspiration as he attempts to lead his own side into the last 16 of the Europa League.
On a night when stars from across the world of entertainment gathered at The Sage in Gateshead to celebrate what would have been Sir Bobby’s 80th birthday, memories of trips to Turin, Barcelona and Rotterdam came flooding back as the Magpies embark on their newest adventure to Kharkiv.
Robson guided Newcastle in Champions League and UEFA Cup campaigns and Pardew is now hoping to follow in his footsteps after being the mastermind behind the Magpies’ fifth-place finish in the Premier League last season.
After taking over from Chris Hughton in 2010, Pardew kept a portrait of Robson in his office at the club’s Longbenton training base, because it reminded him of the values of the club and of the standards the former England manager set during his reign.
Now, as he tries to emulate Robson’s European success with Newcastle –who take a 0- 0 first-leg draw with Metalist Kharkiv back to the Ukraine for Thursday’s second-leg – Pardew revealed the man nicknamed the ‘Black and White Knight’ is a huge inspiration.
Two surviving members of Robson’s European squad, Steve Harper and Shola Ameobi, were in attendance at the event last night, which supported The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Alan Shearer Foundation, and they will be part of the squad that travels to Kharkiv this afternoon.
The Magpies boss will have a near fully fit squad to select from on Thursday and he revealed Hatem Ben Arfa is edging closer to a return after he trained yesterday.
Pardew admitted the memories of Robson will spur his side on.
“It’s an inspiration, of course,” Pardew said. “We’ve got a tough one going out to Ukraine but we’re in good spirits. The whole squad has trained today – including Ben Arfa – and we’re very, very pleased.
“We go there tomorrow, hopefully with the enthusiasm to win.”
Robson’s widow Lady Elsie and their sons Andrew, Paul and Mark were also joined by Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson, Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill, Tottenham boss Andre Villas Boas, who worked under Robson at Porto, and former England defender Stuart Pearce.
Although he only had the pleasure of meeting Robson on a handful of occasions, Pardew understands what the former Magpies manager achieved in his time at the club.
He said: “It’s different for me slightly because I’m from London but he’s still held in the highest regard anywhere you go in the country.
“Of course though, he’s a much-loved son of this city.
He had the honour of being the manager of this club as I do.
“It’s his enthusiasm that is one of the things that he’ll be remembered for. I only met him three or four times but I think he told me his life story twice! That was Sir Bobby, he was brilliant and it’s really nice to honour him on his birthday.”
Thursday’s Europa League tie may come too soon for Ben Arfa, but the mercurial Frenchman could return when Southampton visit St James’ Park on Sunday.
The midfielder has been out with a hamstring injury since the beginning of December.
Ben Arfa’s time at Newcastle has been hampered by some serious injuries and the 25-year-old believes he could be even better now had he not missed so much football.
He said: “I regret not being mature earlier, because I think today I’d have evolved to a higher level. Maybe I’d be like him (Messi) today.
“But I still have time, I can catch up.”
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