DEFENSIVELY nave, susceptible to set pieces, racked by internal disputes and tensions, and prone to leaking goals in the last ten minutes of the game.

A critical commentary on Sir Bobby Robson's Newcastle but, perhaps more pertinently, also an accurate portrayal of the Blackburn Rovers side Graeme Souness left behind last week.

The battle of two clubs in limbo saw United cruise to their first victory of the season but, while the win marked a welcome end to yet another turbulent fortnight on Tyneside, the sight of Robson's Newcastle trouncing Souness' Blackburn was hardly the ideal precursor to the Scotsman's reign.

Souness took charge of his first training session as Newcastle manager yesterday, some six days after being named as Robson's successor.

It is perhaps just as well that Freddy Shepherd has already rubber-stamped the appointment because, as far as job applications go, Blackburn's performance on Saturday was hardly the reference he was looking for.

Yet again, Newcastle find themselves at something of a crossroads just five games into the current Premiership campaign.

St James' Park received a glimpse of their two possible destinations on Saturday, with United's vibrancy and control standing in stark contrast to Blackburn's lack of organisation and interest.

Under the tutelage of caretaker John Carver, Newcastle blew their opponents away in the space of 16 first-half minutes and never looked like succumbing to one of their all too familiar late collapses.

Craig Bellamy was at his impudent best and Lee Bowyer, playing in place of the injured Nicky Butt, emerged as the game's pivotal figure with a series of committed challenges and well-timed bursts into the box.

For most of the first half, Newcastle played particularly well and, while Robson inherited something of a shambles when he replaced Ruud Gullit, Souness inherits a squad more than capable of forcing their way into the top four or five.

Behind him though, he leaves a mess, and Blackburn's limp and lifeless display was reminiscent of some of the more frugal fare United served up on their travels last season.

The first two goals were more down to dreadful Rovers defending than inspired Newcastle attacks and, when they should have been chasing the game, the visitors rolled over in a manner that suggested Souness has left a far from happy camp.

Some would say that he will also walk into one this morning, but Saturday's whole-hearted display went a long way towards dispelling the notion that United's so-called 'Kings of Bling' care little for the black and white shirt.

"There's a lot been said and a lot been written which is inaccurate," said Shearer, who could have been teaming up with Souness at Blackburn if events had taken a different turn in the last two weeks. "Some of it has been true, but we know that we're all together and we know the dressing room.

"We needed to get this club back to winning and get people talking about us for football reasons rather than anything else. That's what we did.

"When the new manager looks at the tape he'll see that the workrate was fantastic. He's coming into a decent situation. We had to give him three points to come in with and we did that."

Souness, who watched the game alongside his replica-shirt wearing five-year-old son James, knows all about what he is getting himself into.

Newcastle's attacking options are as good as any in the country but, if the former Scotland international needed any reminding about where his headaches will come from in the next four months, he needed only have cast an eye over his new side's bench.

There wasn't a single defender on it and, with 30-year-old Robbie Elliott restored to centre-half so that Aaron Hughes could replace the injured Olivier Bernard at left back, it is safe to say that Souness' options will be strictly limited until the transfer window re-opens in January.

He has held preliminary discussions with veteran centre-half Ronnie Johnsen - a free agent after being released by Aston Villa at the end of last season - but, while Newcastle's makeshift backline kept their first clean sheet of the season, Jon Stead and Paul Dickov created enough problems to suggest that better strikers will continue to cause havoc.

"We have tremendous strength in certain areas and we are not so strong in other areas," admitted Souness, in the wake of his appointment last week. "We know the areas we need to strengthen and we will strengthen."

Not with either Craig Short or Dominic Matteo it is to be hoped, because Blackburn's central defensive duo were ripped apart in the opening quarter as Newcastle eased into a deserved two-goal lead.

They should have had a penalty as early as the third minute when Matteo swept Bowyer's legs from under him after his former Leeds team-mate had spun cleverly in the box.

That proved a temporary reprieve though as Garry Flitcroft, dropped by Souness earlier this season, handed his former boss a dramatic leaving present.

The Blackburn midfielder was statuesque as Laurent Robert's corner struck him on the edge of the six-yard box and cannoned into the back of the net.

Referee Dermot Gallagher turned down another decent penalty shout after Bowyer was clipped by Morten Gamst Pedersen - a Newcastle transfer target they did well to miss on this showing - but, again, United's disappointment proved short-lived.

Craig Bellamy stood up a perfectly measured cross from the left flank, and Shearer was left all alone to head his first goal from open play for ten games past a helpless Brad Friedel.

Stead clipped the bar as Blackburn struggled to find any rhythm at all - although the former Huddersfield striker was called up for handball anyway - while Friedel tipped Bowyer's stinging half-volley over after yet another well-timed burst from the United midfielder.

A lethargic second half looked to be drifting to its conclusion when Newcastle added their third, Andy O'Brien producing a wonderfully deft touch to turn Matteo before firing across Friedel.

The win acted as a fitting postscript to the Robson era, underlining just how valuable his legacy could prove to be if it is nurtured correctly.

"The last two weeks have been tough because he's (Robson) done a fantastic job in the five years he's been at the club," said Shearer. "He really has. That was his team out there against Blackburn wasn't it?"

It was - but it was also Souness' team against Newcastle.

Result: Newcastle United 3 Blackburn Rovers 0.

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