SIR BOBBY ROBSON has forgotten more about football than most managers have ever learned about the game.

So it has been curious over the last three years to see the Newcastle United boss ignore one of soccer's most fundamental laws as he constructed his team.

"Good sides are built from the back," it is often argued - yet Robson appeared to reject that maxim as he packed his squad with exciting attackers.

The Newcastle manager showed himself to be a lover of show ponies rather than workhorses as he signed Craig Bellamy, Laurent Robert and Jermaine Jenas.

Such a policy did have its flaws, with fans across the country chuckling at the Keystone Kops defending that Newcastle served up at times.

But who's laughing now? Second in the Premiership and still in the Champions League, they now have one of England's most talented young defenders on board.

Jonathan Woodgate is a wonderful centre-back who has emerged from nearly two years of personal hell a stronger person and player.

Commanding in the air, strong in the tackle and accomplished with the ball at his feet, he is just the defender Newcastle have been crying out for.

Settling in on Tyneside shouldn't be a problem, either, given that Kieron Dyer has already rolled out a red carpet along the A1, from Leeds all the way up to the Angel of the North.

The signature of Woodgate for £9m ranks as one of the bargains of the season - close behind Manchester City's near-theft of Robbie Fowler for an initial payment of just £3m.

Which must make Terry Venables all the more devastated. Not only has he lost two of his best players, but both have left for knockdown prices.

And if losing Woodgate were not painful enough for Leeds, guess where he might make his return from injury on February 22?

Elland Road, that's where.

Poor Leeds. But for Newcastle, a bright future has suddenly become even more glistening.