Shearer Manager Header

A fifth place finish in the 2003-2004 season under Sir Bobby Robson meant another season of UEFA Cup football for United who were also aiming for another successful domestic season. Unfortunately things didn't quite pan out as planned.

An outbreak of conjunctivitis in the squad threatened the opening day's fixture of the 2005-05 season at Middlesbrough but it went ahead and United came away with a point when it should really have been three, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink netting a controversial last-minute equaliser for Boro.

After failing to register a win in the next three games, the last being a 4 - 2 reverse at Aston Villa, United took the decision to part company with Sir Bobby ending a five-year reign at Gallowgate for the former England boss.

Coach John Carver took charge for the visit of Blackburn the following weekend, and United eased to a convincing 3 - 0 victory. However he was just keeping the seat warm for Graeme Souness, the latest man to take on one of the toughest, but best jobs in football. Souness joined from Blackburn Rovers and was United's fifth different manager in the past eight years.

Souness made an impressive start, a nine-match unbeaten run seeing The Magpies rise to 7th in the Premiership whilst at the same time, progress was being made in the UEFA Cup.

That was as high as United climbed in the League, though, as frustratingly inconsistent form left the side languishing just below mid-table for the rest of the season, that despite seasoned international players Patrick Kluivert, Nicky Butt and Stephen Carr being amongst those who had joined the Club before the start of the season. A 12-match unbeaten run throughout February and March couldn't hide United's shortcomings but to be fair success was hinted at in the FA and UEFA Cups.

Chelsea had ended United's interest in the League Cup back in November whilst two favourable draws in the FA Cup had seen United reach the Fifth Round. Excellent wins over Chelsea and Tottenham took United through to a semi-final against Manchester United in Cardiff whilst at the same time Sporting Lisbon were set to provide the opposition in the UEFA Cup Quarter-Final.

A horror four days was to follow. Despite at one stage leading the Portuguese side 2 - 0 on aggregate, United crumbled and lost 4 - 2 on aggregate and then followed that with a weary, hollow display against Sir Alex Ferguson's side - the 4- 1 scoreline not flattering the Reds one bit. A long campaign finished on a low-key note with seven Premiership games being crammed into the final 25 days of the season.

 

GRAEME Souness began his first full season in charge at St. James' Park and as a prelude to the Premiership kicking off, United were involved in the Intertoto Cup once again. But as happened four seasons earlier, it didn't provide them with a ticket to the UEFA Cup. Victory over the Slovakian side Dubnica landed United with a difficult semi-final against Deportivo La Coruna and it was the Spanish who prevailed, winning both legs 2 - 1.

An opening-day fixture at Highbury wasn't the ideal start for United and the 2 - 0 defeat there was the first of four scoreless games for The Magpies before Charles N'Zogbia opened United's account against Fulham after a 438-minute goal famine.

That fixture also marked Michael Owen's debut for Newcastle, the prolific England striker having arrived on Tyneside for a club record £16m from Real Madrid. And a week later, at Blackburn, the little maestro opened his Newcastle account with the second of United's three goals.

In the domestic cup competitions, a hard-fought win at victory at Grimsby in the League Cup was followed by an embarrassing loss at Wigan when the hosts fielded a virtual reserve line-up. The FA Cup proved more fruitful with a run to the Quarter Finals before Chelsea put an end to any silverware dreams with a single-goal victory at Stamford Bridge.

The Fourth Round tie with Mansfield at St. James' Park was also notable for Alan Shearer equalling Jackie Milburn's Newcastle United goalscoring record of 200 goals.

Consistent league form was proving elusive though and in the run-up to Christmas, the Magpies never rose above 10th place.

Then, after three consecutive New Year defeats, the last being a 3 - 0 drubbing at Manchester City, Souness was sacked and Glenn Roeder, who had been at United's Academy, was asked to take over first-team affairs until the end of the season.

The change had an immediate effect as in his first game in charge Portsmouth were beaten 2 - 0 at St. James' Park - the second goal coming from the boot of Alan Shearer, the record-breaking 201st goal of a quite extraordinary United career.

An unbeaten run of four league games followed and although March only brought one win, the last seven games of the season throughout April and May saw the Magpies collect 19 points out of a possible 21 and with it, a very respectable finishing position of 7th.

Included in that run was a remarkable 4 - 1 success on Wearside, notable for four United goals in the last 30 minutes including the last ever from the boot of Alan Shearer, the Geordie hero notching his 206th United goal from the penalty spot before injury brought a premature end to his final season.

 

GLENN Roeder was at the helm for the start of United's 2006-2007 campaign having been appointed as manager on a full-time basis in May 2006. And the season started as early as July 15 with a home Intertoto Cup tie with Lillestrom, the first of a 14-game European campaign which was to end in disappointment following a last 16 defeat against AZ Alkmaar in mid-March.

On the domestic front a home win over Wigan Athletic brought joy to the Geordies on the season's opening day. But, following a subsequent run of one win in 12, the Magpies found themselves languishing in the Premier League drop zone. Summer arrival Antoine Sibierski then fired the only goal against Portsmouth at St. James' Park on November 26 and set United on their way to the first of three maximum hauls as Roeder's men climbed clear of the top-flight trapdoor.

Obafemi Martins and Damien Duff were the gaffer's principle signings, at a combined price of £15m, and the former ended his first season in English football as United's leading scorer, many of his 17 strikes being spectacular finishes followed by a trademark somersault celebration.

Meanwhile, a respectable League Cup run was only ended by League Champions Chelsea at St. James' Park at the Quarter Final stage, the campaign being notable for the first competitive penalty shoot-out success for United after seven previously unsuccessful attempts to win the 12-yard lottery, Watford being the ones to suffer when Steve Harper saved from Jordan Stewart.

United's participation in the FA Cup is best forgotten. A 2 - 2 draw at St Andrews in Round 3, in a game the Magpies should really have won, preceded a 5-1 home hammering by the Blues in the replay, United's worst home FA Cup loss since Sheffield United won 5 - 0 at Gallowgate way back in 1914.

The remaining months of the season were somewhat dull with United hovering around mid-table before a winless last six games of the season condemned the Magpies to a lowly 13th-place finish.

Aston Villa and Liverpool were both sent packing pointless from their visits to Tyneside but, aside from those 'highs', the season merely petered out.

Consequently Roeder had to pay the price and after Blackburn left the North-East with three points at the beginning of May, the former United skipper left the Club and coach Nigel Pearson took over as caretaker manager for the final game of the season at Watford.

 

BEFORE a ball was kicked in the 2007-2008 season there were huge changes at Newcastle United and St. James' Park.

Freddy Shepherd had appointed Sam Allardyce as the new manager in the summer of 2007 - but it would be his last major decision as Chairman before Mike Ashley stunned the football world by taking control of the Magpies.

Chris Mort arrived to take over the Chairman's position and no fewer than nine new players also arrived including Mark Viduka, Alan Smith, Geremi, David Rozehnal, Joey Barton, Habib Beye, Jose Enqique, Claudio Cacapa and Abdoulaye Faye.

The Premier League fixture computer decided Big Sam should return to former club Bolton Wanderers on the opening day of the season, but he left the Reebok Stadium smiling after a 3-1 success with his new team.

The Magpies went on to take eight points from their first four games before defeat at Derby (which turned out to be the Rams' only league win of the season) put a dampener on things.

Successive wins over Everton and Tottenham in October were all-too-brief highlights in the run-up to Christmas and a hugely disappointing November and December followed.

After an all too brief League Cup run, which had been ended at Arsenal in Round Three, it meant the FA Cup was United's only hope of glory in a frustratingly inconsistent season. However, after a hard-fought, somewhat fortuitous draw at Stoke, the club decided a change of direction was necessary and Sam Allardyce parted company with United.

New owner Mike Ashley acted decisively and on 16 January stunned the football world with the re-appointment of Kevin Keegan as United's new manager. That same night Stoke were beaten in the Third Round replay but Arsenal gunned down United in the next round and that was that.

Keegan, though, immediately instilled new enthusiasm and belief into the squad. However it took 10 games before he registered his first victory in his second stint in the St. James' Park hot seat. Despite that, the changes were there for all to see and a great seven-game unbeaten run in March and April, with six goals from talisman Michael Owen including a derby brace against Sunderland, took United well clear of the relegation zone.

Although ultimately disappointing, it was a season that ended on a relative high, though a feeling of under-achievement still persisted.