The former Charlton and current Newcastle and England midfielder sets the record straight on the many changes at St James’ Park over the last few years; he also reflects on an eventful career in the game, and highlights the personalities that have influenced him, for good and bad.
If there is one player the Newcastle fans look up to more than any other, it is Rob Lee.
He may have been born in the East End of London, where he spent nine years with a struggling Charlton, but as soon as he arrived on Tyneside the fans took him to their hearts.
So it was with shock and not a little anger that the Toon Army learnt of him losing the captaincy and banished to the sidelines by then manager Ruud Gullit back in 1998. Things got so bad that Lee wasn’t even allocated a squad number for the following season. Something had to give.
In his autobiography, Lee writes graphically and honestly about his treatment by Gullit (‘he was the worst thing to ever happen to Newcastle’) and the Dutchman’s eventual demise; as well as on a host of managers and team-mates during 17 years as a professional footballer, from the likes of Kevin Keegan (who brought him to Newcastle) to Glenn Hoddle (his manager when he played for England), and from Kenny Dalglish to current club captain Alan Shearer.
He also reflects back on his years at Charlton when the London club was struggling for survival amid the turmoil of being forced to leave The Valley.
Lee is a thoughtful, surprisingly articulate footballer with some fascinating views on the game and what the future has in store for English football.
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It's hard to feel sorry for top-flight professional footballers--something to do with earning more in a couple of weeks than most people do in a year--but Rob Lee's tribulations at Newcastle brought him widespread sympathy. Captain of his club and in the early stages of what looked to be a promising international career, Lee suddenly found himself on the sidelines, without even a squad number to call his own.
When you have carried the responsibilities of captain with huge pride and tried to represent the club you love with dignity and then it's taken off you, it makes you sick. Gullit didn't even have the guts to tell me first.... The popular thinking was that this "injustice" was perpetrated at the whim of one man--tabloid whipping boy and soon-to-be-departing coach Ruud "the Dutchman" Gullit--and not surprisingly this theory gets plenty of support in Lee's analysis of a period in Newcastle's history that had sports editors licking their lips. It's a cautionary tale of how managing personal relationships within a club--and how they are perceived by the media--can make or break careers.
Lee weathered the stormy reigns of Dalglish, Keegan and Gullit to become a key part of Bobby Robson's set-up at St James' Park, and tells his own version of events in a lively, indiscreet manner which makes for enjoyable reading. The "backdrop" to the offstage machinations--Newcastle's charge into the Premiership and Europe, with the likes of Ginola, Beardsley, Shearer and Asprilla in the vanguard of several fine, entertaining sides--will warm the cockles of Toon fans. The rest of us can revel in the always-compelling spectacle of egos colliding. --Alex HankinReview:
‘The best pound for pound player I ever bought’
Kevin Keegan, Rob’s ex-manager at Newcastle
‘If I was England manager, he would be the first name in my squad’
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Book Description HarperCollinsWillow, 2000. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0007102666