Newcastle's decline towards relegation - the key moments
Newcastle's 16-year-old top-flight adventure drew to a close tonight as the unthinkable finally became a reality. Life has never been dull on Tyneside since Kevin Keegan dragged the club back into the Premier League in 1993 with genuine title challenges, near misses in the FA Cup and Champions League football combining with frequent managerial changes and chaos on and off the pitch. 1 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE MISERY Having finished third in the Premier League to earn themselves a Champions League qualifying berth, the Magpies beat Partizan Belgrade 1-0 in Serbia, but on August 27, 2003, lost 1-0 at St James' Park in the return leg and then slipped out of the competition in an agonising penalty shoot-out. They went on to reach the UEFA Cup semi-finals and finish fifth in the league, but their flirtation with Europe's aristocrats was over. 2 SIR BOBBY ROBSON'S DEPARTURE On August 30, 2004, Robson's largely successful five-year reign was brought to an abrupt close when he was relieved of his duties with the club having failed to win any of its first four games of the season. The man who had dragged them from the foot of the league table into Europe in the wake of Ruud Gullit's ill-fated tenure was effectively shown the door for finishing fifth in his final full campaign. 3 CRAIG BELLAMY'S EXIT Striker Craig Bellamy's feud with Graeme Souness came to a head when the Welshman publicly accused his manager of lying over his absence from the side at Arsenal on January 25, 2005. He was eventually loaned to Celtic and later sold to Blackburn, costing the club one of its most problematic, but influential performers. 4 LEE BOWYER AND KIERON DYER BUST-UP The football world was given an insight into the club's internal disintegration when, on April 2, 2005, midfielders Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer fought each other on the pitch and had to be separated by Aston Villa's Gareth Barry. The shame-faced pair were marched out to apologise in front of the cameras by manager Graeme Souness, but the damage had been done. 5 UEFA CUP HEARTACHE IN LISBON The Newcastle faithful dared to believe their club's long wait for silverware was drawing to a close when they took a 2-0 aggregate lead over Sporting Lisbon with 70 minutes of the second leg of the quarter-final remaining on April 14, 2005. However, injuries to Titus Bramble and Kieron Dyer contributed to a Sporting fightback which saw the Portuguese side run out 4-1 winners on the night. 6 ALAN SHEARER'S RETIREMENT Against the odds, Souness managed to persuade star striker Alan Shearer to delay his retirement plans by a year, although it was his successor, Glenn Roeder, who was at the helm when the striker fired home his club recording-breaking 201st goal against Portsmouth on February 4, 2006. His career was to end three games prematurely shortly after he had taken his tally to 206 with a penalty in a 4-1 derby win at Sunderland, and both his goals and leadership have been missed ever since. 7 DEJA VU IN ALKMAAR The UEFA Cup provided the stage for another disappointment in March 2007 after Glenn Roeder's successful spell as caretaker had earned the club another crack at Europe. A 4-2 home win over AZ Alkmaar left the Magpies with one foot in the semi-finals, but Shota Arveladze and Danny Kovermans levelled the aggregate scores to send the Dutch side through on the away goals rule after Scott Parker's late effort was disallowed. 8 DERBY DEFEAT Sam Allardyce was drafted in as the safest possible pair of hands when chairman Freddy Shepherd decided the time had come to try something different. However, his approach won him few fans and the misery of his reign was summed up in a 1-0 defeat at Derby - the only game the Rams won as they plummeted back into the Football League with a record low 11 points - with his side not managing a single effort of any note on goal on September 17, 2007. 9 THE END OF ANOTHER KEEGAN DREAM New owner Mike Ashley thought he had pulled off a masterstroke when he persuaded Kevin Keegan, who had written himself into Geordie folklore as both player and manager, to return to the club in January, 2008. But eight months later, he was on his way once again after finally losing patience with the influence of executive director (football) Dennis Wise over the club's controversial transfer policy. 10 LIVERPOOL HUMILIATION On December 28 last year, title-chasing Liverpool arrived on Tyneside and served up a demolition job which illustrated graphically just how far the Magpies' fortunes had dwindled. Keeper Shay Given produced a master-class of his art, and yet was still beaten five times, persuading even the most loyal of Magpies servants that the time had come for him to call it a day.
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