Newcastle United’s new owners can bring the good times back to St James’ Park by hiring an icon of the club’s most recent glory days, Alan Shearer, to oversee football matters, says Rob Lee.
Fellow Newcastle great Lee played alongside Shearer for six seasons as they challenged Manchester United’s domestic supremacy and enjoyed their first taste of Champions League football in the late 1990s.
Lee believes club record goalscorer and north-east hero Shearer would be the perfect man to advise the Saudi-led consortium that took over the club in October but whose football expertise is not as deep as its pockets.
“I would get someone who knows Newcastle and the club and sits as an adviser to everybody, to the board – even above a director of football,” Lee tells City A.M.
“Because if we get the top job wrong, every other job is wrong. I think it’s imperative to get it right behind the scenes before we get it right on the pitch because it starts at the very top.
“I’m a great friend of Alan but he would be my choice. You know he’s not going to be influenced by anybody. He’ll make decisions because he loves Newcastle.”
Shearer could advise the owners on who should fill their vacancy for a director of football and whether the transfers they desperately need to make represent good business, says Lee.
“He’ll give his honest opinion. He’s not scared of anyone, he won’t be bullied by agents. They can trust him to give them the right call,” he adds.
“They might not agree with him all the time but I just think you need somebody who knows the area, the people and the club and is not going to be corrupted.”
Shearer’s love for Newcastle is no secret, says Lee
Lee attended Newcastle’s long-awaited first Premier League win of the season against Burnley on Saturday with Shearer and suspects his good friend would be keen on the role.
“If it was right for him, yes,” he says. “I’m not putting words into Alan’s mouth but it’s no secret he loves the club.”
Lee is in no doubt how high the stakes currently are for the club at which he spent almost a decade and played more than 300 times.
Although now off the bottom of the table under new manager Eddie Howe, Lee fears Newcastle will suffer a relegation that would set the Saudis’ project back “two or three years” unless they make signings in January.
“My gut says, having seen them a couple of times, that unless we get some players in to help them I don’t think we’re good enough,” he adds.
“We’re so far behind and have four tough, tough games coming up before we even hit the transfer window. We don’t want to be 10 points adrift because it doesn’t matter who you bring in, it’d be an impossible task.”
The former England midfielder also warns that Newcastle must be realistic with their transfer targets rather than chasing unattainable megastars like Kylian Mbappe.
“The players that the Saudis want and they see on Football Manager we can’t get,” says Lee, 55, who also played for Charlton Athletic, Derby County and West Ham United.
“They want to play in the Champions League and be competing, and at the moment we can’t compete. Our expectations of the level of players we can go for have got to come down.”
Newcastle can’t bounce back from drop like Keegan’s side
When Lee joined Newcastle in 1992 they were a team heading for promotion to the top flight under Kevin Keegan.
He quickly became a key figure in Keegan’s free-scoring “Entertainers”, who found themselves able to challenge the Premier League’s elite straight away.
Despite the financial backing of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, Lee says Newcastle would not be able to bounce back in the same way if they suffered relegation this season.
“I think those days are gone – they’re well gone. We went up under Keegan and straight into challenging for the title. You can’t do that now, it’s impossible,” he says.
“We are so far behind so it’s very difficult for us. It’s alright having money, but it’s spending it in the right way. You can never have enough money in football; the money just keeps going up.
“The teams that Man City and Liverpool have are so far ahead of us now. Even if you buy 11 new players you’ve still got to integrate them.”
Rob Lee was speaking as an ambassador for Coffee Friend. You can read his blog here.