Football: Hall makes Herculean attempt to lure Robson

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The Independent Online
Newcastle United were last night believed to be making a last-ditch attempt to lure Bobby Robson to St James' Park, with a high-level meeting scheduled for Barcelona's Nou Camp Stadium.

The Newcastle chairman, Sir John Hall, a keen supporter of Robson, was said to be leading the negotiations for the former England manager's release with the Spanish club's president, Jose Luis Nunez.

Robson and his Portuguese advisor, Jose Vega, were also reported to be attending the meeting which was to follow last night's league match against newly promoted Hercules. What had not been anticipated was a 3-2 home defeat for Robson's team by the side second from bottom in the Spanish First Division.

It is understood that Newcastle are so eager to have Robson that they are prepared to buy out his contract, which has nearly two years to run. The Barcelona coach has resisted efforts to tempt him home, but what might tip the scales in Sir John's favour is that Robson's relationship with Nunez has cooled considerably in the past week.

Robson's position with the Catalan club has been weakened after a series of disappointing performances, and last night's result, bound to be viewed as one of the worst in the club's history, could well hasten the departure of Robson.

The 63-year-old former Ipswich manager is seen by Newcastle as the figurehead of a managerial dynasty, with Peter Beardsley eventually taking over and in turn handing the reins on to Alan Shearer. Robson has indicated that he would like to take his assistant, Jose Mourinho, with him should he leave Spain. He followed Robson when he left Porto.

Despite another strong candidate in Kenny Dalglish, Robson has remained the No 1 target and Sir John has continually interrupted his winter break at his Marbella retreat to try to secure his man.

Newcastle sent a delegation to Spain as soon as Keegan's resignation became public knowledge. They met Robson at his villa in Sitges where he was offered a five-year deal on a similar salary to Barcelona, where he earns around pounds 600,000 a year.

Back on Tyneside, Pavel Srnicek added to the post-Keegan turmoil by asking for a transfer. The Czech goalkeeper, who delivered his request in writing to the caretaker managers, Terry McDermott and Arthur Cox, said he had no option but to ask to go for the sake of his family after being dropped for the fifth time in his Newcastle career.

"Everybody knows what I think of of the fans and this area, and the same goes for my family too, so this is a very sad day for me," Srnicek said. "But at this stage of my career I need to be playing first-team football and I've come to the conclusion that it's time for me to make a move and look for a new team."

One of Keegan's last managerial decisions was to drop the 28-year-old Srnicek - a pounds 350,000 signing by Jim Smith from Banik Ostrava in 1991 - once again, with Shaka Hislop taking over for the last three games of his reign.

But Srnicek, whose contract runs out at the end of next season, made it clear that his decision to make a formal transfer request was not related to Hislop or to Keegan's resignation.

"This has nothing to do with Shaka or anything else; I've got nothing against Shaka. This is about me," he said.

Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, is hoping to sign the Israeli centre-back, Gadi Bromer, for pounds 1.3m from Maccabi Tel Aviv later this week.