Newcastle to heal rift with liaison officer

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The Independent Football

Newcastle United yesterday took a further step towards improving relations with their supporters with the appointment of a fans' liaison officer.

Newcastle United yesterday took a further step towards improving relations with their supporters with the appointment of a fans' liaison officer.

Following a report drawn up by football academic Rogan Taylor, Steve Wraith - the former editor of the 'No 9' fanzine - is to work for two days a week as an independent link between the club and its supporters.

His appointment is the latest move in a process aimed at restoring the bond damaged by a series of public relations disasters in recent years.

"I am delighted to have been given this opportunity to work towards developing a better relationship between Newcastle United and its supporters, which is something I have been striving for for many years," Wraith said.

United's chief executive David Stonehouse said: "We hope supporters will agree that Steve will be more than acceptable as a line between the club and our fans. We have every confidence in Steve being able to put forward a balanced, unbiased opinion to both the club and the fans and we look forward to working with him."

Bobby Robson yesterday admitted that Newcastle was the only club he could have put before his country. He insisted that there were no hard feelings after being told he could not take over as caretaker England manager by club chairman Freddy Shepherd on Saturday.

"United are the only club I wouldn't sacrifice for my country," he said. "I'm excited about the job here and I want the public to know that. There's nothing I won't do as long as I live to do the best I can for United."

Robson was surprised to see his meeting with Shepherd described as a "showdown", and said there were no ill feelings over the board's decision.

"There was no showdown, there's no rift," he said. "I'm not sulking and I didn't accept the chairman's decision grudgingly or with ill grace.

"When he gave me his reasons why I had to stay, I never asked him to let me go. I'm back in my native North East and loving my job here. I didn't want to let him down, let the players down or let the fans down. They're all too important.

"I'm flattered that the FA wanted me back as their manager but equally flattered that my club rate me highly enough to fight for me to carry on without any distractions.

"I was flattered and proud that the FA wanted me to manage my country again, but I understood the club's stance. There was no way I was going to short-change them.

"When you love Newcastle as much as I do, working for them seven days a week is hardly a hardship."

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