Sir Bobby Robson is famous for forgetting names; perhaps he is capable of blanking out anything he does not wish to remember. But he apparently cannot think of anything that might have persuaded the Newcastle United board to dismiss him as manager.
Robson survived for only the first four games of the Premiership season - one for each of his major signings during the summer. The newcomers - Stephen Carr, Nicky Butt, James Milner and Patrick Kluivert - had little chance to fit into the team, but it was the unsettled dressing room that apparently tipped the balance against Robson.
Not that the former England maanger is downhearted. Never mind that he is 71, Robson is no defeatist, and he is awaiting another opportunity to use the expertise he has built up in 40 years of management, starting at Ipswich Town. He has managed and won trophies in England, Holland, Spain and Portugal and another stint on the Iberian Peninsula would not go amiss. He would not turn his nose up at the chance to put Real Madrid back on the path to European dominance - if there is a vacancy. Real say not; their results might say otherwise.
Any football fan in Spain knows that Robson can turn a team into winners; the challenge at Real is to turn winners into a team. Galacticos? Yes. What planet are they on? Robson apparently had trouble controlling players with a high opinion of themselves at St James' Park, but he might still be the man to bring down to earth stars who have real achievements to their name.
Speaking to Des Lynam on Radio Five Live's Des Meets in first interview since his dismissal, he said he was "bewildered" by the constant reports of player unrest in the weeks running up to his sacking, which had been presaged by Freddy Shepherd, the club chairman, saying that Robson's contract would not be renewed at the end of the season.
"It was a shock to be sacked, I was bewildered," he said. "I know that in the four games from the start of the season we hadn't won a match, but we hadn't lost two consecutively. We drew and lost, then drew and lost. It was a blow, we had qualified for Europe and were looking forward to the new season. It was a disappointment to finish fifth [in 2003-04] but it wasn't such a bad season at all."
The rumours of discontent heightened when Kieron Dyer refused to play on the right side of midfield against Middlesbrough. The England midfielder later apologised but the damage was done.
Robson, however, refutes the charge that he was losing control. "I didn't feel the players were moving away. We played four games, didn't win one, but we could have won all four," he said. "It's just newspaper talk that the players weren't with me. Team spirit was good."
Banning jewellery and baseball caps from the training arena is hardly threatening, surely? But Robson did admit: "Maybe there was a bit of self-indiscipline with one or two players away from the club which you try to remedy."
Now he has his own problem. "I've got to get on with my life, it's all gone now." He needs the Real thing.Reuse content