The Shearer parallel appeals to Robson, Newcastle's hero of '69

Newcastle United have been this way before. The last time they won a trophy of first-class value they had to beat the Sporting Clube de Portugal - Sporting Lisbon, to give them their Sunday name - along the way.

That was in the second round of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup in the 1968-69 season. The difference between the clubs, who meet again in the first leg of the Uefa Cup quarter-finals at St James' Park on Thursday night, was Bryan "Pop" Robson - all 5ft 8in of his goal-poaching excellence. The winner he struck in the second leg on Tyneside is regarded by longer-toothed aficionados of the black and whites as the finest ever scored by a Newcastle player in the club's 100 matches in European competition.

"I don't know about that," Robson said, blushing at the assertion. "There have been some great goals over the years. Alan Shearer has scored some decent ones, hasn't he? It was one of my favourite goals, though. Tommy Gibb floated a free-kick to the edge of the box, Wyn Davies got his head to the ball, and I got on the end of it with a volley."

Not just any volley. Robson sprung a good three feet off the ground to get his right foot to the ball, and he propelled it with a force that threatened to rip through the Gallowgate End net and send it halfway to Gateshead. It secured a 1-0 win on a chill November night and a 2-1 success on aggregate.

Robson plundered six goals in total as the leading marksman in that triumphant Fairs Cup campaign. "It was all pretty simple stuff," he reflected, looking out over the Slaley Hall golf course, close to his home in the Northumberland market town of Hexham. "The Continental sides hadn't come across a player like big Wyn before ['You'll not see nothing like the mighty Wyn,' the Gallowgate crowd used to chant in tribute to Robson's 6ft 1in striking partner]. The plan was to aim balls into the box for Wyn and I would pick up the pieces.

"We were very strong through the middle of the team, with Willie McFaul in goal, and Bob Moncur and Ollie Burton at the centre of defence. The present Newcastle side have that strength too. They've got quality all the way through, from Shay Given in goal to Alan Shearer up front. We were a pretty young team, though, and Europe was new to us. Newcastle now have more experienced players - players who are really ready to win something. It's hard for them with the home leg first, but they've got enough about them now as a team to progress. They've got enough in the locker."

Graeme Souness's side, of course, have Alan Shearer in the locker for their twin assault on this season's Uefa Cup and FA Cup, and for 12 months beyond. "It's great news for Newcastle and for Graeme Souness," Robson said, Newcastle's 34-year-old captain having announced his intention to continue playing. "You need players like Alan Shearer in your team. He's crucial for Newcastle. He came back to the North-east to try to win something and I hope he succeeds. It's a tragedy that a club like Newcastle haven't won anything since 1969."

Robson himself played in England's top division as a 38-year-old. In his last game in the old First Division, in May 1984, he scored a goal that saved Sunderland from relegation. He hung up his boots a year later, as a 39-year-old player-coach with Carlisle United in what was then the Third Division.

His longevity as a nimble poacher of goals - "the best striker England never capped," Jimmy Greaves called him - owed much to the sharpness and poise he gained from the extracurricular training he undertook with Len Heppell, a former professional ballroom dancer. They started working together after Robson's prowess as a county-standard table-tennis player brought him into contact with Heppell's daughter, Maureen, an England international player.

"Lennie could spot things in your movement and he knew how to improve them," Robson said of the man who has become his long-time father-in-law. "I spent the summer of 1968 working with him - playing table tennis and running and doing little exercises to improve my sharpness. It was just simple stuff, working on reactions and balance and poise, but it made a massive difference to me.

"I had been a canny little player before that, getting nine or 10 goals a season, but that next season I scored 30 - 24 in the League and the FA Cup and six in the Fairs Cup. The season after that I scored 25."

Robson continued to prosper as a top-flight scorer after moving on from Newcastle to West Ham, earning the Football League's Golden Boot for his 28 First Division goals in the 1972-73 season. Now 59, and working as a scout for Birmingham City, he looks fit enough to keep popping in the goals, although, for the record, the nickname came not from his ability to deposit a football into a net swiftly but from being one third of a group of school friends known as "snap, crackle and pop".

Pop and Maureen have three grown-up children, Louise, Stephen and Gemma, and a grandson, Joseph. "Joseph's four," Pop said. "Stephen's already had him along to St James' Park, so he's black and white." Just like the 36-year-old television footage of his proud grandfather in his goalscoring, trophy-winning pomp.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice