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Friday, 13 July, 2001, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
Robson's transfer troubles
Bobby Robson wants to improve his Newcastle squad
Bobby Robson wants to improve his Newcastle squad
BBC Sport Online chief football writer Phil McNulty looks at the frustration faced by Newcastle United boss Bobby Robson in the summer transfer market.

Newcastle United boast constantly of their status as a big club - a fact backed up by regular 50,000-plus crowds at the spectacularly refurbished St James's Park.

And those who populate the stadium on a regular basis bow to no-one when they talk of the pulling power and potential across the Tyne Bridge.

Jeffers refused to talk
Jeffers refused to talk
But the history books say otherwise about a club that has rarely delivered the success many of their fans believe is almost their birthright.

And patience is being sorely tested in a city that would explode in jubilation if the barren years were ended by that famous son of Newcastle, Bobby Robson.

Newcastle's last major honour was the Inter Cities Fairs Cup - the Uefa Cup in another guise - in 1969, unless you count the trophy won on re-entering the top flight in 1993.

Their last league title was in 1927 and the last FA Cup triumph was in 1955.

Not exactly a tale of the tape to back up the boasts about the size of the club that come from inside and outside St James's Park.

In fact, it is a tale of failure.

Zenden's not interested
Zenden's not interested
And as manager Robson tries to reverse a trend that paints Newcastle United as also rans, he is suffering severe frustration in attracting the talent to help him do it.

Robson has spent the summer chasing talent at the top end of the transfer market, but so far has only come up with 6.5m Craig Bellamy from Coventry City and Newcastle old boy Robbie Elliott on a free transfer from Bolton.

The rest has been a tale of near, and not so near, misses in the transfer market.

Newcastle enjoyed a golden period in the mid-90s, when Kevin Keegan could attract the biggest names in the game - and the club gave him the cash to do it.

Kiko - no news
Kiko - no news
Alan Shearer - at a record 15m from Blackburn Rovers - David Ginola, Les Ferdinand and more besides were all lured to St James's Park.

And yet the feeling is growing the Newcastle have missed their chance to cement a place in the Premier League elite.

Robson will hope his reputation will land the big capture, but the signs have not been good.

Everton's Francis Jeffers refused to even talk terms with Newcastle after they agreed an 8m fee for his transfer, preferring to wait for a move to Arsenal.

We've gone for big names with big money and been unlucky
  Newcastle United manager Bobby Robson
Newcastle were then linked, via Spanish radio, with Atletico Madrid striker Kiko - a one time international but now out of favour, but nothing has materialised.

Robson has suffered a double disappointment this week, with apparent snubs from Barcelona's Boudewijn Zenden and Paris St Germain's Laurent Robert.

Newcastle were happy to pay the 8m price for Zenden, but once again he was not tempted to Tyneside.

Robson said: "The deal is a dead duck. We have had a poor response from him."

Robert is still currently on ice, with Robson adding: "We've put good money - and I mean good money - on the table for two outstanding players without any success.

"We've gone for big names with big money and been unlucky."

Slow progress on Robert
Slow progress on Robert
The brutal truth is that, in footballing terms, Newcastle no longer occupy the upper tier of English soccer.

And while Robson has a big name in Europe, Newcastle is not a club that has the profile or record of success that will attract top foreign players - at least not without a huge financial lure.

They have not enjoyed recent European or domestic success, and are very much in the second bracket behind Manchester United, Leeds United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.

And, most galling of all, rivals Sunderland are now emerging as at least their equal when it comes to results in the Premier League.

Robson would love to land the one big name that could act as a magnet for others - much rests on the success of his quest for Newcastle United fans desperate for silverware.

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