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Nikos's interview for the Journal

Nikos's interview for the Journal

Nikos Dabizas insists there was never any doubt that Bobby Robson would salvage Newcastle's reputation as a genuine Premiership force.

United's Greek international returns to Tyneside today, following a brief break in his home country, having emerged as one of the success stories of the Magpies' magnificent season.

However, Dabizas admits the man who rejuvenated his own St James's Park career deserves the bulk of the credit for transforming a relegation- threatened club into Champions League contenders.

"First of all the manager has the experience and he knows how to handle the pressures of professional football," pointed out the experienced centre-half, who may be rested from Newcastle's final league game of the season at Southampton on Saturday to facilitate his selection for an international friendly the following day.

"His reward for the hard work he has done since joining United is the chance to lead the club back into Europe.

"I never doubted he would achieve success here because he has such a great relationship with the players.

"The manager will do what he wants but he goes about it in the right way and always gets the right response."

Certainly Robson's ship has not always sailed smoothly this season and a number of first-team squad members have suffered the sharp end of the former England manager's tongue. However, Newcastle's boss remains a popular leader and Dabizas explained: "He does not demand the respect of his players even if, at his age, he has the right to do so.

"Instead he earns it by putting a tremendous amount of effort into his job. He talks things through and makes his point well. That's one of his best qualities. He manages to keep a first-team pool of 20 or so players happy and these days that is very hard to do. It's easy to satisfy five or six but only the best coaches can manage to maintain harmony throughout the squad."

With Robson hotly tipped to win this season's Manager of the Year award, Dabizas speaks for the majority of his players when he praises a coach still at the very top of his profession after 50 years in football.

"It is Bobby's job to keep his squad united and he is very good at his job," said the former Olympiakos defender. "It's always easy to judge a manager on his results but it's just as important to take other factors into account.

"Bobby doesn't yet have the strength in depth that Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Gerard Houllier enjoy and that's what makes his achievements even better.

"He has been tremendous this season and deserves as much credit as any player."

The Journal


232 Appearances in England (175 for Newcastle United, 18 for Leicester in the Premier League and 39 for Leicester in the Championship). Total League-Cup-Europe appearances 550. National Team appearances 70. Goals total 40.