The bitter end
Just when the Norwich debacle seemed like a new low, five days later and we've missed out on Wayne Rooney (our bid made to look like a cruel joke played on the fans by Fat Freddie), lost pathetically 4-2 away to Villa (see below) and to cap it all sacked our manager.
Last week, as the pressure mounted before the Villa game, Sir Bobby commented: "I don't intend to change the habit of a lifetime and start breaking contracts ... Walking away from a problem isn't my style". It seems he hadn't considered the possibility that Fat Freddie might be the one to break the contract for him, and give him a friendly push on his way.
My initial reaction was one of great disappointment. Robson is a wonderful character with an enormous passion for the club, and someone who can identify with the fans being one himself. He brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the club, and completely turned our fortunes around, for which we will always be thankful. It's tremendously disappointing that things have turned so sour for him over the past few months, and I feel very sorry for him.
However, I'm not of the same opinion as people like the Independent's James Lawton who suggest that Robson has been treated disgracefully and that Shepherd should be ashamed of himself. Yes the timing is terrible, and yes the whole club is run in an astonishingly cack-handed fashion (something for which Shepherd should take the blame), but that doesn't detract from the fact that Robson had lost control over the dressing room. Not so long ago he seemed unsackable, but by the end his position had become close to untenable.
Some will argue - and indeed are arguing - that Robson's sacking was inevitable the moment the issue of his contract not being renewed was made public knowledge. I'm not so sure. It was obvious that relations with the chairman weren't good, Freddie having clumsily muscled in on Robson's turf by taking over the responsibility for incomings and outgoings, but had we had a decent start to the season I could have seen the manager staying for the duration of his contract.
Now, naturally, all the talk is of who will succeed him. Dozens of names have already been mentioned, but Shearer's keeps cropping up, though I don't think he's quite ready for the responsibility even in conjunction with an experienced coach and it's also debatable whether he'd command any more respect from the likes of Dyer, Bellamy and Kluivert than Bobby did given his "patchy" history with them.
Whoever does fill Robson's shoes will inherit - and I continue to maintain this - an exceptionally talented squad bursting with potential albeit lacking in defensive personnel. However, they will not only have to contend with the squad's staggering arrogance, complacency and lack of focus but also with a chairman who seems intent on involving himself increasingly in managerial affairs and with a club that is quite possibly the most shambolic off the pitch in the Premiership. A poisoned chalice?