Bob Moncur, Newcastle United's last conqueror of Europe
PUBLISHED: 18:56 13 December 2012 | UPDATED: 22:30 20 February 2013
Roger Tames talks to Bob Moncur, Newcastle United's most famous European
Step outside the promised land of the Champions League, and English football is full of Euro sceptics. And the object of their derision is the Europa League.
Most Premier League clubs strive for European qualification. Then, if they end up in UEFAs second string competition, spend the following campaign moaning about the demands on their squads.
Mention European football to Newcastle United legend Bob Moncur though, and you light a blue touch paper of enthusiasm for the continental game. Of course, as the man who lifted the clubs last major trophy, it was Europe that made the Scottish defender a Tyneside hero.
That was back in 1969, when Moncur led Newcastle on an almost madcap adventure in what used to be snappily called the Inter Cities Fairs Cup. Three years later, the competition was renamed the UEFA Cup which in 2009 finally became the current Europa League.
Newcastle United to their credit, have embraced what could prove a 17-game slog to glory with a positive attitude. Half way through their group games, theyre already in pole position to reach the knock-out stage.
These days qualifying for Europe is almost a weight on the clubs shoulders, says the central defender whose three goals dominated the two-legged final against Ujpesti Dozsa from Hungary.
Your squad gets stretched but it does give young players a chance. Sometimes they play in Europe before they play in the Premier League. In our day it was massive and the first team always played. Now were used to seeing the team in Europe.
Once we reach the knock out stage, then I think it will really capture the fans imagination. In our day, it was just us against another team over two games. Right from the start the pressure was on and it was really exciting.
These days Bob is still serving the club he loves as a Corporate Relations Executive, working with sponsors and supporters to help United rebuild bridges which he admits were damaged in the early stages of the current regime.
As a fan, Moncur shared the doubts about Mike Ashley. But the multi-millionaires business acumen and the financial progress he has made at the club has won him over. Hes even met Uniteds reclusive top man.
Hes fine, Bob says. If you met him, youd get on with him, no problem.
Moncur sees plenty to admire in Uniteds current European ambassadors, especially his successor as captain and central defender Fabricio Coloccini: Hes got pace, reads the game so well, great skills hes class.
Bobs Fairs Cup winners were famously described by their chairman as daft enough to win it. The skipper thinks Alan Pardews team have a more sensible chance: This team has goalscorers. Its dangerous, especially at St James Park, and especially if the fans can see we might win a trophy.
He also knows the modern player gets treated a little differently. I was injured for the first round against Feyenoord, he said. So I watched the first game standing with the fans in the paddock. There was no way Id be travelling with the team for the away game. But I was invited to join a supporters trip to Rotterdam and watched from the stands. I even stayed in the same hotel as the fans. Can you imagine the captain doing that now?
If Newcastle reached next Mays Europa League final in Amsterdam, somehow you feel this time, the Fairs Cup winning captain might make the official trip back to Holland.