You can't say that Sir Bobby Robson did not know what he was walking into when his boyhood club came calling. Freddy Shepherd made sure of that.

"You've got a difficult job keeping us up and I don't think you can do it," the Newcastle United chairman told his new manager in 1999. "I think we're going down."

Shepherd was not trying to goad Sir Bobby; he was just being brutally honest. There may have been plenty of football left to play that season, but Shepherd feared 19th-placed Newcastle were in freefall.

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Sir Bobby, however, did not believe the damage was irreparable. Whereas Ruud Gullit tried to break up the influential senior core in the dressing room, the Dutchman's successor called them his blue chip brigade.

It was the small, but significant, details that impressed the players in those opening days of Sir Bobby's reign. Sir Bobby took 10 minutes to speak with each member of the squad in his office to try and gauge what sort of character they were. The new manager encouraged his players to mix again by only allowing them to go home after everyone had finished their lunch at the canteen. Rather than over-complicating matters on the training ground, the former England boss' first job was showing his players how they could move the ball quicker from throw-ins.

By the time Sir Bobby took charge of his first home game at St James' Park, on this very day in 1999, optimism was in the air following decent performances on the road against both Chelsea and CSKA Sofia.

Even the weather seemed to reflect the mood ahead of the visit of Sheffield Wednesday. It was a horrible, rainy night when Alan Shearer was dropped for that infamous Tyne-Wear derby defeat in Gullit's final game at the helm; this time around, it was a mild, bright day and Newcastle's No 9 was front and centre.

With his players looking up at him, at 2.50pm, a suited Sir Bobby delivered his final words in the dressing room.

"Do you want to play football?" he asked. "Do you want the ball? Show me that you want the ball!"

Sir Bobby Robson salutes the fans ahead of his first home game in charge of Newcastle United
Sir Bobby Robson salutes the fans ahead of his first home game in charge of Newcastle United

They did not need a second invitation and Warren Barton believed it was 'written in the stars' that Newcastle would produce something special that day.

"We couldn't wait to play for him," Barton told ChronicleLive. "We could feel it in the stadium. We all said on the way from the hotel that there was just a different feel in the air. To go from that dark Wednesday night to this was quite unbelievable.

"He didn't have to say anything but, Bobby being Bobby, he did. He couldn't hold his emotions back because he was so proud to be manager of that football club and that's how it should be."

Across the tunnel, in the away dressing room, Sheffield Wednesday's players knew they were going to have to rise to the occasion, themselves, as a huge roar greeted Sir Bobby's introduction to the crowd before the game.

Newcastle were level on points with bottom of the table Wednesday at the time and it is often forgotten that the visitors made the more assured start at St James'. Andy Booth even had a goal disallowed.

Newcastle soon settled, however, and while you would have got long odds on Aaron Hughes breaking the deadlock, it seemed fitting that the youngster opened the scoring.

Sir Bobby, after all, had informed Hughes that he had turned down the chance to sign veteran Colin Hendry before the game because he wanted to give the versatile defender a chance.

Hughes was told to simply 'go out there with stacks of confidence and play with your courage', and that's just what the Northern Ireland international did as he headed Newcastle in front with 11 minutes on the clock.

Hughes, of course, was not the only player keen to repay Sir Bobby's faith and Temur Ketsbaia recognised how that 'first impression was always important' as he made his first start under the new manager.

"We always hoped that something would change for the better and everyone tried to give their best to show that the players deserved to be here playing at a big club like Newcastle United," he told ChronicleLive.

"This is what happened in that first home game. It was something unbelievable."

It was one thing Hughes and Ketsbaia being in the mood; Wednesday were unfortunate to come up against a wounded animal in Shearer up front.

Alan Shearer celebrates scoring during the 8-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday at St James' Park on September 19, 1999
Alan Shearer celebrates scoring during the 8-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday at St James' Park on September 19, 1999

Shearer had not found the back of the net in open play in 10 games but, after being encouraged to face the opposition goal rather than his own by Sir Bobby, it was the Newcastle skipper who doubled his side's advantage on the half-hour mark before adding another from the spot just a few minutes later to make it 3-0.

That third goal was key. Didier Domi recalls how Wednesday became 'leggy both physically and in their minds' whereas Newcastle's players 'felt like they were marching on clouds'.

"We found a little bit of relief from the tension and I'm talking about Ruud and Alan," Domi told ChronicleLive.

"The tension was like a pain in your body. But, when you see Alan, your captain and leader, smiling again, it is like going to the chiropractor and all the pain goes."

Those in the Wednesday dressing room that day remember how they 'didn't have the energy to go and close people down and lost a bit of confidence' after that goal.

There was a feeling that 'every shot Newcastle took seemed to go in' and the crowd fed off that. Wednesday boss Danny Wilson admitted he had 'never heard nearly 40,000 Geordies going bananas like that before'.

Shearer grabbed his hat-trick before half-time after getting on the end of Kieron Dyer's cross and the hosts were not about to let up; Sir Bobby even promised his captain a Mars bar if he scored another hat-trick after the break.

Dyer scored Newcastle's fifth just a minute into the second half before Gary Speed popped up with, arguably, the goal of the game late on - and that is saying something given the quality of Shearer's finishes.

Watching the footage back, all these years later, there is something poignant about seeing the late midfielder leaping above his marker, as he so often did, to head home from a corner.

Rob Lee, who was restored to the fold by Sir Bobby, played alongside Speed in the middle of the park that day and still considers it an honour to have shared a dressing room with his friend.

"Speedo always gave 100 per cent," Lee told ChronicleLive. "He was one of those guys who never went below a 7/10 and occasionally would have been exceptional and got a bleeding nine or 10/10.

"With his heading ability, his ability to score goals from midfield and his engine up and down, he was a fantastic player.

"I also played against him and we had lots of battles - even in training. He could look after himself as well. He was a fantastic trainer, probably more than most."

Gary Speed gets to the ball ahead of Niclas Alexandersson during Newcastle United's game against Sheffield Wednesday
Gary Speed gets to the ball ahead of Niclas Alexandersson during Newcastle United's game against Sheffield Wednesday

There was still time for Shearer to grab two more goals and his fifth, and Newcastle's eighth, showed just who was boss.

Substitute Paul Robinson wanted to take that 84th-minute penalty after being fouled by Gerald Sibon inside the box, but Shearer was not about to hand over the ball to the youngster who had taken his place in that Tyne-Wear derby defeat. In fact, Barton remembers the Newcastle captain telling Robinson to 'eff off!' before he fired his spot-kick past Kevin Pressman to make it 8-0.

It was Newcastle's biggest win since a record 13-0 victory against Newport County back in 1946 when, remarkably, a young Sir Bobby was among those watching on at St James' as Len Shackleton scored six goals on his debut.

While Domi remembers the 'communion with the fans' being 'incredible' at full-time, naturally, Sheffield Wednesday's players just wanted to get on the bus home.

Danny Sonner, who was playing in midfield that day, describes the emotion at the end of the game as the 'worst' he has had after feeling like he had 'let everyone down'.

"I still wake up in cold sweats seeing Shearer score another goal," he told ChronicleLive. "When someone says 'the worst defeat' or something like that, it does come into my brain.

"It doesn't come up regularly but it does come up now and again and I have to reach for the vodka bottle if I start thinking about it!"

Rather than punching the air or waltzing out onto the field, Sir Bobby immediately made a beeline for opposite number Danny Wilson.

Sir Bobby shook Wilson's hand before throwing an arm around the Sheffield Wednesday manager and offering him some comforting words as he guided him to the tunnel.

It was a moment where Wilson 'learned a lot about humility and how you should conduct yourself'.

Sir Bobby Robson encourages his Newcastle United players while Sheffield Wednesday boss Danny Wilson looks on
Sir Bobby Robson encourages his Newcastle United players while Sheffield Wednesday boss Danny Wilson looks on

"It is quite easy to be a little bit patronising to the opposing team and the opposing manager, but he was never like that," Wilson told ChronicleLive. "He was so humble it was unbelievable.

"It wasn't, 'Unlucky, our third goal was offside'. He was never like that. It was, 'Listen, I've been in that situation myself. I've been on the end of results like that and it's just dusting yourself down and getting on with it'.

"People always remember the 8-0; I remember Sir Bobby and the way he put his arm around me, sitting in his office after the game and him being on the phone Monday morning. That's exactly the type of person he was."

There was still a lot of work to do for Newcastle of course - those glorious Champions League nights were three years away, after all - but this landmark victory represented a step in the right direction as players, staff and supporters were united once more.

The blue chip brigade had stayed close even during those dark days under Gullit but, as they went out for dinner with their wives that night, they could finally toast a victory together again after all playing their part.

Gary Speed, Warren Barton, Shay Given, Rob Lee and Alan Shearer
Gary Speed, Warren Barton, Shay Given, Rob Lee and Alan Shearer

As far as Sir Bobby's former assistant, Mick Wadsworth, is concerned, that 8-0 win against Sheffield Wednesday was the day Newcastle's players found 'newfound energy, newfound vigour and newfound confidence'.

"What a way to announce Bobby Robson has landed," he told ChronicleLive. "He's back in the UK and after all the adventures and the championships he had won, better than that, he's back at his club and the club he supported as a kid.

"It was a fairy tale in a sense. It was the perfect storm, really, wasn't it? Good players and a good manager came together and a great group of supporters. The tide had to change and it changed that day."

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