Super scout Paul Montgomery has hailed Sir Bobby Robson as "the greatest motivator of all" on the 20th anniversary of them coming together to serve Newcastle United.

It was 1999 when Robson was appointed manager of his beloved Magpies - and his first signing was another Geordie he wanted to join his scouting team.

Bobby phoned former United boss Jim Smith at Derby County to ask if he could bring United fan Monty home and the Bald Eagle reluctantly agreed.

"I had been with Jim for the best part of 10 years since he was Newcastle's manager and I got him Pavel Srnicek," recalled Montgomery this week. "We were together at Derby and Jim gave me a bell to ask me to call in the next day and see Bobby.

"'Why?' I asked. 'Because he wants you to work for him,' was the reply. All I could think of was 'What's the matter, do you want rid of me?'

"Jim explained that it was an honour for Bobby Robson to want you and Newcastle United were my club so we were a perfect fit. I knew that and I couldn't get up there quick enough."

Sir Bobby Robson supervises a Newcastle United training session in Bangkok
Sir Bobby Robson supervises a Newcastle United training session in Bangkok

Monty didn't really know Robson but he had done deals with Bobby's chief scout Mick Wadsworth when he was manager of Carlisle and so soccer's grapevine had obviously taken over.

"Bobby was the best motivator I've ever known and I worked for, or done deals with, an awful lot of top, top managers," Paul told me.

"He was exceptional - warm, charismatic, shrewd and clever all at the same time. He could make a player feel 10 foot tall but be absolutely ruthless as well when he needed to be.

"I remember sitting in his office on a Friday afternoon when a player came in to announce that he had a dodgy hamstring. Bobby set off on a spiel that lasted half an hour without him drawing breath. How great the player was, how he needed him tomorrow when Newcastle had to win, how the team fell apart without him.

 

"In the end the player stood up and said: 'You can rely on me boss. I'll be there for you tomorrow' and left the room.

"The door had hardly shut when Bobby turned to me and said: 'Find him a club. I need to get rid because he'll be a major disruption in the dressing-room if anything isn't to his liking'.

"I was stunned but I did get the player a club and he left. It was awesome how Bobby got the best out of a player one minute and moved him on if he was to be trouble the next."

Monty worked on several deals with Robson including the likes of Jermaine Jenas, Olivier Bernard, Craig Bellamy, and James Milner.

"I watched Jenas about five times at Nottingham Forest and implored Bobby to sign him. We could have got him for £500,000 at the time but in the end others at Newcastle continued to look at him offering a different eye and about a year later we paid £6m.

Paul Montgomery
Paul Montgomery

"Bernard I got on a free - we eventually had to pay thirty grand in compensation - and I pushed for Bellamy when some in the club were urging Bobby not to touch him."

By the time Milner was signed at the start of what has become an awesome career Monty had moved on from Newcastle, but Robson still valued his opinion.

"United got Milner in a fire sale at Leeds," recalled Monty. "They were in desperate financial trouble and Bobby gave me a tinkle to ask if I thought they had any players worth taking. Milner was nicked for £3.6m and look at the career he has had with Manchester City, Liverpool and England.

"Whenever I'm talking to kids I hold up Milner as the greatest example of where you can get with desire and attitude. He was at Aston Villa when I was working for Alex McLeish at Birmingham City and we used to go across to play their kids in the gym some afternoons.

James Milner
James Milner

"Sure enough there was Milner, a full England international, working on his own with the mannequins out curling shots round them on goal. He has always wanted to be the best he could be and that has never left him which is why he's had such a fabulous and long career at the very top."

Looking back fondly on his time with Robson at Newcastle Monty went on: "Bobby was the first in on the morning and the last to leave. United used to train at Chester-le-Street in those days and often I would get a call at three o'clock in the afternoon. I ran a pub up in Stanley and the gaffer would say: 'what are you doing? Come down and we'll discuss a few players'.

"He used to call me his rough diamond because I used to tell it the way I saw it. He laughed himself silly one day when he asked me in a meeting what a certain player was worth and I said: 'Two balloons and a goldfish'! I loved the fella."

Montgomery left when Robson urged him to go and help Glenn Roeder at West Ham.

"Bobby said he liked Glenn, he was once Newcastle's captain, and as I knew him well I could make life easier for a new manager," explained Monty.

When Roeder eventually got the Newcastle job Monty joined the Mags for a third time and went on to also serve under Sam Allardyce.

He remains a fervent black-and-white fan to this day and is desperate for them to emerge from a black cloud of despair.

"Bobby took us from certain relegation to third top of the Premier League and success in the Champions League," said Monty.

"That isn't going to happen again soon. What Steve Bruce must hope for is Andy Carroll doing what he hasn't done for years - getting fit enough to play a dozen games on the bounce and scoring goals."