Credit and copyright of this image owned by West Ham United Football Club.
Sunday February 28th saw the shock news of the death of former player and manager Glenn Roeder at the relatively young age of 65 after a long battle with a brain tumour that had stretched back as far as 2003.
First, a disclaimer, I may talk traditionally about the non-league scene here on Football CFB and especially about my team South Shields. But I have mentioned that traditionally Shields has been divided amongst the two elite clubs in the area, Newcastle United and Sunderland, i have always resided on the black and white side of that particular divide. Even though South Shields nowadays has been my main focus (and has been for the last 14-15 years), I still feel with my experiences following Newcastle, that I can do my best to pay tribute to Glenn.
Yes, I will have been too young to remember his exploits as a player but it was as a manager (especially his 14 months in the Newcastle hotseat) where I remember him.
ROEDER’S PLAYING CAREER
Glenn as a player was a product of the Arsenal youth system which he joined in 1969 after impressing scouts whilst playing for the Gidea Park Rangers youth club in Romford after three years learning his trade there, he was released and went to 2nd Division Leyton Orient where he would make his league debut. It was in the 1977-78 season where Roeder began to make his mark as Orient went on a fine run to the FA Cup Semi-Finals where they would lose to Arsenal.
That run included a stellar man of the match display in the 5th round replay win over Chelsea. He was beginning to forge a reputation as not only being a cultured centre back with a few silky skills (including a stepover that would become known as ‘The Roeder Shuffle’) but also a strong leader, traits that convinced QPR director Alec Stock to fork out £250,000 transfer fee to sign Roeder in the summer of 1978.
In his 5 years at QPR, he would continue to make waves as a skilful defender and under Terry Venables, became captain. In that time, QPR never finished outside of the top 8 in the 2nd Division, being persistent promotion contenders in that time. Roeder even captained them to an FA Cup Final against Tottenham in 1982 before finally winning promotion to Division 1 as Champions the following year. It was then though that he fell out of favour with Venables and so spent the first few months of QPR’s top flight campaign on loan at Notts County before his next move came calling.
That would signal the beginning of a fruitful relationship with another 2nd Division promotion chasing side, Newcastle United whose manager Arthur Cox had spent the last season and a half completely rebuilding his squad with a mixture of experience in the form of Kevin Keegan and Terry McDermott alongside youth in Peter Beardsley and Chris Waddle. Cox saw Roeder as the final piece in his promotion jigsaw to shore up at the time a very leaky defence and paid QPR £150,000 for him.
It turned out to be a bargain as not only did Roeder help Newcastle win promotion in Keegan’s final season before retirement, but also gave 5 more seasons of faithful service to Newcastle United and in that time, not only become captain himself but also a crowd favourite. He would eventually leave on a free transfer to Watford after relegation in 1989 before finally winding up his playing career at 4th division strugglers Gillingham.
THE MANAGERIAL JOURNEY
Gillingham is where Roeder began his managerial career as a player-manager, managing to keep the struggling Kent side in the football league by the skin of their teeth in 1993 ahead of Halifax but he would leave for 1st Division Watford before the 93-94 season commenced for his first taste of sole football management. He would last three seasons there with a best finish of 7th in 1995.
After Watford came as a spell as assistant manager alongside former Newcastle teammate Chris Waddle at 2nd Division Burnley for a season before England came calling. Roeder was given a coaching role under Glenn Hoddle’s management which meant being reunited with his former protege Paul Gascoigne. When at Newcastle, Roeder took the Geordie midfield maestro under his wing as he was breaking into the Newcastle first team in the mid 1980’s and the two had remained firm friends ever since.
England dramatically managed to qualify automatically for France 98 after a battling 0-0 draw away against the Italians and did not disgrace themselves in the finals. Hoddle’s mixture of youth and experience reaching the last 16 bowing out on penalties to Argentina. But 6 months later after Hoddle’s controversial comments about disabled people made it to a national newspaper, he would lose his role as Hoddle was sacked. Roeder wouldn’t be out of the wilderness for long though as he was offered the assistant manager’s role alongside Harry Redknapp at West Ham. After 3 seasons, Roeder would get a promotion to manager after Redknapp left for Portsmouth.
Glenn Roeder’s time at West Ham was tumultuous to say the least. His first full season saw some great form in batches and a late season charge saw a 7th place finish just missing out on UEFA Cup qualification. The goals of Jermain Defoe and Freddy Kanoute played a big part in that run. The 2nd season though was anything but rosy.
West Ham were in a relegation dogfight as they struggled to replicate the previous seasons form but in the run-in, it appeared they were beginning to finally find their stride with a run of just 1 defeat in 8 games culminating in a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough. However shortly after the post match press conference that day, news came out that Roeder had collapsed complaining of chest pains and was rushed to hospital. It later transpired that he had a brain tumour.
It meant he had to sit out the remaining 3 games of the season where despite continuing their late season form under the caretaker-ship of Trevor Brooking, West Ham were still relegated with 42 points. To this day, that is still a Premier League record in the 38 game era. Roeder returned later that summer to lead what was expected to be a promotion campaign, but after an inconsistent start to the season and a 1-0 defeat away at Rotherham, Roeder was sacked and he would spend 2 years on the sidelines.
RETURNING TO NEWCASTLE
It was August 2005 when Glenn made his return to coaching, this time at his former stamping ground of Newcastle to head their Academy setup. He would do a fine job with a talented group of youngsters at his disposal, one of which we’ll get to soon.
A day after Roeder led his academy side to the FA Youth Cup Quarter-Finals with an extra time win at Brentford, the first team were humbled 3-0 at Manchester City and heading dangerously for relegation. The manager Graeme Souness was promptly sacked after this defeat and the next day, Glenn Roeder was given the role of caretaker with Alan Shearer as his assistant until further notice. What happened in the next 3 months went beyond even the wildest dreams of Newcastle fans.
Roeder oversaw an incredible turnaround as Newcastle won 10 of their remaining 15 league games, propelling them from 15th in the table to 7th and Intertoto Cup qualification, a stunning achievement in such a short space of time. He also oversaw Alan Shearer finally breaking Jackie Milburn’s 60 year long goalscoring record and reaching the FA Cup Quarter-Finals. He also had the honour of managing the team for Alan Shearer’s emotional testimonial match against Celtic (although Shearer picked the starting XI).
Roeder was rewarded with a two year contract in the summer of 2006 and at the time, one could say he had reached the height of his managerial career as he was about to lead Newcastle United into European competition. It would be a season though of both frustration and disappointment mixed in with some memorable moments. Two of which in my mind stand out.
Firstly was in the UEFA Cup campaign. After coming through Norwegian side Lillestrom in the Intertoto Cup and then both FK Ventspils and Levadia Tallinn in UEFA Cup qualifying, Newcastle were then drawn in a 5 team group of death alongside Turkish giants Fenerbahce, the dangerous Spaniards Celta Vigo, Palermo from Serie A and Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt.
After winning their group opener 1-0 against Fenerbahce, Newcastle were in the midst of an injury crisis for the trip to Palermo, injuries to both of Roeder’s first choice goalkeepers Shay Given and Steve Harper forced Glenn to throw in academy goalkeeper Tim Krul. Many were predicting a slaughter as Palermo at the time were riding high in Serie A having won 7 of their opening 9 league games and had put 4 goals past West Ham in the qualifying rounds. Newcastle took an early lead through Albert Luque before Palermo went on a massive hour long siege of the Newcastle goal. Tim Krul would have a debut to remember pulling off save after save after save in a stunning performance as he repaid the faith Glenn Roeder placed in him to secure an incredible 1-0 win against the odds. Judging by his tweet on Sunday, Tim certainly has never forgotten that faith.
Roeder’s Newcastle would go on to beat Celta and earn a draw in Frankfurt to progress to the knockout stages as group winners. where after progressing past Belgian side Zulte Waregem, they would eventually fall on away goals to a very good AZ Alkmaar side.
The second memorable moment of that season came in a league season where Newcastle struggled with injuries. Despite a slow start to the season, a run of 5 wins in 6 games over the pre-festive period gave Roeder’s team some mid-table security but a huge spate of injuries forced Roeder to field a lot of his academy graduates, a situation that came to the boil for the trip to Tottenham where in final squad of 16, Roeder was forced to name SEVEN academy players, two of which had to start (Paul Huntington and Matty Pattison) against what was at the time one of the Premier League’s most feared attacks featuring Defoe, Berbatov and Robbie Keane.
What followed was a stunning display of goalkeeping from Shay Given and some determined resilience and belief from Roeder’s battlers to pull off a 3-2 win, including a goal of the season contending howitzer from Obafemi Martins.
That match was definitely the high point of a frustrating league season where everything eventually took their toll. depsite credible draws against both Arsenal and Chelsea, Roeder tendered his resignation one week before the end of the season. Despite the frustrating league campaign, Roeder could hold his head high in terms of how he did at Newcastle. his win ratio of just under 46% actually puts him 5th in the Newcastle manager’s all time list and to add to that, because Newcastle had gone further in the UEFA Cup than the 11 other Intertoto Cup qualifiers, they were declared overall winners so technically, Glenn Roeder had ended Newcastle’s long trophy drought.
Glenn would have one more job as manager when he attempted to turn around a Norwich side in decline in the Championship. He managed to turn things around to survive relegation in 2007-08 but an equally slow start the following season meant he was out of work a few months later. Roeder then took on less notable roles acting as a coach under Stuart Gray at Sheffield Wednesday for a short spell and then in 2016 for 2 years as managerial advisor at Stevenage for young manager Darren Sarll. He then exited the public limelight with his last known appearance actually at Newcastle for a talk in at a home game against Norwich in February 2020. Answering fan’s questions and still displaying a massive enthusiasm not only for the game, but for Newcastle United and their fortunes on and off the pitch.
But many wonder why Roeder was loved at Newcastle amongst the fanbase despite being a cockney, especially when you see the media pull out the usual ‘Cockney Mafia’ line that Newcastle fans apparently don’t like Londoners. Well the answer is plain and simple and also knocks into touch that stereotype, just like idol Kevin Keegan and fellow Londoners Robert Lee, Les Ferdinand and Warren Barton, he understood what Newcastle United meant to the fanbase and gave his all both on and off the pitch. You do that at Newcastle and you will earn that respect, irrespective of where you come from.
The fact that so many players and managerial colleagues have come out in admiration of Glenn Roeder and being happy to share many memories of times when their paths crossed in football just shows how much he was respected amongest his peers, the most poignant coming from his former assistant at Newcastle United, Nigel Pearson, now manager at Bristol City. his tweet thread pretty much sums up Glenn Roeder better than anyone could in my honest opinion
R.I.P. Glenn Roeder, 1955-2021