He was a part of Kevin Keegan’s famous ‘entertainers’ team and played his part in Newcastle United’s early noughties resurgence under Sir Bobby Robson. But now Robbie Elliott is facing a very different sporting challenge, as Richard Holmes found out...
He may not have ridden a bike since he was a child, but former Newcastle defender Robbie Elliott will be making up for lost time later this year.
For in October, Robbie, accompanied by his friend, triathlete Phil Gray, will take part in Bike for Bobby, a 3500 mile cycle ride across Europe.
The challenge will see the pair raise money for The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and Breakthrough Breast Cancer, two charities involved in the research and treatment of cancer.
In honour of Sir Bobby Robson, who brought Robbie back to Newcastle United in 2001 for his second spell at the club, the pair will cycle non-stop from Lisbon to Newcastle, via Porto, Barcelona, Eindhoven, London and Ipswich – in less than four weeks!
They’ll take in all of the clubs Sir Bobby managed during his illustrious career, and also visit Wembley, to mark the much-loved North Easterner’s time as England boss.
Robbie sees the cycle ride as a chance to repay Sir Bobby for bringing him back to his hometown club after four years away, giving him the opportunity to ‘live the black and white dream’ once again after a stint at Bolton Wanderers.
“I owed Sir Bobby some payback to thank him for what he did,” says Gosforth-born Robbie, who speaks with great affection about his former boss. “(Returning to Newcastle) was just too good a thing to ever turn down. Sam Allardyce (Bolton’s manager) pulled me in and said, ‘I don’t blame you whatsoever, I would do the same in your shoes, get yourself back home’.
“People say ‘don’t ever go back’, but if you have the opportunity to go back to Newcastle United, you can’t not take it!”
He continues: “Sir Bobby was a great man. I think the way he is still spoken about now shows that he was a gentleman of football.
“There aren’t many people in football who have such a reputation throughout the world, as opposed to just one club.”
The former left back, who is now employed by US Soccer as a performance coach, reveals that he was given a ‘final push’ to take on a charity challenge by Mark Allison, aka ‘Run Geordie Run’.
In 2011, Mark ran from California to New York in 100 days to raise money for The Children’s Foundation and St. Benedict’s Hospice.
That incredible feat inspired Robbie, who says: “When I was over in the States I was following Mark’s progress and the more I read about it, the more it stood out in terms of what an achievement it was.
“I met up with him in Newcastle and explained that I’d had some ideas about what I wanted to do – I’d been close to doing something like the cycle ride before but meeting Mark was the final push over the line.”
February 18 saw the launch of The Robbie Elliott Foundation, coinciding with Sir Bobby Robson’s birthday, with the Bike for Bobby challenge marking the first charity initiative for the organisation.
Robbie and Phil will cycle as many as 150 miles a day to complete the route in time, and it’s hoped the pair will arrive at St James’ Park on a home match day for a fitting celebration of their achievement.
Their journey will feature some of Europe’s finest cities and stunning scenery – so which part of the ride is Robbie most looking forward to? “Going up Barrack Road!” he laughs.
“The top and bottom of it is that I don’t know what to expect, but it’s something I’m really excited about, something I’ve never put myself through before.”