Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd has admitted that the club’s manager Bobby Robson, who turns 70 today, hasno plans to retire and may still be at the club in five years time.

There has been speculation about Robson’s future at the club since he was appointed Newcastle boss in September 1999 at the age of 66, but all the signs are that the former England coach will be in charge at St James Park for some time to come.

‘His energy is incredible,’ said Shepherd.

‘No-one would be surprised if he’s still here in five years. We handed him a 12-month rolling contract to stop the vultures gathering. There’s no ticking clock, no countdown to retirement. Every day he gets out of bed, he has a year left.

‘Okay, Elsie (Robson’s wife) might have something to say about the day he packs it all in, but I’m not going to get between Bobby and his wife.

‘I keep getting asked who’s the next manager, is therea back-stop there in case Bobby gets run over by a bus. The truth is there is no back-stop. I don’t know the alternative.

‘Does it terrify me that one day we’ll have to look for a new one? No, not after what I’ve been through here. I just hope it is put off for a long, long time, many a season.

‘He has never told me when he wants to quit, never said anything like that to me. That’s the truth – we wouldn’t ask him either.’

‘I’ve always said there’s only one Bobby Robson and there only ever will be,’ Shepherd said.

‘The guy’s a one-off, absolutely unique. I cannot think of a contemporary.

‘When we appointed him he was 66, but I never think of Bobby as an age. I don’t put a number on him. I know this 70 thing has been built up, but it just goes over the top of my head. When he came, he was the right man at the right time. Age didn’t come into it.

‘I’m 61 – he’s the only manager I’ve had who’s older than me. Mind you, I don’t think of him as an older man. He doesn’t seem it. More importantly, the players don’t either. He’s amazing.’