That was then...

Jonathan Woodgate, Jermaine Jenas and Alan Shearer look dehected
Jonathan Woodgate, Jermaine Jenas and Alan Shearer look dehected

Joe Bradshaw, BBC Sport

Last time Newcastle played Champions League football, the Prime Minister was Tony Blair, Finding Nemo was on at the cinema and a two-and-a-half-year old Anthony Gordon was probably still in nappies.

Now, after Thursday's draw grouped Eddie Howe's side with Paris St-Germain, Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan, the Magpies can really start getting excited for their return to the upper echelons of European football.

But what happened to their Champions League campaign in 2003? And why was it so shortlived?

Sir Bobby Robson's team had finished third in the 2002-03 season, behind the usual suspects of Manchester United and Arsenal, meaning they had to qualify for the group stages.

After thrilling in their run to the second group stage the previous year, they were expected to see off Partizan Belgrade and did the hard work in the first leg as Nolberto Solano scored a vital away goal in the Serbian capital.

However, at St James' Park, a forward line boasting Alan Shearer, Craig Bellamy and Laurent Robert was kept in check and Partizan wiped out their advantage early in the second half.

As a nervous home crowd watched on, the tie went to extra time and then penalties with Shearer uncharacteristically blazing his effort over the bar.

Kieron Dyer and Jonathan Woodgate also failed from the spot before Shola Ameobi and Lomano Lua Lua converted to scramble the Magpies through to sudden death.

Alas, after Jermaine Jenas had netted, Aaron Hughes missed, allowing Milivoje Cirkovic to send Newcastle crashing out.

It seemed unthinkable back then that it would be a 20-year hiatus from European competition but, finally, Champions League football is back in the north east.

And Eddie Howe's new exciting band of footballers will have no fear against the cream of the continent.