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Newcastle United Edward Nesbitt

‘It’s raining, Dad!’

He was right, it was raining.

‘We’ll be okay in the Leazes End, if it doesn’t stop, dad.’

I didn’t care much for the Leazes End.

It was 6.30a.m. The football match began at 3p.m. and I hadn’t arrived in bed until midnight. I grunted out of the warmth and growled to the window. A miserable scene floated into my sight. I felt cold and damp as soon as I beheld the bleak aspect.

‘Shall I put on my wellies, dad, shall I, dad?’

To my numbed befuddled brain, his voice was cacophonic.

‘Wyn’s through, dad.’

Wyn was not through. He had succumbed to a sly, slithering, slide from the Sunderland fullback.

‘Wyn’s down, dad!’

Wyn cried out in anguished torment as he fell heavily to the ground.

‘He’s hurt, dad!’

The tackle had been terribly late and the fullback’s studs streaked Wyn’s shins with gore.

‘OFF, OFF, OFF, OFF!’ roared the St. James’ supporters in anger.

Wyn, the King, lay stricken on the wet, stud-scarred stage.

‘Was it a foul, dad, was it a foul?

The fullback seemed scared of what his studs had achieved.

‘Bloody bastard!’ bayed the crowd.

After a perfunctory, pointed warning from the referee, the defender stepped back. After all, he couldn’t have allowed the Argonaut number nine to score when his team were clinging to a one goal lead. He avidly avoided annoying the referee after that, but the crowd still wanted his blood. The King stirred surprisingly soon and gingerly, gallantly stood to his feet as the trainer attended his wounds.

‘O.K. Wyn?’

His team mates gathered round and murmured their hatred of the dirty, dreadful defender, but the manager from the line told them to forget it and, ‘get stuck in!’

The crowd around us continued to voice their opinion of the dreadful deed.

‘Aa think th’ should’ve sent him off.’

‘Aye, that foul was deliberate.’

‘Oh aa divent knaa, he’s just a hard lad, that’s aal.’

‘Wyn'll be aalreet, he’ll recover in nee time; he might even score a couple yet.’

‘Ooh me legsa killin’ me.’

‘Hoy, watch that tab, man.’

‘Stop that, son. Stop throwin’ them peanuts, ye might put somebody’s eye out.’

‘Aa cannit see us winnin’ this one, cos there’s nowt gettin’ past that left-back.’

‘Wyn’s up again, dad, he’s up again; will he score, dad?’

‘Aal bet any money that Sunderland centre half gets on the England team; he’s havin’ a hell of a game.’

‘And aal bet ye he doesn’t.’

‘Why not, wor lads cannit get anything past him?’

‘Cos he was born in bloody Inverness!’

‘By God, my feet are frozen. If we get beat the day, aam never comin’ back.’

‘This groond’s nivvor changed in forty yores.’

‘Aye aa totally agree with yer. The Leazes End been like this since aa was a lad and aa think some of the same players are still here as well!’

‘Hey, mister, stop gannin on aboot the past, will ye? Just watch the game.’

‘I am watchin’ the game, that’s why aa can say that footbaal’s different noo, bonny lad. It might be a bit faster but it isn’t as good. Aa remember, Wor Jackie, Tom Finney, Peter Doherty; you’ve seen nowt, son. These lads couldn’t hold a candle to them ones.’

My feet were cold, I was cold, the world was a cold place and the rain was very wet. I’d been sentenced to ninety minutes of tenterhook torture. I hated Derby games. Football matches seem to bring out primeval men from their little boxes. Maybe they go to try to rid themselves of present day social inhibitions.

 

‘GOAL!!!’ Sunderland had scored, again!!!

The Newcastle supporters near me were stunned. Flattened! Brought down! Stopped in the track of hopeful expectation! How had it happened?

‘Was it a goal, dad? Was it, dad?’

‘Yes, son. It was a goal.’

Tears formed in his little eyes. Fat men wheezed; thin men sighed. The invaders from the Wear had taken command. Would Newcastle United become totally subjugated, forever prisoners or would they endeavour to throw off the growing chains of slavery?

The United number seven immediately attacked. It was a lone, brave try and he was repulsed. The Sunderland war-horse strode forward again. In vain the Tynesiders defended, their walls were breached!

‘CORNER!!!’

The trajectory from the flag-kick was gloriously grabbed by the gangly Newcastle keeper!

‘Wotta save!’ a black and white scarved supporter screamed into my ear, ‘wotta save. Howay the lads.’

Newcastle attacked. Wyn flew with the white- scarred orb at his feet. Like the knights of old, he challenged his adversaries to thwart him. He passed to a fellow knight on the wing. He screamed for the return. Rising like a phoenix from the flames of defeat. He projected with his golden head, the leather missile past the startled Roker keeper into the net of triumph.

‘GOAL!!!’

The Newcastle supporters on the sidelines of the tournament were ecstatic. The Sunderland war-horse lay in the depths of despair. How could they hold their one goal lead against the now inspired, probing lances of the home side, a side rejuvenated with the taste the heady taste of success?

The Sunderland followers urged on their army to victory, but it was not to be. The Gods of War had pledged their allegiance to Newcastle.

‘How long t’ gan?’

‘Fifteen minutes.’

‘Th’ll nivvor dee it.’

Hermes, the messenger came with the news, Zeus required victory! Newcastle stormed forward. Herculean efforts from the Sunderland defence stemmed the tide, but the sand was running out. Could Newcastle maintain the pace demanded or would the tide ebb?

The Leazes End was a mass of molten movement. Here no Sunderland fan dare enter. The noise of the crowd was deafening; like medieval peasants they roared on their heroes. The excitement of the throng was electrifying.

‘NEWCASSEL! NEWCASSEL!’ was the thunderclap.

‘Handbaal. Penalty!!’ A Sunderland player has handled the ball! The home team had hammered time after time and the wall had been breached. The big centre half had in extreme desperation put his hand to the ball and the gateway to victory was now standing open.

‘He’s missed it!!’

Newcastle’s penalty expert fell into a moat of gloom midst the groans reverberating around the terraces. Within seconds the Sunderland team had rebuilt their wall, determined to double the guard. No chink must be left in their armour. The battle cry of, ‘Howay the lads’ from the Geordie faithful echoed across the palisades. The battlefield was a heaving body of threshing protagonists. The troops surged onwards. Sinews were stretched to their utmost. Tissues gasped for oxygenated blood.

‘CORNER!!!’

‘Corner for us, dad, hope Wyn scores, dad.

Three minutes to the final whistle, hope was the only prayer left. Over came the ball, head height and at cannon ball momentum. A human catapult, the might muscled mortal from Wales hurtled forward.

‘GOAL!!!’

The ground erupted. Defeat was dimmed. Victory was now a practical possibility.

‘HOWAY THE LADS!!!’

The nervous energy of the contest now evoked extra strength into the starving tendons of the warriors. The match restarted but the referee was forever glancing at his watch.

One last attack. ‘HOWAY THE LADS!!!’ Black and white shirts swept forward. The Sunderland keeper blocked a bullet like shot, but in the excitement of the moment he dropped the slippery sphere from his aching damaged digits. A tiny gap appeared in the guard. Newcastle’s number nine was poaching and his probing lance-like leg dealt the killing thrust.

‘GOAL!!!’

The conflict was at an end. The, Coup de Grace’ had been applied. My feet were still cold.

Edward Nesbitt

 

Newcastle United Foundation have a heritage project for fans of all ages called Toon Times.

Toon Times will culminate with a major Newcastle United exhibition at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle, although in the lead up to this event Toon Times wishes to reach out to all Newcastle United fans across the North East and further afield to get involved and share their memories, experiences, photos and memorabilia what people have collected over the years.

We are supporting the project by helping to collect NUFC memories online - fans can share their memories on the Replay Football website, simply select the Toon Times tag when submitting yours.

For more info contact the Toon Times Heritage Project Coordinator, Newcastle United Foundation, gavin.ferry@nufc.co.uk


 

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