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Newcastle United David Kemp

The Toon’s best XI in my lifetime. (1950 onward)

· Ronnie Simpson. Acrobat, excellent shot stopper who improved throughout his career. Knew him personally as he lived opposite my cousin John. Watched him for 13 years at the Toon followed by seeing him when I lived in Scotland both for Hibs and Celtic with whom he won the European Cup in 1967. Superb athlete and so exciting to watch. Wonderful temperament. (2 F. A. Cup winners medals)

· David Craig. Not a weakness in his game. He defended well, read the game well and could go forward when necessary. He might be beaten once, but never twice. He always seemed to know where the opposition was and was rarely caught out.

· Alf McMichael. A red-haired Ulsterman, who was a marvellous tackler, fast and most unusually for his day, would venture forward. Timed his tackles wonderfully and was rarely booked. Played Stanley Matthews off the park at SJP so much so, that Matthews rarely played here – always ‘injured’. (1 F.A. Cup Winners medal).

· Bob Moncur. Not only the complete central defender but also a real captain on and off the park. Fast enough, good header and an excellent distributor of the ball. He even scored crucial goals in the 2 legged Fairs Cup Final. A genuine legend. His reputation even survived gannin te the dark side for his last couple of seasons. (1 Fairs Cup Winners Medal)

· Jonathan Woodgate. Maybe a surprise choice as he played so few games before he was injured and sold to Real Madrid for £13 million. Vision, speed, two footed, excellent tackler and to me his greatest attribute was his speed in tackling back, if he was turned. That aspect of his game alone puts him in my team.

 

· Jimmy Scoular. Every top team has an enforcer and ball-winner and this bloke was second to none. In addition, he was a wonderful cross-field passer of the ball, in an era when it was leather, soggy and weighed a ton. He took no prisoners and some of his tackles were so bone crunching that even we flinched as we watched open mouthed on the terraces. (1 F.A. Cup winners medal)

 

· Peter Beardsley. Best player I have ever seen in a Black and White shirt. First saw him at Carlisle. He couldn’t last beyond the hour mark as he was so slight. Became not only a star with us twice, but also both Merseyside clubs and England. His double shuffle, dip of the shoulder and stupendous shooting ability in both feet made him a joy to behold. He made good strikers into world beaters; from Ian Rush and Gary Lineker to Andy Cole. Not a weakness in his game. Talk about Messi, Beardsley is not only the nearest Tyneside has ever produced, but the best England has produced in the last 50 years.

 

· Robert Lee. There was nothing that this player could not do on the pitch. He was the original ‘go-to’ man. He was two-footed, he covered every blade of grass, had a wonderful ‘engine’, great vision and could also head the ball. If he had a weakness, it was one of personality, not skill. I don’t think he ever realised how good he was. It took Keegan to build that confidence and persuade him that he was England material, which he certainly proved to be.

 

· Bobby Mitchell – nicknamed the Bobby Dazzler. A wonderful, mesmerising outside left, who scored a lot of goals even late in his career when he played up front occasionally. He could beat every right back in the game over and over again. No-one ever seemed to get the better of him. His crossing was impeccable. (3 F.A. Cup winners medals)

· Jackie Milburn. Recently voted the greatest ever Geordie. A truly wonderful player and gentleman. Brilliant but possibly too self-effacing for his own professional career. Lightning fast – he won the Powderhall sprint for professional athletes one New Year and had a net bursting shot in both feet. If only he could have headed the ball, he would have been the perfect centre-forward. His other surprising attribute was a marvellous ability to tackle from the side or behind. His long legs would seem to curl beyond the opposition player and regularly come away with the ball. He was a beautifully balanced runner and once into his stride he was almost impossible to knock off the ball. He would never admit it, but he won innumerable games for us virtually single handed. Every Geordie boy’s hero in my day. It broke me heart when he died. When I think of the Toon, it’s ‘Wor Jackie’ that I see. (3 F.A. Cup winners medals).

 

· Alan Shearer. It’s invidious to compare and I count myself truly blessed to have watched two incomparable Geordie number 9’s. ‘Big Al’ was probably never as fast as Jackie but he suffered a lot of injuries, which must have slowed him down a bit. His skills though were wider ranging in that he not only possessed two wonderful feet, but he was an exceedingly powerful header of the ball. He had such fierce determination, a will to win and such self-confidence, that he carried not only the team, but frequently the club and indeed the whole of Tyneside on his shoulders. He never flinched, never backed off, and he was a true leader. He would be captain of this or any other team. A legend and a giant. (I would guess that Shearer most resembles Colin Veitch, the legendary local lad who captained us in the golden Edwardian era to three championships and five FA Cup finals.) I will never forget his two goals in the San Siro nor the staggering Black and White Day in the Toon to mark his retirement.

· Joe Harvey. A good half back but an even better captain, leader and manager. Never let anybody down. As hard as bell metal. (2 F.A. Cup winners medals as captain then manager of the 1969 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup winning team).

· Shay Given. An excellent goalie and a lovely fellow. Second to Ronnie Simpson, only because the latter developed into a very good positional player as well as still being acrobatic. In terms of personality I would liken him to Jackie Milburn. He needed to be more forceful to ‘boss the box’ a bit more, but still had lighting fast reflexes.

· Malcolm MacDonald. He had Shearer’s personality, but was more one-footed. For sheer explosive force he was second to none. He burst onto the scene like a comet and rarely disappointed. No lack of self-confidence here and he had plenty to be self-confident about.

· Ivor Allchurch. A wonderfully skilled, silken, inside forward who could thread a pass though the eye of a needle and score goals too, but he preferred to make them. He was a beautiful player, but no push-over. He played with two other first class players up-front in George Eastham and Lenny White, but sadly in the late 50’s and early 60’s, the defence was as porous as the attack was dynamic.

· Frank Brennan. Nick-named ‘The Rock of Gibraltar’. The archetypal old fashioned centre half. Dominated the defence – tackled like a tank and headed the ball away like it was a ping pong ball. Frequently man and ball landed up on the cinder track or even on the terraces. His distribution was of two types, down the field or off the park. No niceties, no prisoners: no ‘fancy dan’ opposition forwards ever made a monkey out of Big Frank. Invaluable!

David Kemp

 

 

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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