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Newcastle United Ben Stephenson

Aged 9, and a few days before my 10th birthday, my Dad suggested taking my brother & I shopping in Eldon Square for my birthday presents. Living in a small Northumberland town, anticipating the big lights of the city was enough for me to become extremely excitable.

I knew that Newcastle were playing that night, and 3 weeks previously, I had watched on TV as a Beardsley penalty secured a vital away goal and a 1-1 draw. My love affair with the Toon began in 1994/95, a season that promised so much and resulted in nothing. The 1995/96 season, a season that promised a title win until the pressure told.

Nevertheless, watching free-flowing football, full of attackers, midfielders and defenders who wanted to be attackers (Albert in particular), I became hooked. Days of waiting for kits to come out, wearing them all day and instead of pajamas for sleep, obsession had been born. Fellow school-friends would turn up at school in replica kits so we could play as Newcastle against the weird ones who supported Sunderland, Liverpool & Man Utd and blaze our way to glory. These were moments of sheer joy & delight.

I digress. 03/12/1996; expecting to buy birthday presents, perhaps a Newcastle Utd training top (naturally, I was already wearing the denim blue away kit under my winter coat). Standing at the Gallowgate End car park, my Dad reached into his inside pocket, and out popped 3 tickets. I was overwhelmed.

The match itself was one of spectacular ability from one particular player, and, I believe, was his best performance in a Newcastle shirt before that hat-trick against some Spanish opposition. Tino since his arrival in the snow of January, had captivated the Geordies. He set the mood that afternoon on Teesside when he completely bemused the lumbering Steve Vickers and crossed for Watto to thump in a header and secure the 2-1 win.

Against Metz, Tino was on fire. With the game tentatively poised at 0-0 & with 80 minutes gone, a Metz player clean through, shot straight at Srnicek. The nerves jangling, knowing that a clean sheet would secure passage to the next round, Gillespie bent a cross in from the right and Peacock (defender, allegedly) collected the over-hit cross and hooked a ball into Asprilla who, with the faintest of touches, guided the ball into the net. Pandemonium ensued, Tino ran towards the Exhibition Stand corner, took off his shirt and hoisted it atop the corner flag. An event in itself, but the fact that this is where my Dad, brother & I were situated made it ever the more enjoyable.

The 2nd goal again, was of the highest calibre, spinning his marker, outrunning the last man and bending the ball beyond the Metz goalkeeper, saw Tino running off again in our direction.

An unbelievable first game at St James' Park. The lasting legacy? My Dad, brother & I on the back of the Daily Mail the following morning, centre of the picture above Tino holding the aforementioned flag-pole.

A dream come true.

Ben Stephenson

 

 

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

2 Comments

Fantastic memory! Have you got the picture from the newspaper?

– Gavin Ferry (Toon Times Project , August 30 2013 at 16:24

Thank you Gavin. I enjoyed writing it. I'm fairly sure my father will still have it somewhere. I will ask him to fish it out and I will scan it on to my computer. Ben

– Ben Stephenson, September 1 2013 at 08:34

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