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Bird: My decade following the Toon


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From Barcelona to Blackpool, from the San Siro to Scunthorpe, from Lisbon to London Road.

 

If one sentence could sum up the polarised fortunes of Newcastle United in the last decade there it is.

 

We had years of glamorous personalities, hope, expectation, near misses, big money signings and a furious gambler's dash to stay in touch with the elite.

 

Then, perhaps inevitably, the whole crazy, reckless, mismanaged freak show collapsed last summer. And if those of us up here on Tyneside are honest - the rest of the country laughed their socks off, while we mourned.

 

The soap opera at St James's Park had reached its natural ending.

 

And so as the decade ends there are no more heady days of European trips. Just one season of Champions' League football to remember, UEFA Cup close calls, a peak of third spot in the Premier League in 2003.

 

Managerially we had Sir Bobby Robson in his 70th year reviving the Geordies and sprinkling stardust at every press conference. Graeme Souness sorting out the bad apples and warring with Craig Bellamy.

 

We've had Glenn Roeder winning the job full time after an amazing run to get the club into seventh place and the UEFA Cup. Then Sam Allardyce and his army of backroom staff and scientists trying to implement a long term plan at a club hooked on short term fixes.

 

We've had Kevin Keegan's ill-fated return. Dennis Wise's unwelcome arrival and interference. Joe Kinnear's ranting and his heart attack induced departure. Chris Hughton taking charge as a caretaker and saying he's not a manager, before eventually, and successfully, taking the job full time.

 

But not before another Messiah in Alan Shearer had tried, and failed to keep the club in the top flight.

 

We've had the madness of Mike Ashley's regime. Players scouted on YouTube and bought behind Keegan's back. The attempt to trash Keegan's reputation, successfully defended in court.

 

We've even seen the club put up for sale via email, and countless suitors fail to raise £100 million and show Ashley the door.

 

It has all led to a season, hopefully only a season, in the Championship. And rather enjoyable it is turning out to be.

 

Like the afternoon strolling on Blackpool beach earlier in the season, stopping for pre-match fish and chips, winning on the Andy Capp slot machine, and losing on the penny drop machine. Then watching a cup tie style match, and a rare defeat for the Geordies.

 

Actually this season feels cleansing. Of course, I'd rather relegation hadn't happened. But there is a different feel about Newcastle post the drop.

 

The fan base at St James's Park seems younger, and less cynical. All but a few players on silly salaries have moved on. Years of pent up gripes and frustration at never quite ending that trophy drought - 40 years last summer and counting - seem to have gone.

 

Instead there is now an appreciation of the good years that the decade provided. And there were some good times, despite it all.

 

So here, rather than moan and whinge about the crisis up here that are so well documented, I'd like to prick memory banks with a couple of highlights. They still get the blood pumping and a tingle shooting up my back.

 

My biggest thrill was a dizzying trip to the San Siro. I called the office that night and spoke to a former news editor. "You are in Milan, covering your home town club, with Sir Bobby Robson in charge, Alan Shearer on the pitch and a crack at getting to the last 8 of the Champions' League. I hope you realise life is not going to get much better than that!" he said.

 

Don't be silly, I thought. This is just the start. Sadly it still represents my pinnacle of watching United.

 

It stand alongside the night in Rotterdam in 2002 when Newcastle needed to win against Feyenoord to get to the second group stage, and a favour from Dinamo Kiev who were playing Inter. As the two results fluctuated, they were in, out, certainly out, had a glimmer of hope, and then through thanks to Craig Bellamy's last minute winner. That was a very special night.

 

Witnessing Alan Shearer, a man whose goals single handedly carried the club for years, overhaul Jackie Milburn's club scoring record against Portsmouth, and grab his 201st goal, was also a precious moment.

 

As was Keegan's return, ill fated though it was. A man who ignited my passion for football in the early 1980s when he came to Toon, and again in the 1990s as manager.

 

One of the lowest, alongside standing at the Stadium of Light as 48,000 Sunderland fans celebrated Newcaste's relegation, was the week when Souness's side lost in the UEFA Cup quarter final to Sporting Lisbon, denied largely by injuries to Kieron Dyer and Titus Bramble, and then lost to Mancheser United in the FA Cup semi in Cardiff.

 

I also recall shaking with shock and anger in the press box when Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer traded blows on the pitch at St James's Park.

 

There have been other scrapes, actually far to many to mention. Craig Bellamy throwing a chair at No2 John Carver. Laurent Robert pinning a colleague to the wall after a bad headline. Joey Barton being jailed for a drunken street assault on a teenager.

 

But amid the scraps and the controversy, highs and lows, there is one quote to remember as a new era, hopefully a more sober and successful era dawns.

 

It is from Sir Bobby Robson, and seems fitting given the enduring nature of Geordies love affair with their club through thick and thin.

 

The great man wrote a year before he died in August: "Players and staff have come and gone. Fortunes have fluctuated. The one constant in the Newcastle firmament has been the hordes kitted out in black and white. What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it.

 

"Not the TV contracts, the get out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It is the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It is a small boy clambering up the stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his fathers hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf and without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love."

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I also recall shaking with shock and anger in the press box when Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer traded blows on the pitch at St James's Park.

 

There have been other scrapes, actually far to many to mention. Craig Bellamy throwing a chair at No2 John Carver. Laurent Robert pinning a colleague to the wall after a bad headline. Joey Barton being jailed for a drunken street assault on a teenager.

 

But amid the scraps and the controversy, highs and lows, there is one quote to remember as a new era, hopefully a more sober and successful era dawns.

 

It is from Sir Bobby Robson, and seems fitting given the enduring nature of Geordies love affair with their club through thick and thin.

 

The great man wrote a year before he died in August: "Players and staff have come and gone. Fortunes have fluctuated. The one constant in the Newcastle firmament has been the hordes kitted out in black and white. What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it.

 

"Not the TV contracts, the get out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It is the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It is a small boy clambering up the stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his fathers hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf and without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love."

 

Shaking with rage sounds better.

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personal moment of the decade was getting to elland road in the snow, just getting parked and making it in as we kicked off - 4-3 win, and literally screaming like a loon at nobby as he celebrated in front of us.

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Guest Alan Shearer 9

Not bad but a pretty lazy article imo, no real points made and that Bobby quote has been used in about 5 articles regarding us now.

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It's quite unbelievable all the heartache that has occurred in this decade alone :(

 

Right from the start that Wembley Cup Semi final against Chelsea in 2000 was that horrible mixture of pride and pain.

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Bobbys Euro trips, the Soumess era, the insipid Roeder year, the I'll fated Big Sam experiment, KKs hiring and walk out (the subsequent sycophantic buggery of him on here being the forums darkest days), Kinnear madness, Shearer cameo and Hughton revival.

 

A mad ten years to say the least.

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I'd still take that over supporting the likes of Bolton.

 

It is the f***ing sheer volume of the madness which keeps us going.

 

The 1st time I went to football in 80's the chant was "Sack the board" now in noughties it is "Get out of our club".

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I'd still take that over supporting the likes of Bolton.

 

It is the f***ing sheer volume of the madness which keeps us going.

 

The 1st time I went to football in 80's the chant was "Sack the board" now in noughties it is "Get out of our club".

 

 

this, ive been going since early seventies seen everything, bar a pot to piss in.

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I'd still take that over supporting the likes of Bolton.

 

It is the f***ing sheer volume of the madness which keeps us going.

 

The 1st time I went to football in 80's the chant was "Sack the board" now in noughties it is "Get out of our club".

 

 

this, ive been going since early seventies seen everything, bar a pot to piss in.

 

You have had the good times: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texaco_Cup

 

 

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