Gone but never forgotten

article-1203407-05E7BB7B000005DC-165_468x354[1]There is a cold, hard faced and almost callous nature about modern-day football. A dog eat dog mentality where ethics and integrity are forgotten about in preference to getting the result that matters or sadly in more frequent cases the almighty pay packet. It seems only too right to spend some time today remembering a man who stood for everything that the modern-day game has forgotten especially given that today would mark the great man’s 80th birthday.

It’s easy to romanticise about past heroes given the cynical world we live in these days but when it comes to Sir Bobby Robson it would take a cold and bitter man not to get carried away when remembering the man who went from a pit village in County Durham to one of the most universally loved and respected characters in world football.

I only met Sir Bobby once and it was the briefest of brief meetings but that moment will live with me for the rest of my life and left an imprint on my psyche that no other person has been able to achieve. I’ve met some special people in my time. Genuine legends in the football world like Kevin Keegan and Sir Geoff Hurst but none of them were able to walk with the aura that Sir Bobby did. Continue reading

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The Imperious Gazza

Gazza NUFCBefore you carry on reading this I want to make it clear that what I am writing is most certainly not an obituary, it’s not even a plea.  If I’m honest I’m not entirely sure what it is I am typing other than me expressing my sadness and a little bit of anger at the situation one of my very first, in fact no make that my actual first ever football hero finds himself in right now.  Today I travelled down to Frickley to report on a game between Frickley Athletic and Blyth Spartans, the club that I am very honoured to be working at in the role of press officer.  It’s a job I love doing win, lose or draw, although admittedly it’s easier when there’s a win to report on.

Unfortunately today it was a loss I was reporting on but I was still on a high on the way back doing a job I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid, that coupled with Newcastle United’s marvellous 3-2 over Chelsea meant I was reasonably happy sitting in the house working on my match report.  Then I came across the news that Gazza has seemingly come off the wagon and is starting a fresh battle with alcoholism, reading that news meant my mood went flat. Continue reading

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First step on the long road to Justice….

Hillsborough+disaster[1]I remember standing as a six-year-old, in the function room at Newburn Leisure Centre after watching my Dad play for his works side. The TV was on but where there was a match meant to be taking place, there were scenes of utter devastation. Of football fans just like me and Dad being carried away from the stands on advertising boards and mass panic all around. Quite a lot for a six-year-old to take in but they were scenes that were left imprinted on my brain, much the same as anyone else reading this who experienced the scenes of Hillsborough in one way or another.

I worked out yesterday that I have attended well over five hundred football matches in my life at all levels of the game, most notably at St James’ Park, Newcastle. I’ve attended four semi-finals, three in the FA Cup and one in the UEFA Cup. Hand on heart I can say that not once has it crossed my mind that I would go to the match and never return to see my friends and family. However the sad reality is that the ninety-six Liverpool fans killed at Hillsborough went to support their team, just as I have done week in week out but were never to return. Continue reading

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laudrup1024_2779780[1]Whenever a Premier League team lose a manager to another club the same old names are normally banded about as a replacement. Alan Curbishley will be linked with any job going, up and coming young managers like Brighton’s Gus Poyet will get a mention and a random ex  player of the club looking to hire will come out in the press asking for a chance at the club. When Swansea City lost their highly regarded manager Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool it would have been easy for them to go down either of the routes mentioned above, however in bringing in former Brondby, Spartak Moscow and Real Mallorca manager Michael Laudrup, Swans chairman Huw Jenkins has ensured that transition from Rodgers to Laudrup should be seamless.

Danish legend Laudrup was known as a classy, elegant footballer when he became the big name in Scandinavian football in the 80s and that is the style of play he likes to impose on his teams. Rightly so as well given that as a player he notched up an impressive haul of honours with some of the world’s biggest teams. Having represented the likes of Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Ajax it’s safe to say they have a manager in place who has experienced the most high pressure situations during his career. Continue reading

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David Beasant of Wimbledon and John Aldridge of LiverpoolBefore I go into a bit of a rant I’d like to bring up two memories from my childhood that as football fans (I presume) you will be able to relate to. Saturday 30th January 1988 and I took my first steps into a professional football ground as a 5-year-old to watch Newcastle United play Swindon Town. In all honesty, the excitement of the day and going to a match with my Dad means that in all the rush and clamour the day completely passed me by. I remember the noise and the swaying of the crowd, the fact it was freezing and the craziness that followed each Newcastle goal (all five of them!). However the thing that made the day really special was the fact that not only was it my first ever game with my Dad but it was in the FA Cup, the greatest domestic club competition in the world. I still have a programme from the day although I’ll be honest it’s not the one that me and Dad (well Dad really) paid for on the day but one I bought from the excellent Back Page shop in Newcastle. As I say, it’s a memory that will live with me forever. Another date for you that’s prominent in my mind is Saturday 14th May.

My beloved Newcastle had been knocked out of the FA Cup back in the 5th Round by some bunch of noggy cloggers called Wimbledon. However, the very same noggy cloggers were now running out at Wembley to face the then mighty Liverpool who boasted the talents of Hansen, Barnes and Beardsley. The build-up to the Cup Final was massive with every single TV programme seemingly wanting to be part of it. A boiling hot Saturday (as it always was on Cup Final Saturday) saw my Dad wake me up earlier to go for a kick around down the park, then to the shop for a paper and back home to get ready for the build-up. Dinner was eaten in time to make sure that by the time Cup Final Grandstand started we were sat on the sofa ready. Continue reading

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boro para 2There have been some seminal moments in the recent history of Middlesbrough Football Club. Who can forget the entertaining side produced by Bryan Robson featuring the White Feather Fabrizio Ravenelli, disco dancing Brazilian midfielder Emerson and the little maestro who conducted the Riverside Orchestra Juninho? Then there was Steve McLaren’s side of Southgate, Schwarzer, Zenden and the second coming of Juninho who lifted the club’s first ever major domestic trophy in 2004 beating Bolton in the Final of the Carling Cup. There was the dramatic run all the way to the final of the 2005/06 UEFA Cup Final which featured unforgettable matches against FC Basel and Steaua Bucharest.

On a more negative note, twenty-five years ago the club was on the brink of going out of business and literally ten minutes away from extinction when local businessman Steve Gibson saved the club with the help of a consortium. In those dark times, new heroes were formed as youngsters battled for nothing more than pride in the shirt. Manager Bruce Rioch gave debuts to players who were to go on to become club legends. Youngsters like Gary Pallister, Colin Cooper and Tony Mowbray all made their first appearances in the red of the Boro in difficult circumstances and it is the latter who will oversee what I believe will be the next major event in the history of the Teesside club. Continue reading

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guard4_1498040a“Més que un Club” or “More than a Club” is the rather bold motto of one of the giants of World Football, Barcelona. If any week has proven that the extremes of football are extenuated then it has been this week at the Nou Camp. A week of hell for the Catalan club saw them lose their El Clasico derby to a Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Real Madrid; saw a superb defensive performance from Chelsea dump them out of the Champions League at the Semi Final stage and in one last dramatic action of the week, their Head Coach Pep Guardiola stepped down to end a trophy laden tenure in charge. Guardiola as a player was someone I admired greatly and in all honesty, as a coach he only added to that admiration.

Inheriting an already superb Barca side from Dutchman Frank Rijkaard, Pep gave the team a new ethos. Whereas the days of Deco, Etoo and Ronaldinho had brought great success Guardiola set about putting together one of the greatest sides club football has ever seen. The spine of the team was built on players who had come through La Masia, Barca’s famed academy based on the outskirts of the capital of Catalonia. Valdes, Puyol, Pique, Iniesta, Xavi and of course Lionel Messi were the foundation upon which Pep’s Barcelona would be built. Continue reading

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