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E-MAIL: WEBSITE: EDITOR: Michael Martin DEPUTY EDITOR: Gareth Harrison ART & DESIGN: Glenn Ashcroft & Michael Martin ILLUSTRATIONS: Marc Jennings PHOTOGRAPHY: Matt Flynn, Colin Ferguson & Carl Haynes PROOFREADING - Neil Huitson WEBSITE: Glenn Ashcroft & Michael Martin

TBAWE........................................................ pg6

Basque Brethren - Euzkadi They Hung out the Flag of War........ pg54

The Leader................................................. pg10

Starting Fires............................................ pg58

Jonjo............................................................. pg14

Feel Every Beat........................................ pg63

Editorial...................................................... pg4

Chieck Out................................................ pg18 What Exactly Do I Make of 2016.... pg22 He’s the Keeper....................................... pg28 The Competition..................................... pg30

Why?........................................................... pg72 Small Mercies........................................... pg76 Sketch for Winter................................... pg78

Geordies Here, Geordies There.......... pg34

Postcards From The Edge..................... pg80

Future Proof.............................................. pg39

60 Second Season.................................. pg82

Child Abuse in Football........................... pg42

I Am the Greatest................................... pg84

Why Newcastle?..................................... pg46 New Gold Dream.................................... pg50 The Curious Case of Aleksander Mitrovic.............................. pg52

#ForçaChape............................................ pg92

COPYRIGHT: All items(c) true faith. Not to be reproduced without the prior permission of true faith. STATEMENT: This is NOT an official product of Newcastle United FC. NOTICE: All views expressed are the views of the author and do not always represent the views of true faith. CONTRIBUTIONS: All contributions to true faith are welcomed, encouraged and considered for publication - letters, articles, photos etc. NEVER FORGOTTEN: L.J. & M. Martin. NEXT ISSUE: TF 130. OUT: 5 MAR 2017.

NUFC Brasil............................................... pg98


The End.................................................... pg102

© true faith. tf 3


Welcome to tf 129. We’ve had a bit of a blip over the Christmas and New Year fixtures but as I write this in the warmth of a comfortable 4-0 win over Rotherham at SJP we sit top of the Championship, albeit by the narrowest of margins but nine clear of third place. We are at present still in the FAC and I don’t think we’ve been able to say that much in the second half of January in recent years. As I write this we have 19 games remaining. Almost half a season. We know what this division is all about having played everyone now but other teams have been able to weigh us up as well. I don’t think we are predictable but what I’ve detected from the opposition in recent weeks is a desire to attempt to tf 4

kick us off the park and no team exemplified that more than Sheffield Wednesday and whilst there is more to their game than brutality we do need to be able to stand up and counter this physically. I’m glad we have some decent specimens in the side who can offer some physicality and I’d include Lascelles, Clark, Shelvey, Hayden and Murphy amongst that part of our squad. Mitro is a possible addition but he’s too much of a loose cannon and I have my fears about his ill-discipline. Shelvey will need to control himself as well as his tongue but on the flip side he’s also the most talented player in the division by some distance. I’m as confident as I’ve ever been that we are going back up but there is absolutely no room for complacency.

tf 129 Jan 2017

I do want United to invest in 2-3 players who will make our promotion a sure thing and be part of the rebuilding we will need to make a decent fist of life in the Premier League. There has been some incoherent suggestion Ashley is wishing to get involved in the transfers Rafa is attempting and the appearance of Carr sitting alongside him at away games has set a few hares running. Frankly, Ashley needs to be across what Rafa and Charnley are up to because it is he who will ultimately sign the cheques. I can well understand Ashley’s phobia against signing older players given the likes of what Geremi, Smith, Viduka, Barton, Campbell cost in transfer fees and took out in wages and offered us in return. I do not


want United to become a piss-take pension top-up for cynical old professionals after one last pay-day. On the flip-side our club cannot be allowed to be the shop-window it was under Pardew-McClaren for players with no commitment and using United as a stepping stone to greater things. Looking at the team we have now I’d say on a technical basis we are short of fire-power and creativity. The sight of Sammy Ameobi back in the starting eleven tells you everything about our lack of bodies. Daryl Murphy leading the line tells us two other things – firstly, a well-scoped out older player brought in for a very reasonable fee with some fire in his belly can do a job but secondly, no-one really suggests Murphy will be a player for the Premier

League with all due respect to him. If he helps us to clinch promotion (and his goals against Brentford and Rotherham have paved the way for vital wins) there is no calculating that return on investment (sic). For all the money, Sunderland have squandered on players in the last ten years I don’t think anyone would ever question the value of Jermaine Defoe – his goals have kept that club on the Premier League gravy train for at least three seasons. Get your calculators out and reckon that one up. If there is one element lacking in the current team it is an element of leadership and experience. We are close to getting onto the final strait now and there’s no question nerves will be jangling. I don’t think you can put a price on a wise-old head at this point. Having a Kevin Nolan, Steve Harper or Nicky Butt around to guide the younger players through on the pitch could be invaluable. We don’t have that player on the books at the moment. Ashley should consider the role Nolan played in Carroll’s development and how much he was sold for eventually. Jonjo Shelvey has also demonstrated he is the one player in the squad for whom we can’t provide

If there is one element lacking in the current team it is an element of leadership and experience. We are close to getting onto the final strait now and there’s no question nerves will be jangling. I don’t think you can put a price on a wise-old head at this point. Having a Kevin Nolan, Steve Harper or Nicky Butt around to guide the younger players through on the pitch could be invaluable.

a replacement. I’d like to see a central midfielder with a bit of an eye for a pass brought in and I do think some pace on the flanks would be useful. I’d be delighted to see Andros Townsend come back to United and be excited at the prospect of him and Ritchie on the flanks with Gayle through the middle. However, I’ll leave this all to Rafa and whatever he does will likely work as it did in the summer when he completely revamped the squad and left with £30m+ in the kitty. Ask Aston Villa how easy it is to pull off that trick.

the manager leaving. I do not think Newcastle United could survive that trauma. United is more reliant on Rafa than it has ever been on any one individual than at any time in its history. Were Benitez to walk then I think thousands of us would go with him. I’d certainly be amongst them because coming up to the tenth anniversary of Ashley taking over the club I don’t think I could countenance any more. It would be heart-breaking but it would kill the club.

But imagine for one moment Mike Ashley pissing Rafa Benitez off and

Anyway, we have put together a packed issue of true faith for you and I’m

I sincerely hope it does not come to that.

excited about how some of this stuff goes down with you all. Our readership this season has gone through the roof and whilst I know some of you still pine for our glossy A5 hard-copy, I can honestly say about 6 times the numbers of people are reading the fanzine in this format than whatever we did previously. We are the most widely read club fanzine in the UK. Let’s hope everyone at United, in the stands, in the boardroom, in the dugout and on the pitch keeps their eye on the prize and we get back to where we need to be for so many reasons. Viva La Rafalution! Keep On, Keepin’ On…

Follow Michael on twitter

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thru black & white eyes 25 Nov - Massive week, this. We have the chance set a club record against a stinking Blackburn tomorrow at SJP and then cup glory awaits against a Hull side we’re genuinely better than. Finally, the massive spanner in the works is having to go to Forest on the Friday night. Sky doing us over massively. Shock. With a big lead over third placed Reading, there’s scope for a balls up hopefully we have the squad to cope. 26 Nov - As Newcastle United as they come. 28 Nov - Saturday was massively disappointing. United never really controlled the game and the resting of Goufrann and Gayle harmed the team.

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Atsu did OK in for Gouff but Mitrovic’s performance was something else. He looked above anything else, unfit. His lack of mobility only overshadowed by his lack of willingness to compete with the his opponents for high balls. Watvhing Rafa on the side lines, he and the coaching staff seemed increasingly exasperated by our Serbian striker who cost £13m. He wasn’t the only player to have a bad game but we rely on our front man to stretch the play and push opposing teams back towards their own goal. A horrible afternoon which we can’t dwell on as we head to Hull for a quarter final. 29 Nov - United go out of the League Cup on penalties. We were miles better than

Hull and controlled the game. Matt Sels hasn’t made a save and their kepper has made several. Hull played like the away side despite their struggles in the Premier League they are far from cut off. Perhaps we all went too wild when we took the lead in extra time. Perhaps the players switched off. Perhaps Sels isn’t good enough and Darlow could and should have played. Either way, we were good. They took better pens and I’ve enjoyed a proper cup run. Up Rafa’s cup specialist Mags. 30 Nov - Drove back from Hull and got back at 02.00 due to pissing about after, podcast recording and road closures aplenty. I’m exhausted as I type this and I have to knock up

a match preview for the true faith site. Imagine how the players feel. Imagine how the coach staff feel. They say this league is exhausting. They’re right. That’s without cup runs and Friday night games. I’ll take a draw at Forest, who are rubbish, but rubbish may trump exhausted. 02 Dec - Steve Martin. Remember the name. 03 Dec - I still can’t get over it. Nottingham Forest are a horrible club and a horrible team. I sincerely hope they’re relegated. It doesn’t excuse Shelvey, who let us down. However. He is clearly fouled first, so how was it a penalty? Paul Dummet does nothing but stand behind Lansbury who falls over. United

had at least two penalties denied whilst Forest had two inexplicably soft and wrong go their way. Two red cards? Piss off. United were superb. This is a side that this calendar year has served up the dross for it’s away support at Watford, Chelsea, Everton and Southampton. I saw a team give everything, absolutely everything. They came away with nothing, through no fault of their own. I love this team. I love these set of lads representing us and giving us everything they’ve got. Rafa’s United. 06 Dec - Both red cards are overturned by the FA. Christ. It means we’ll see Jonjo a little longer before he’s most likely banned by the FA on his other charge. That’s important as he’ll be a big miss when he’s gone. Gallowgate Flags host a hugely successful quiz night which is fully supported by Newcastle United and Rafa Benitez. 200 people turn

out to raise almost £2,000 for the cause. 07 Dec - I’m lucky enough (again) to be invited into Benton to speak with Rafa Benitez for several hours. If you’re interested in what was said, have a listen. 12 Dec - United hammer Birmingham with the most convincing home performance since Brighton were well-beaten in late August. Birmingham arrived at United in fifth place and with one of the best defensive records in the division. Dwight Gayle gets a perfect hat trick and Mo Diame puts in the performance we know he’s been capable of but hasn’t delivered. Four nil in third gear. This team will go up with plenty to spare. 18 Dec - Wins at Wigan and Burton for United’s travelling fans to enjoy pre-Christmas. Not straight forwards but not complicated either. When

winning away from home become expected and as straight forward as United make it, things are good. 20 Dec - Jonjo Shelvey is banned for 5 games for racially abusive language of an opponent. Nightmare. Shelvey decided not to contest the verdict whilst maintaining his innocence. He will be a big miss during the busiest time of the season fixture wise. A rare blip in a hugely successful season to date. 26 Dec - Christmas disappointment on Gallowgate as Sheffield Wednesday, who played very well, leave with all three points on an evening where we very much missed the bald Pirlo. The could have gone either way with both sides missing chances. The home crowd was borderline mutinous at times, which was disappointing. Our home form remains a problem compared to our near flawless away form.

The only positive from this was that we have Forest at home in four days time. A chance to get back to winning ways and put them a step further to the drop. 30 Dec - Revenge but not a straight forward game. Some people within the ground booed the team off at half time, for being level. I hope these people have had enough of United getting promoted and never come back. The Colback/Hayden partnership has struggled to create much (anything) and we head to Blackburn, who did a job on us just over a month ago less confident that I imagined we would be. A big away following will be down at Ewood. Once I’d have seen that as a positive thing. I have my doubts after Barnsley, Preston and Wigan that the away end will stay ‘supportive’ should all not go to plan immediately. 02 Jan - A horrible day. For many reasons. We played tf 7

thru black & white eyes well, really well. Controlled that game had loads of chances. Gayle can do better and would normally score. Two goals disallowed. The bar rattled etc. No shots for Blackburn until they score in the 75th. Shit happens. It normally happens to Newcastle United, but happens less this season. Brighton go back top and are miles better than United according to the lads whose heads have all fallen off as they’ve attended their first away game and are fuming. Who likes getting beat? No one. Who feels the need to scream abuse at our team and cry on social media for the RTs? Plenty of people. ‘We only demand a team

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that tries.’ We’ve got that and loads more, and we’re still mint. Get a grip. Jan 6 - Rafa isn’t panicking and has brought Jamie Sterry back into the fold. The lad has done well on loan and provides us with extra back up at right back. A good move. There’s been plenty of debate on social media and beyond about United’s support or lack of it at Ewood. I’ve been to practically every away game this season and our support is superb. It’s only the occasional large allocation that bring the entitled children out who have forgotten that United have won more league games this season than

any team in any major European league. When’s the last time you were able to say that. Jan 7 - Mitrovic and Murphy both start for United at Birmingham in the cup. It’s a shocking game where United score early and then have four of five chances to put it to bed. Mitrovic is lost early to a nasty cut and will be out for weeks. United are poor after that. More aggression from the 4k mags in the away end. It didn’t use to be like this. We will go again a week Tuesday. Jan 12 - According to the click hungry press United are ‘missing out’ on ‘key

transfer targets’. I can’t see any of the names so far linked starting in the side so I don’t they were actual targets. We can manage without reinforcements but I’d like to see at least one player come in with an eye to next season the Premier League. Jan 14 - Some win, that. Jan 15 - Everyone is buzzing. Rafa is buzzing. Daryl Murphy is buzzing. United were well and truly up against it and they pulled through like Champions. Brighton lost which will be a blow for our supporters who have crowned them 2018 Champions of Europe. Reading lose and we’re once

again miles ahead of third place. Everything is right with the world bar Dwight Gayle’s injury. The lad is a machine. 20 goals in 21 games. He’d be on for forty if he hadn’t got injured for the first time this season. He’ll be a miss. But there’s a clickbait shaped fly in the ointment as some Daily Mirror journo reckons Mike Ashey is not happy with our ‘transfer policy’ and would like it ‘reverted to what it was.’ There are no quotes in the story. Jan 16 - There’s fallout from the Mirror story as the Chronicle run with it big style. Besides the fact that nine of Rafa’s twelve signings have been under 26 (so therefore adhering to a supposed ‘buy with sell on value’ policy)why would Ashley want to rock the boat on the most important season in a generation for the football club. Rumours have it Graeme Carr is not

happy with his side-lined role. If true the man is a disgrace. Would he seek personal gain ahead of letting the best manager in the world get on with what was tasked of him, I would hope not. It’s still an unnecessary story that has rocked the boat and will not go away. Jan 18 - United see off Birmingham at home in front of 35k. well done United for charging a fair entry price. The most bizarre sentence I’ll write this season is Rafa wraps Daryl Murphy in cotton wool. Yoan Goufrann leads the line as Shelvy comes back into the side and bags just the three assists. What a player to have back. The young lads Rafa brings in do well and bar a ten minute spell in which they score United control the game and we all go home happy. Jan 20 - The Chronicle reach

a special day as their one millionth Andros Townsend to United piece is published. Lee Ryder is awarded an OBE to click bait and Andros Townsend remains a Crystal Palace player. Your favourite anonymous NUFC twitter ‘fan account’ runs it’s nineteenth poll on whether you would ‘welcome Townsend back’ after he left for Crystal Palace after relegation. The same fans who sang Yohann Cabaye’s name on loop after he went on strike are furious that United might re-sign a dead good player who would improve the team. Rafa Benitez is allegedly keen to bring the wide man back, so it’s all good with me. Jan 21 - Townsend’s move to United is in tatters as Ryan, 17, from Heaton has run a poll on Facebook where the 297 people who voted don’t want Townsend back by a 55 to 45 majority.

Nicola Sturgeon is on the phone to Rafa to assure him he can just ignore the result. A blow for Benitez as he has to reassess his transfer targets to ensure they meet the approval of the NUFC social media attention seekers. On the same day we smash Rotherham four goals to nil. It’s shaky in the first half but big Daryl Murphy sets us on our way while I’m in the bogs on 47 minutes. Three goals in three starts for our big Irishman. He’s dead good. Top of the league with two more home games to come. I reckon we need ten more wins in nineteen games to make sure of promotion. That could be down to eight wins if we win the next two and there’ll still be months of the season to go. We’re on our way. ALEX HURST - FOLLOW ALEX ON @tfalex1892 tf 9

I’ve never been one to lose too much sleep over who Newcastle’s captain is but when I look back at who has worn the armband over the last twenty years or so, there is definitely a correlation between our affiliation of the era and leaders at the time. For example, Alan Shearer as captain personally reminds me of classic 4-3 wins, derby victories and taking the lead in the San Siro. On the flip side Fabricio Coloccini reminds me of occasional brilliance but in the main relegation battles, derby losses and a team that seemed devoid of any characters or grit. My personal opinion is that captains should be influential.They don’t have to be the team’s best player but they do have to lead by example. This means digging someone

out if they’re not giving their all, organising the team on the pitch and investing their time in the community. These traits you’d have to say are all evident in our latest captain. Jamaal Lascelles rise to Newcastle captain has been a turbulent one. Bought alongside Karl Darlow in August 2015 he was sent back to Forest to mature for six months before being considered for first team duty.

watched him in preseason friendlies in the USA and worried we’d bought nothing more than a meat head.As the Premier League season started he was only seen when times were desperate, such as the 6-1 collapse at Manchester City and away loss

When he fully arrived in the summer of 2015 I


at Watford (in which he actually scored). Lascelles did feature a handful more times but it was evident that McClaren’s first choice pairing was Mbemba and Coloccini, something at the time that was hard to argue against. If you ask any Newcastle fan when they started to properly notice Lascelles for what he is now, it ultimately boils down to one of two incidents. The first being his sending off away at Everton in the last few minutes when we were 2-0 down. Now getting sent off in an away game when the match was already lost is not unfamiliar territory for a Newcastle player, in fact our previous captain had done the same thing 12 months prior at the same ground, however leaving

the field muttering “no one gives a shit”, when every fan thought the same, made the fans ask serious questions of the squad. Similarly, when we were really in the thick of the relegation battle and sloped to another away defeat at Southampton, the only player to be interviewed after the game was Lascelles who was scathing about his team mates’ attitude and lack of desire. Although the comments were what every fan wanted to hear, due to his lack of media experience they were delivered a bit like a deer in the headlights. The fact that the 21-yearold did come out and speak on behalf of the team speaks volumes not only of Lascelles, but of the other personalities

in the team. His quotes that “We need bigger characters on the pitch, players who care and who are going to get after each other” and “We have lacked it this season and no matter how good you are, if you don’t have that fight and hunger and desire, it doesn’t matter”, told every fan that the mainstays of the team didn’t really care if they stayed up or not because ultimately they would still be getting their massive wages every week and if the worst did happen, those who were seen as Premiership quality, would be sold on anyway. After that weekend at Southampton Lascelles’ reputation had grown exponentially and although he was playing because we had little other choice, he backed

The fact that the 21-year-old did come out and speak on behalf of the team speaks volumes not only of Lascelles, but of the other personalities in the team

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up his talk with some solid performances and even started the scoring in a 3-0 win at home to Swansea. Of course Newcastle did ultimately get relegated and the supposed better players were sold, meaning the full time captaincy was up for grabs but because of his performances on and off the field towards the end of the season, Lascelles was the one obvious choice to take the role on, which was confirmed in August this year. Since Lascelles has taken on the captaincy permanently you’d be hard pushed to find a supporter who would argue there was a more fitting suitor. Playing alongside Ciaran Clark, a formidable partnership seems to have grown.

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Their no nonsense style suits the Championship well and although Lascelles doesn’t tend to deviate from the typical centre half position he organises well and Clark can comfortably take the ball out of defence when the opportunity arises. Also, instead of the once shy youngster you saw on TV, now you see a man who has grown in to the position and is not only media friendly but also give content that is better than the clichéd drivel that the Premier League seems to serve week in week out. Lastly Lascelles seems to have bought in to Benitez’ ethic that the team’s duties don’t end when they walk off the pitch, as he has invested time in to the Newcastle United Foundation, with anyone who is on social media having seen

the fantastic video of kids being surprised whilst playing football on the West Road. Reports now suggest that Liverpool and Chelsea are keen on Lascelles, who being English, playing in a lower league and aged only 23 could represent good value for money. Considering the Premier League’s rules on the number of domestic players that are registered in the 25-man squad and also Brexit making foreign imports more expensive I can understand why he is sought after. I for one hope that Klopp and Conte are told to go elsewhere as I believe our new captain, like Rafa, symbolise a togetherness and a determination that hasn’t been seen for many years – not bad for a once suspected meat head.

I believe our new captain, like Rafa, symbolises a togetherness and a determination that hasn’t been seen for many years...

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Jonjo Shelvey. Jonjo. JJ. Double J. Shelvs. The Shelvenator... I’m pretty sure he’s not been called any of those daft names mentioned above. Well, other than ‘Jonjo Shelvey’ or ‘Jonjo’ I suppose!

Luke Andersen

But so what; I’m in buoyant mood! And I’d quite happily refer to Shelvey as the ridiculous sounding; ‘Shelvenator’ if he keeps pulling out performances like he did against QPR this week!

looked good all over the pitch (and were allowed to do so by a poor QPR side) it was apparent to me that Jonjo Shelvey stood out as the best player on the pitch. So what of the bloke who looks as weird as his performances on grass would often suggest? His time as a Newcastle United player has reflected that which football fans already knew of him from previous clubs – a bloke with obvious ability but an even more-so questionable temperament.

But I’m sat here on a rare day off work, still repeatedly watching highlights of the game over and over. And why not? In the recent history of Newcastle United, away games have been a cause of much heartache and frustration so why not re-watch the goals of an absolute thrashing - when When we managed to sign Newcastle are the team him from Swansea, it came dishing out the pummeling! during a period of time where And for as much as Newcastle Shelvey was going through tf 14

one of his ‘low points’. Out of the starting line up, out of favour with the manager, out of the club! Yet he still demanded a large transfer fee and doubtlessly a large wage packet such is his reputation as a player with Internationallevel talent and ability. Signing him in the first place raised eyebrows given our desperation to stay in the league. We needed players ready to fight, not ones with a history in being difficult to man manage. And considering Mclaren had turned everything he’d touched to s**t during his brief stint in the Newcastle hot seat, Shelvey’s signing was met with much scepticism. The sceptics were proved right. Or so it seemed. Apart from one 60 yard Hollywood-pass against West Ham, where Janmaat to his credit managed to control unbelievably well and cross for the goal, Shelvey

looked hopeless in black and white. He’s the kind of player who will always be confident in his own ability but without the correct way of harnessing that potential it can so often be to a team’s detriment. In a poor Newcastle side where simple ball retention was of vital importance, Shelvey playing ‘eyeof-the-needle’ passes and attempting to spray the ball all over the pitch whenever it landed at his feet was nowhere near what was required. Couple that with the fact his somewhatfragile mentality could be considered a ticking time-bomb then its no shock to understand why Shelvey was completely ineffectual in trying to keep Newcastle in the division. And the issues mentioned above are clearly the same reasons why it came as no surprise that Shelvey wasn’t hounded out in the summer transfer window

by a current Premier league team looking to bolstering their midfield. Jonjo’s status during pre season was probably that of a forever sulky individual who was now passed-his-best as a top division footballer. But where those Premier league clubs are at a disadvantage when compared to Newcastle United is when it comes to a certain Rafael Benitez. What possible words can I muster in order to describe him that hasn’t already been written? But what I will say is that his man management skills are often overlooked for that of his tactical expertise and meticulous planning.

The current turn around in Newcastle United, coming off the back of QPR’s biggest EVER home defeat goes to simply prove that the penny appears to have dropped at Newcastle United

The current turn around in Newcastle United, coming off the back of QPR’s biggest EVER home defeat goes to simply prove that the penny appears to have dropped at Newcastle United. Benitez’s ideals, his work ethic, his ability to form a great team spirit tf 15

and his professionalism are there for all to see. And this is reflected in Shelvey - who looks like a completely different player to the uninterested and unfit waste of money we saw before Benitez came to the club at the back end of last season. The run of games which has seen us rise to 2nd in the Championship has seen Shelvey looking every inch of the signing we were willing to pay £12m for and hoped could save our Premier league bacon. Albeit he’s been performing in the second-tear, but his performances have looked so good that he’s standing out in midfield head and shoulders above any player he’s directly facing. And whilst I’m impressed with the partnership he’s formed with Hayden in particular, Shelvey’s work rate on and off the ball, his hugely improved fitness, and his efficient passing and shooting stats are an obvious reflection of the work he’s put in at the training ground under the tf 16

tutorship of Rafa. It’s also worth noting that during the Derby game, while the rest of the players were celebrating Goufraan’s goal around the penalty spot, Rafa beckoned Jonjo from the corner flag, placed an arm around his shoulders and issued further instructions. This is a manager who knows how to get the best out of his better players, and it’s simple things such as speaking to Shelvey at important times where Rafa proves managerial worth – constantly thinking whilst the game is underway, and making Jonjo feel like he’s the hugely important player he always believes he is. Steven Gerrard has often spoken of Benitez is stating that he would often play games where he’d scored and ran-the-show, yet Rafa would always be able to point out room for improvement, keeping him grounded. I’m not comparing Shelvey directly to Gerrard but there are certain similarities in

their play and if Benitez can get the best out of the likes of Gerrard then Shelvey’s current contract as a Newcastle United player could be worth it’s weight in gold. I think the goal he scored against QPR goes someway to prove as much; which other player in the Championship would have the ability to hit the ball so accurately and cleanly from that range? Perhaps only our own Matt Ritchie? And another point worth noting is that Shelvey has recently been spotted giving many more interviews with the press than at any point in his NUFC tenure, whilst also appearing a couple of times as a studio guest for football-based television shows. It would appear that his attitude has turned full circle, a far cry from the player who saw Swansea wash their hands of. The recent upturn in fortunes of Newcastle United both on and off the pitch is epitomised by no player more than Jonjo Shelvey, and long may it continue.

his efficient passing and shooting stats are an obvious reflection of the work he’s put in at the training ground under the tutorship of Rafa.

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I remember being in the back of my parents car as we trundled home from the Metro Centre when it happened. Possibly with a stained Ikea hotdog napkin in my hand because you have to get a hotdog when you go to Ikea. We were 4-0 down on a dark February day.



OUT? Alan Pardew had taken over and we were sceptical of the chummy Cockney Mafia and saddened by the departure of Chris Hughton. But, it was our first season back in the Premier League and somehow we’d managed to get £35m for Andy Carroll. Even with today’s crazy inflated prices it sounds mad. Over the course of the journey, empty handed from the shopping trip other than the aforementioned napkin, a number of thoughts went through my head. Mainly: “Naaah, it’ll never happen. Arsenal will just keep the ball now.” tf 18

Two Joey Barton penalties and a Leon Best didn’t make me any more confident. Then, upon walking into my Grandad’s living room.

BOOM, BOOM, CHEICK, CHEICK THE ROOM! Cheick Tiote’s goal illuminated the artex ceilings and wrote himself into Newcastle United folklore with a thunderous strike and a result that gets mentioned in the same breath as the 5-0 win against Man U. 20 days later the Ivorian signed a new six and a half year deal that doesn’t expire until the end of this season.

In many ways Tiote’s journey mirrors that of Newcastle. His reputation as a defensive midfielder only burgeoned as we qualified for the Europa League during his second season with the club. No more glorious goals awaited the African Cup of Nations winner but rumours of moves to Chelsea and Manchester United were common place at every transfer window.

transformed to the king of errant passing. Each time he collected the ball with his distinctive run, his distribution would fail him and undo any decent tackle he would make. Maybe we should have expected such a player from a Steve McClarent FC Twente side? So, now the question that persists is: why is he still here?

They were perhaps warranted initially but as seasons passed and Newcastle’s league position dwindled many fans would have bitten off the hand of a team offering £20m.

This summer the former Anderlecht man still drew offers from the likes of Galatasaray and the big money of Shanghai Shenhua and teams in the Emirates.

Tiote would still flatter to deceive on Match of the Day and be rated highly by other Premier League fans but to someone who watched him with any kind of frequency there was a clear change.

Rumours of his departure and preparation for medicals has been rife a year where the Toon have raked in some impressive fees.

Always a yellow card waiting to happen, he received 25 in his first 50 league appearances, Tiote

These fell through for medical reasons and foreign player limitations, or maybe his representatives were asking for more than he’s worth.

Now the likes of Qatari and Saudi transfer windows have closed the man of many marriages has had his nowhere status confirmed. This season Tiote has been an ephemeral presence wavering in and out of the general footballing conscious. Quite frankly, until his 15 minutes against Aston Villa you could be forgiven for thinking he had moved already. However, he now seems like he could fade back into focus. Rafa seems to be offering the 30 year old a way back into the team, as per The Chronicle he said: “His mentality is fine. He’s trained well and I’m pleased with him. I was considering putting him in the squad for Preston but that would mean leaving someone else out and that would not be fair.”

So, now the question that persists is: why is he still here? This summer the former Anderlecht man still drew offers from the likes of Galatasaray and the big money of Shanghai Shenhua and teams in the Emirates.

Even before the transfer window closed our Spanish Messiah was full of praise tf 19

for the tough-tackling midfielder. He said: “I just told him: ‘Look, just wait a little bit, keep training hard and then we can decide.’ “Because he is a player who still has something to offer.” The latter aspect of each quote perhaps needs most analysis. Rafa suggests Tiote has skills that can be used but it is difficult to see a place for him in the Toon side. Even with the Spaniard’s rotation policy. The Toon’s midfield is one that looks more than capable of handling the Championship without Tiote, despite Rafa’s penchant for deeper lying centre mids. Jonjo Shelvey has been the standout player of Newcastle’s season and has the ability to spray the ball with precision when operating from deep. He is probably not somebody tf 20

Tiote will specifically displace due to their different styles. Isaac Hayden so far, albeit in the Championship, looks a player operating above Cheick’s capabilities. His class tells from his time at Arsenal and is much less of a liability on the ball. Vurnon Anita, Mr Versatile, was once seen as back up to the Ivorian and is now certainly ahead of him. His adaptability provides value for Benitez. Both players run out of contract in the summer, and at the moment it seems unlikely Tiote will surpass Dutchman to earn a new one. Lastly, we are left with Jack Colback and I believe this is where the former-midfield-general’s chance may lie. Colback, somehow once named the ginger Pirlo, is quite a similar player with tendency for a yellow card and misplaced pass.

local lad just gives him an edge over Tiote, but the Ivorian could push into Colback’s rotation position. However, I think it is more likely talk of Tiote’s work rate and potential first team place are an attempt to increase his appeal in the January window. He is from a generation of high wage players that have long since left in Colloccini, Cisse and Cabaye et al, and despite the highest Fifa 17 rating in the squad, Tiote seems very much in no-man’s land. Regardless of what happens though, we’ll have that volley, that Justin Lockwood reaction and that 4-4 draw.

He is from a generation of high wage players that have long since left in Colloccini, Cisse and Cabaye et al, and despite the highest Fifa 17 rating in the squad, Tiote seems very much in no-man’s land.

Perhaps his presence as



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What exactly do I make of 2016? Not the year of reason that’s for sure. All things considered you can regard 2016 as a game breaker. For NUFC, for football, the country at large.



do I make


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The football year for me started with a thoroughly heart draining 0-1 reverse at Watford in the FAC. A complete waste of everybody’s time. If I recall the goal was soft as mushy peas and Mitrovic looked 5 years off the pace. With the life absolutely draining out of United and McLaren a doomed man (and was since the 1-5 mauling at Palace the previous November), we picked up where we were in the PL losing 0-1 at Arsenal and later 1-2 at Watford in January. United did haul themselves around to a 3-3 draw with a faded Manchester United and a 2-1 win over the rent-free boys of soon to be E15. More of them later in the May section. With no cup glory to keep us in February (as f’kin if) on we went to Everton (0-3) and Chelsea (1-5) for utterly standard shoeing’s. The WBA home match either side was remarkable

not only for my first home of the year but that United somehow only beat the Black Country lads by 1-0. They were horseshit throughout. And then into March, two matches which finished off McLaren, losing 0-1 at Stoke and turfed 1-3 at NE1 to Bournemouth. Jesus. Read that back to yourself. We’d have been losing 1-3 to fckg Worthing in the 6th qualifying round of the FAC at that rate. But then it changed. I remember vividly thinking and saying the Benitez thing was nonsense. But it wasn’t. The most decorated manager in our history had agreed to take on the gig and the club has never taken a backward step since! We lost at Leicester by the odd goal but we looked organised and committed right across the park. Hope was renewed but ever being NUFC in recent years there is a false derby dawn.

I’ll be honest; I thought the typically disappointing 1-1 draw in the Derby was 2 points lost that would put us down there and then. Though a McLaren team would have come away with nowt and credit had to be given to at least scrapping for the draw. The kick in the guts that was the 2-3 reversal at Norwich left the gap between us and them a massive 6 points. The trip to Hampshire the next Saturday was almost a classic Pardew 1-3 defeat. From there though we kicked ourselves into action and what we saw was a superb response.An efficient if not commanding 3-0 win at home over Swansea was followed up with two draws with Manchester City and Liverpool which kept us within reach. The draw on Merseyside especially saw a superb performance combined with arguably our best away support of the season.

And then into March, two matches which finished off McLaren, losing 0-1 at Stoke and turfed 1-3 at NE1 to Bournemouth. Jesus.

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Then a hugely enjoyable 1-0 win over Palace and their charlatan of a manager. Or just a compete dick of a man. Get in. Then a tragically supine performance at Villa virtually ended any further hope of survival on a day where West Midlands finest policed Birmingham City Centre like a police state. What happened at the final home match of the season v Spurs will go down in legend. A rip roaring annihilation of THFC and a crowd baying for Benitez to stay. Incredible scenes. Mind you, drink may have been taken around NE1 at the time. In other news Leicester City tf 24

broke through the gap left by a poor Man Utd, Chelsea, and Liverpool to achieve the most surprising league win since Villa in ’81. They don’t have the size to continue this though. The final match at West Ham’s Boleyn Ground turned into an excuse for street disorder, in part instigated by those who seek to ape the ICF and also by the Met who tried to clear the streets with van and horse charges, frightening loads of ordinary folk in the process. The media over-hype to the game was laughable. Ted Sheringham’s hat was smart though. The summers Euro Championship was clouded by violence played out in

the backdrop of the Brexit vote and general discord in Europe. The planned and orchestrated attacks by Russian Ultras led to two England fans in commas. Terrible for the people caught up in the violence. The conduct of a noticeable minority of England followers ranged from the oafish to an unpleasant side of English nationalism which was to rear its head on the streets this summer. Surprisingly it was Portugal who won a poor tournament. Fair play to them as they ground their way through to victory. They have the spirit and know how England, Holland, Scotland and all the other under achievers would kill

Then a hugely enjoyable 1-0 win over Palace and their charlatan of a manager. Or just a compete dick of a man. Get in. Then a tragically supine performance at Villa virtually ended any further hope of survival...

to have. In terms of spirit Wales were immense but also incredibly gifted. That 3-1 win over Belgium surely the finest performance by a British Isles nation on continental soil seen in this competition. The political world was dominated by the Brexit and Trump wins. What we saw were two technocratic campaigns speaking in their own bubbles defeated by crafty if utterly dishonest campaigns who knew what buttons to press. The failure of the democratic left across the AtlanticEuropean world is endemic. However, as the calamitous Brexit process plays itself out, you are reminded again not only are the Tories venal and nasty, they are also wholly incompetent.

The new season brought heightened expectation and if we were honest overheated predictions. As this is NUFC, you could guess that the first two matches were pretty poor performances. Yet, at Fulham I thought the crack in the away end was first rate. This augured well with 5 straight wins against Reading H (4-1), Bristol City A (1-0), Brighton H (2-0), Derby County A (2-0) and QPR (6-0). The QPR match I was at, played in almost unbearable heat was one of those occasions it is an absolute pleasure to watch United. We were superb. We were brought down to earth by Wolves who set themselves up perfectly to earn a well-deserved 2-0 win at SJP. We then got a

reasonable 1-1 at Vile Park when 3/4ths of the grand old ground was shut off. Next was arguably the turning point in a season where many had started to grumble at 3 defeats thus far. Norwich up to this point had been the most convincing of the likely long term challengers. So to come back from 1-3 to win 4-3 at the death with an exhilarating hatrick from Gayle absolutely transformed the mood. This was the start of an eight match winning run starting at Rotherham with a 1-0 win and ending at Leeds with a 2-0 win which United made look almost routine. Demand for away tickets was ever increasing as we were taking highly

Next was arguably the turning point in a season where many had started to grumble at 3 defeats thus far. Norwich up to this point had been the most convincing of the likely long term challengers. So to come back from 1-3 to win 4-3 at the death with an exhilarating hatrick from Gayle absolutely transformed the mood.

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impressive turnouts in quality and quantity. We did Leeds for a weekend away and while the drink was good, played out DJs (Fat Boy Slim) doing 90s themed nights aren’t. Once again, as seems the trend, after a long winning streak we fall back. Blackburn H (0-1) was poor but Forest A (1-2) saw a gutsy courageous team spirit robbed by a shitty referee and shithouse players. We never liked Forest. At the time of writing we have gone on a further 3 match winning run against Birmingham H (4-0), Wigan A (2-0) and Burton A (2-1) which leaves us 1 point in front of Brighton but 8 points clear of Third Place. In amongst this, we saw an uplifting cup run, absolutely what a Rafatf 26

led NUFC should be about. An expected 2-0 win at home to Cheltenham was followed by a swift 2-0 revenge victory over Wolves, the match after their win in the league. We then battered Preston 6-0 at a bouncing SJP to set us up for an eminently winnable trip to Humberside to face Hull. It was not to be. A gut-wrenching 1-1 draw and loss 1-3 in a penalty shootout denied us what seemed a real chance of Wembley. Though put it into perspective, I expect a number of runs just like this in the years to come. For me the stars of the season have been Gayle, Ritchie, Hayden and Clark but in truth it’s been a fantastic team effort. Rafa has bought very wisely, balancing English League know how with lesser known talent who could

grow (Atsu and Yedlin spring to mind). Best of all has been the way Rafa Benitez has given a dignity back to NUFC. In particular the work he has done with the Foundation and the visit to the West End to Soccerworld was what NUFC should be about. 2016 has turned out to be a superb year NUFC-wise but pretty dire elsewhere. I’ve lost track of who famous has passed away. Mohammed Ali and Gene Wider arguably stand out for me. Fidel Castro’s life will provoke many a debate. Promotion is there for NUFC to take in 2017, the club itself being its own greatest enemy if we become complacent. Roll on the FA Cup!

For me the stars of the season have been Gayle, Ritchie, Hayden and Clark but in truth it’s been a fantastic team effort. Rafa has bought very wisely, balancing English League know how with lesser known talent who could grow.

Have a great 2017!

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tf 27

Almost all great sides have a world class keeper. There will always be exceptions (see Barcelona) but most of the time to be the best you need quality between the sticks. Schmeichel at Mancester United. Neur at Bayern. Buffon at Juventus. The list is endless. This made one of the most intriguing sub plots of Rafas summer dealings was who would take the number one Jersey. A year ago Tim Krul was clearly number one. In case there was any doubt it was printed on the back of his shirt. And few if any would have challenged that.


HE’S THE KEEPER! But there was a feeling in some quarters that the Dutchman had regressed under Andy Woodman’s and hadn’t developed into the shot stopper that most predicted he would become. Realistically thought there was a lack of alternatives. Perhaps that also was also a factor. Throughout Shay Given’s heyday local lad Stevie Harper pushed him every inch of the way. But by the time Tim was ready for first team action our perennial number two was on the decline. Alan Pardew brought in a man from his old stomping ground Charlton to try and provide some healthy competition. Initially at least though Rob Elliot looked every inch the budget signing his was. tf 28

It all smacked of jobs for the boys.

There was also Karl Darlow who was picked up on the cheap at the start of the 15/16 season and immediately shipped back on loan to Nottingham Forest in order to get some regular game time, while promising England youth international Freddie Woodman still needed to learn his trade. For the time being at least then the man from the Hague could sleep easily at night. Then disaster struck. In Kazakshtan of all places – a country most famous for nuclear weapons testing and providing the launchpad for Tim Peake’s extra-terrestrial expedition – our first choice ruptured his ACL on a miserable night on AstroTurf.

With his season done, Woodman jnr. Was recalled and Elliot was given a chance to stake his claim. And hats off he grasped it with both hands, surprising many of us with a string of solid goalkeeping displays. Without doubt the adopted Irishman’s distribution was superior, although the words “Krul would have got down to that” were certainly mumbled on more than one occasion. Then, as could only happen at NUFC, lightning struck twice.

Ruptured ACL for Bob and we were staring straight down the barrel of another Alnwick-gate. No offence to Freddie - many qualified to pass judgment hold him in the highest regard - but a topflight relegation scrap is no place to blood a young goalie. Darlow was hastily summoned and, after a shaky start to his career in black and white, our thirdchoice stopper grew in confidence. Denying Yohan Cabaye and Alan Pardew a point from the penalty spot being the stand out moment for obvious reasons, not to mention it also gave of Rafa’s men half a chance of avoiding the drop. The majority expected Darlow to retain his spot come August, and there were certainly a few eyebrows raised when we fetched over Mats Sels. Anyone who told you they knew anything about the

Belgian was frankly a liar. He was goalkeeper of the year in the Jupiler league, an u21 international and Rafa wanted him so that was enough for most of us. Then we saw him play. Footballers are written off far too early. One false move or bad showing and they are completely useless. Some players just take a bit of time to adapt to a new league and a new country. Goalkeepers in particular – cast your minds back to David de Gea’s first season at Old Trafford. Things haven’t turned out too badly for him.

There was also another somewhat surprising twist in the tale when Krul signed a new one year deal and was sent home to turn out for Ajax.

of years and we at least appear to have a decent coach in place to get the best out of him.

Madness many cried. Turns out it was another shrewd bit of business.

Elliot is also on the comeback trail and will at worst land himself a place on the bench in the coming weeks.

Here we are over half of the way through a grueling campaign and Tim has yet to punch a ball in first team anger.

Truth be told Sels’ days could be numbered already and a loan move probably wouldn’t be the worst thing for all parties concerned.

Most believe we have seen the last of the club’s longest serving player on Tyneside.

Darlow has done enough to keep the shirt for now, but can be sure Elliot will be breathing down his neck and will pounce on any opportunity thrown his way.

But maybe, just maybe, Rafa has a cunning plan.

That though is about as much of a defense as one can muster.

The 28-year-old heads home to get fit again, play some top-level football and live closer to his family.

Flapping at balls that really should be caught, godawful kicking and exuding a general feeling of terror amongst all are at the top of the charge sheet.

Then come the Summer, our boss will get a proper chance to run the rule over the lad. Who knows he might just have a point to prove.

However, if Rafa can get our flying Dutchman back on course to unlock his potential then he could lock down the no1 spot for the foreseeable future.

Never say never and all that, but some things just aren’t meant to be.

A fully fit Tim Krul should just be coming into his prime over the next couple

And if not rest assured our Spanish supremo will know what to do.

There are of course few certainties in sport.

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Most of us fully expect Rafa to lead our Black and White heroes straight back to The Premier League. Somewhat surprising is the fact that the last time 2 relegated sides finished in the automatic promotion places was in 2009-10 when we went up along with West Brom. Below I assess the other contenders for promotion. Aston Villa After Randy Lerner’s neglect, contempt and daft decisions led to Villa’s inevitable relegation (sound familiar?) they have had quite a significant rebuild over the summer. Villa fans are feeling confident with their ambitious, tweet-happy new owner, new manager and 9 new signings, 8 of

which have Championship experience and 5 have won promotion before. They have managed to get rid of a lot of the deadwood and gutless players who played a massive part in their demise. A couple of problem players are still at the club, intent on sitting on the remainder of their contracts and could yet cause a problem in a squad that will need

time to gel. But retaining the likes of Grealish and Ayew and adding 2 proven Championship goal scorers in McCormack and Kodja should see them score plenty of goals, something which is vital in this division. Villa fans are slightly concerned about the lack of depth and competition for places in defence but if they can stay injury free then the

Liam Reay


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Championship experience within the squad and a bit of positivity around the club could see them grow stronger as the season goes on. They must improve quickly, however, only 1 win from their first 5 games leaves them 8 points off top place already. Brighton B r i g h to n were widely considered to be the best team in The Championship last season. Chris Hughton is a great manager at this level and they have added the centre half, midfielder and striker most people said they needed to make this “their year.” They have managed to resist offers for their best player Anthony Knockaert, which is a massive boost for them. They were comfortably beaten at St James’s Park where they looked rattled and at times resorted to some dirty, cheap tactics. They also looked weak in

the middle of the pitch but they probably won’t have a more difficult game all season and I think they will finish in the top 3 again. Norwich City After a 4 game unbeaten start to the season, Norwich suffered a heavy defeat away to Birmingham just before the transfer window closed which cranked up the pressure on the board to match the ambition shown by us and Villa. They were desperately short up front and have brought in centre forward Nelson Oliveira from Benfica who they will be hoping can hit the ground running. Missing out on most of their transfer targets, the sale of one of their best players in Nathan Redmond and a few players who don’t seem to want to be there is not ideal but the vast majority of players and the manager Alex Neil have been here before. They won promotion to

the Premier League via the play-offs in 2015 and they seem to have all the makings of a yo-yo club. Derby Derby have been knocking on the door for the last few years but they have lacked the consistency needed to reach the Premier League. This is the main reason they have turned to self-styled hard-man and disciplinarian Nigel Pearson as manager. This could go either way for Derby but Pearson has won promotion before and they still have some very good players even after selling Jeff Hendrick to Burnley.

Brighton were widely considered to be the best team in The Championship last season. Chris Hughton is a great manager at this level and they have added the centre half, midfielder and striker most people said they needed to make this “their year.”

Fulham After only just surviving relegation last season and selling their 2 top goal scorers in McCormack and Dembele over the summer, another season of struggle was anticipated at Craven Cottage. But 14 new signings, the emergence of tf 31

some good young players and an excellent manager in Slavisa Jokanovic (who was the man in charge of Watford when they were promoted to The Premier League in 2015) has given the fans a reason to be optimistic. They have started the season unbeaten, their best start for almost 20 years, played some good football and even knocked Premier League Middlesbrough out of the cup. Although our defeat down there on the first day was a huge disappointment there is a feeling we could look back on Fulham away as one of the toughest games of the season when it’s all over. S h e f f i e l d Wednesday Expectations were high going into this season. Sheff Wed have been improving every year and before a ball was kicked they were tipped to be pushing for automatic tf 32

promotion. They have added some good players to their squad, Adam Reach from Boro is a good signing and ex-mackem Steven Fletcher should score goals but their starman Forestieri refusing to play because he wanted to leave and then changing his mind seems to have unsettled things a bit. They haven’t made the best of starts and like Villa, they are already 8 points off the top. But they are more than capable of going on a run now the transfer window has closed and should still have a good season. Huddersfield Huddersfield are the early leaders in The Championship and have made a very impressive start. They have a good manager in David Wagner who has been allowed to rebuild the squad, bringing in 13 new players. Their squad looks well balanced and they have at least 2 players for

every position. They beat us at SJP and the fact they have had 8 different goal scorers in 5 games this season shows they have something about them. Dark Horse - Wolves Wolves have been takenover by a Chinese investment group who see buying a debtfree club with a 30,000 seater stadium as a good, long-term investment if they can get them into the Premier League and get their hands on the TV money. This summer has been a bit too soon for them to spend as much as they are capable of but with a popular new manager, a new club-record signing in Ivan Cavaleiro and a much stronger squad than a lot of Championship clubs they may be challenging for promotion sooner than people think.

Expectations were high going into this season. Sheff Wed have been improving every year and before a ball was kicked they were tipped to be pushing for automatic promotion.

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Rayo Vallecano is renowned, in Spain and beyond, for their antifa radical fans (The Bukaneros) and the barrio of Vallecas, in the south east of Madrid, where they play has taken on an almost mythical status. I had wanted to go to a Rayo home game for a while and saw the perfect opportunity for a visit there back in October, when the visitors were Cadiz. Cadiz themselves have a very famous fan group called the Brigadas Amarillas, who have similar political leanings as The Bukaneros. Both groups in fact have a brotherhood that dates back to 1993. The two clubs hadn’t met each other for a while, Rayo were relegated from La Liga last season and Cadiz were promoted from Segunda B at the same time, so I felt that this was an opportunity that wasn’t to be missed and I I wasn’t disappointed by the experience.

Tony Higgins

GEORDIES HERE, GEORDIES THERE... Rayo Vallecano 3 Cadiz 0 Vallecas Stadium, 8:00pm Sunday October 2nd 2016, Attendance: 11,789. I had also wanted to visit a famous battle site, from the Spanish Civil War, that is only about 20 miles down the road from Vallecas. The Battle of Jarama was fought in February 1937 and many British and Irish volunteers, from the International Brigades, had taken part.

tf 34

The battle was one of the bloodiest of the Spanish Civil War, with


Somme veterans actually saying what they witnessed on the Spanish hillsides was worse than anything they had seen in Northern France.

Republican forces, fighting Franco’s fascists, lost 10,000 soldiers, including at least 139 from the British International Brigade. In total more than 15,000 died on both sides, making it one of the bloodiest confrontations of the war. The British/Irish volunteers were a mixture of Communists, Labour Party members, socialists, trade unionists and other

sympathisers, all bitterly opposed to the idea of fascism.They came primarily from the unemployed areas of Tyneside, Merseyside, Manchester, Scotland, and London. Many were inexperienced in combat but others had served in the First World War and who were in reality too old for a skirmish of this nature. Most of these lads were in the British 15th Brigade and as they made their way up an outcrop, later to become known as “Suicide Hill”, they were mown down without mercy. Match highlights

The Spanish Civil War has interested me for some time and I knew others who shared my interest in it and in football too. So I decided to use social media to see if anyone else wanted to come along. In the end we had a group of 12 people, 4 from Tyneside, 1 from Liverpool, 1 from Manchester, 2 from Belfast and 4 from a group known as Yorkshire Sant Pauli. I have to say that I was happy with the group’s geographical makeup, as it more or less mirrored that of the International Brigades.

The match was scheduled for eight o’clock Sunday evening, not a perfect time but it could have been worse. La Liga 123 is famous for their crazy kick off times, usually to satisfy the TV schedules, something which The Bukaneros have protested against on various occasions. With the kick off time in mind we decided that the best time to do the battle site tour would be early on Saturday morning. We used a tour guide from the Spanish Civil War experts, Across Madrid, and left the hotel, in Vallecas, just as the autumn sun was coming up. We arrived on the chilly hillsides of Jarama at around eight o’clock to undertake the half day tour. It’s hard to imagine, in those tranquil surroundings, the horrors that unfolded there eighty years ago. We visited

Most of these lads were in the British 15th Brigade and as they made their way up an outcrop, later to become known as “Suicide Hill”, they were mown down without mercy.

tf 35

all the monuments and important sites and paused for a minute’s silence on Suicide Hill, where many of the British lads fell, a very poignant moment for us all. We also visited a privately owned well stocked museum, which also has a restaurant and bar attached to it. Very handy for liquid refreshments! As we made our way back to Vallecas, we all reflected on what we had seen and learnt. We were all in agreement that we owe a debt to the volunteers that went out to Spain to fight fascism and who in some ways they were visionaries and not just adventurers and drop outs as they are sometimes described. They could see what was on the horizon, with the rise of the Nazis in Germany, and decided to fight and die for what they seen was a just cause. Pity their governments hadn’t had such foresight. I’m glad to see that Newcastle City Council has recently unveiled a plaque, in remembrance of North East people who fell fighting fascism in

tf 36

Spain, during the Spanish Civil War. The plaque can be found next to the civic centre to the right of the war memorial as you look at it. It’s often said that football and politics shouldn’t mix but here in Spain both are very much entwined. Football fans here often make alliances due to political persuasions and as mentioned Cadiz and Rayo have had a bond that dates b a c k almost 25

years. Both sets of fans are vehemently antifascist and left leaning and both had promised that this game was going to be a huge football fiesta. Despite the evening kick off most of our group were up and out again early, this time taking in the sights and sounds of Vallecas. The barrio is famous in Spain for its left wing politics and resistance against the Franco regime. In recent years it’s reported that drugs and gang violence have become serious problems for the neighbourhood. Nevertheless, the people come over as friendly and welcoming and our group had a great time whiling away the prematch hours in the autumnal sunshine. The highlight of the afternoon was the fiesta that the Bukaneros

...and as mentioned Cadiz and Rayo have had a bond that dates back almost 25 years. Both sets of fans are vehemently anti-fascist and left leaning and both had promised that this game was going to be a huge football fiesta.

put on for their fans and the visiting Gaditanos (people from Cadiz). The Bukaneros have their very own warehouse come pub, where they sell drink food and merchandise. They also have a great sound system where they were playing some classic Punk, Ska and Indie tunes. The pre-match atmosphere was one of the best I have sampled in over thirty years of going to football. The beer flowed and the refrains played and very soon it was time to make our way to the ground. To stand, yes stand, in the end with The Bukaneros is virtually impossible, so we had to make do with seats just to the right of where they stand. In fact, we were lucky to get tickets in what was a sell-out

crowd and which included a sizable number from Cadiz. The game itself was a one sided affair and played in a fantastic nonstop singing atmosphere with both sets of fans playing their parts. The final score was 3-0 to Rayo, who in fairness were the much better team on the night. The match ended and the two sets of fans serenaded each other with a song called a pirate’s life, which one of our group reckoned was like the closing scenes of the epic film Zulu. This came from a hardened veteran of the Everton glory years of the 80s, who went onto say he was hard pushed to remember a better atmosphere at a football match, I had to agree with him on that.

Fans serenade

Match highlights

All in all, a great weekend with some great people, I hope we can all repeat it sometime soon.

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true faith has been established since 1999 as one of the most successful, influential and best-selling fanzines in the country. Its success is based upon the contributions of Newcastle United supporters. As we move into the digital age and take up the opportunities for new forms of supporter expression, true faith is at the forefront of the new fanzine culture and develops its digital fanzine (what you are reading now), its match-day e-newsletter, The Special, its Podcasts, its video-blogs and of course the website. We hope to be positioned for anything else that develops over the next few years as well.

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The about-turn in the direction of the club brought about by Rafa has seen us have our most active transfer window in recent times with no fewer than twelve senior players coming in with an astonishing twenty one players with first team experience leaving the club either permanently or on loan. By anyone’s reckoning the manager has put in some shift over the summer, turning a £20m profit and ridding the squad of some bad eggs in the process.

Gareth Harrison Follow @truefaith1892 It seems very early in the season to be assessing where the business done over the summer has left us as a team and it would be fair to say that Rafa probably won’t know his best XI for a good few weeks yet but on the face of it, he’s brought in a balanced mix of players that can get us out of the division and some with the ability to establish us in the top flight should this season go to plan. I should stress that I’m a long way from tempting fate here mind you. Writing this before the Derby game, we sit in fourth but we’ve had a patchy start which is understandable as the squad gels. This season won’t be a procession and I don’t think that anything will be sorted out with weeks to spare as it was

last time but with things as they stand, how does the squad shape up for a promotion push this season and where would we need to strengthen in January to keep us at the right end of the table and build a squad fit for a higher level? KEEPERS – I can’t think of any club who have no less than five keepers on the books who would be capable of starting for the first team. Rafa is obviously going to make Sels his number one this term, tf 39

but presuming that Krul comes back from Ajax next season, the Belgian would need a good season under his belt to keep him out and if that were the case it would be unlikely that Krul would hang around. Woodman clearly has potential for the future which leaves both Elliot and Darlow looking like gooseberries. Although the former played well last term and was arguably our player of the season I’m not convinced that he’s a regular top flight keeper and to me Darlow is now surplus to requirements with other options being fit. It’s certainly not a priority to make any additions in this position that’s for certain.

FULL BACKS – Christ, we’ve gone from famine to feast. By my reckoning we’ve got no less than eight players that have played full back in their career so you’d have to say that there is room for some give here. That said, I’ve not seen much of Yedlin who you would presume would be first choice right back or anything of Lazaar. I’d still rather Dummett was a back up centre half and with Gamez at the back end of his career and yet to establish himself in the side it’s a funny one. Are Haidara, Mbabu going to tf 40

have a future at the club longer term? I’ve no doubt that we’ve got enough quality to go with the quantity for this season but bizarrely enough this might be a department that Rafa will have his eye on at the end of the season.

CENTRE HALVES – Straight away, I’d say that Mbemba is without a doubt the best centre half we’ve got and is a player that can develop into something special. From there, it’s a bit muddied. As with the full backs we’ve certainly got enough of them and with Lascelles as the captain, it can be presumed that he’ll be Mbemba’s partner, although as Rafa has shown, he’s not afraid to take him out of the firing line when needs be. I’m happy with the two as our centre back pairing and I get the feeling that Hanley has been signed with half an eye on the African Nations in the New Year and as straightforward back up. Of all the signings we’ve made, the one I’ve

got most misgivings about is Clark although I can see the logic of having him as a back up utility man. He’s certainly no more than that for me but overall, I think we’ve got it well covered in defence for this season at least. CENTRE MIDFIELD – I sound like a broken record now but personnel wise, we’ve got ample cover in the defensive midfield role. In order of quality, we’ve got Hayden, Anita and Colback that can all fit into the role. I’ve been impressed with Hayden so far although I feel he’s better played further on. Anita has started the season well and for all the supposed physical nature of the Championship, I feel

that he’s much less likely to be swamped by the bigger boys this season. Colback is s**te.

Anita has started the season well and for all the supposed physical nature of the Championship, I feel that he’s much less likely to be swamped by the bigger boys this season.

The first potential weakness we have in the squad is having a playmaker in the middle. This problem would be solved were Shelvey to get his head right as clearly he’s got the capability to run the show at this level. Better will come from Diame in an attacking role too but I still don’t see many goals coming from midfield which could be vital if the

strikers go through a barren patch. We don’t have a Kevin Nolan this time round and that could make things tricky further on in the season.

WINGERS – Atsu is an exciting signing and I think he could be a big success. He gives us pace and it’s a shame that Rolando Aarons looks, even at this age like he’s going to be perpetually injured as I think we could have some pair there. Gouffran has risen like a phoenix from the flames. Well, a budgie from the ashes at least and now comes into the reckoning as a reasonable first team starter ‘at this level’ and for me the best signing of the entire window has been Ritchie. He was a good Premier League player last season and is the first out and out winger we’ve had in a long time. Quick, good crosser, eye for a goal. I’ve no concerns in this area.

goals a season for you. In Gayle, we’ve definitely got that in this division. He’s got better with each game, will clearly score goals and could well kick on with us and away from that twat that was managing him at Palace. Without him, I’m not sure what to make of us up front. It looks like Rafa will go with one out and out striker in most games but I’m not sure if any of them are ‘lone strikers’ as such and I’m not sure if the rest of them are good enough. Hopefully Murphy will do a job and if he can chip in with double figures then he’ll have been a good signing. I think the main problem with Perez is knowing where to play him and there’s no doubt that he’s regressed after looking like a world beater when he first came to us. Doubtless there’s a talent there, but Rafa has a job on his hands to realise it in this league. I’m far from convinced with the line of thinking that Mitrovic will blossom at this level and I think the gaffer thinks the same – the Murphy signing would hint that this is the case. He lacks pace and discipline

and I certainly don’t see him as a regular goalscorer but as a foil to Gayle/Perez then there might be something there worth persisting with. There are a lot of ‘ifs’ with him though. One of the most striking things for me is that the squad as is must be unique in that you wouldn’t be at all surprised to see any of 25 players in the starting line up. We’ve got experienced cover for each position and I think that Benitez sees this as a ‘first team’ of probably 20 players. For me, there’s no concerns at all for this season given what we have, although I think we’re possibly a Gayle injury away from looking light up front. It’s almost futile to look any further ahead – a lot of the players in the squad have scope for improvement and a successful season would give them confidence. Let’s just sit back and hopefully enjoy what we’ve got this season – I don’t feel any sense of panic if we get an injury or two and that’s a novelty for NUFC. Planning for the Premier League would be a nice headache to have.

We’ve got experienced cover for each position and I think that Benitez sees this as a ‘first team’ of probably 20 players.

FORWARDS – I’ve said a few times previously that for me, the only thing that really separates at least the bottom twelve in the Premier League and the vast majority of the Championship is a top striker who will get 15-20

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Andy Woodward, Paul Stewart, David White, Chris Unsworth, Steve Walters. If you are looking for brave men in football you need look no further. These are the men who said the unsayable. Who ignored the stigma and ‘shame’ and told the football world the truth that they didn’t want to hear - that boys and girls were being abused by men taking advantage of their position within the sport and that it had been going on for years without anyone wanting to do anything about it.

Child Abuse in Football Woodward deserves particular praise for being the first to break the taboo on 16 November but the fact that he was quickly joined by the likes of Stewart and White, high profile former pros, meant that it couldn’t be swept under the carpet as a one-off. And of course there have been the cases of former Newcastle United players Derek Bell and David Eatock, abused by George Ormond. The NSPCC says that it has received more than 1,700 calls to its dedicated football abuse hotline since it was set up at the end of tf 42

November. Woodward has been joined by Unsworth and another former Crewe player, Steve Walters, in launching an independent trust, the Offside Trust to support victims. Woodward revealed that he had been abused by Barry Bennell, a coach, while a trainee at Crewe Alexandria but the latest figures suggest that 148 amateur and professional clubs are ‘impacted’. Chelsea, QPR, Charlton Athletic, Manchester City have joined Crewe in opening investigations into the allegations while the

FA have set up their own QC-led internal review to establish what happened and whether it could have done more. The fact that the FA scrapped a major review of its child protection policies in 2003 gives us some idea of the way the issue was regarded within the portals of Lancaster Gate.

WALLACE WILSON follow @WallaceHWilson

21 Police Forces, including Northumbria Police, have opened investigations into the claims and a number of arrests have already been made in England and Scotland. Paul Stewart has said that the sport is facing

a crisis on the scale of the Jimmy Savile scandal. I think he may be underestimating the scale of the problem if anything. Derek Bell’s testimony brings home the impact the abuse by Ormond had upon him. He was inspired by Andy Woodward’s revelation of the sexual abuse he had suffered at the hands of his coach at Crewe Alexandria to tell his own story of being abused by George Ormond while playing for Montague and North Fenham Boys’ Club, one of the most respected Boys’ Clubs in the region. The abuse began when Bell was 12 and carried on until he was 16. Ormond would encourage the boys to perform sexual acts on themselves while in the changing room. The horror only increased as Ormond inveigled himself into the Bell family and began to stay over at Bell’s house, subjecting him to horrific assaults while his parents slept in the next room. This is a common tactic of paedophiles, gaining the trust of the family to increase the opportunities for abuse. It is easy to say

that it would never happen to us but remember that this is a young boy whose whole world is football and whose dreams revolve around playing for Newcastle United. Ormond was seen as a person of influence who could help to make this happen. Paedophiles gradually raise the stakes until what was beyond consideration becomes normal with the perpetrator using blackmail and threats about ending his chances of a football career to force the victim to perform explicit acts. Bell said that it has wrecked his life “It’ll never go away. I’ve had three broken marriages, I’ve tried to commit suicide three times’. The abuse only stopped when Derek signed for Newcastle United in 1979 and he kept his secret until he found out that Ormond was working at the Newcastle United Academy twenty years later. He went to Northumbria Police after seeing Ormond in the grounds of an Asylum Seeker hostel because of his fears that he would go on to abuse more vulnerable young men.

Ormond was subsequently arrested and jailed for six years after being convicted of 12 charges of indecent assault and another of attempted indecent assault on sevenn different boys between 1975 and 1999. David Eatock was signed for £25,000 rom Chorley Town by Kevin Keegan in 1995 at the age of 18. He too was targeted by Ormond while in the junior set up at Newcastle and is highly critical of the way Newcastle failed to look after him. Eatock was put in a guest house by the club within walking distance of St James’ Park but he was on his own so when Ormond invited him for a drink he accepted. Ormond plied him with drink before going back to the Guest House. There Ormond masturbated in front of him.

21 Police Forces, including Northumbria Police, have opened investigations into the claims and a number of arrests have already been made in England and Scotland.

Like so many of the other young players who have come forward, Eatock didn’t feel he could tell anyone. It was a difficult culture then, a culture exploited by Savile and other abusers. David Eatock felt entirely alone and believes that it was from that moment on that tf 43

he lost his self-confidence. Over time he began to think he should give Ormond the benefit of the doubt. Two and half years later Ormond sexually assaulted him. Eatock’s father was suffering from cancer and it was hard being away from home. When he came back to Newcastle Ormond was there, one of the few people who was friendly. By 1998 with the likes of Shearer, Asprilla, Tomasson, Gillespie et al it was clear that it was going to be very difficult to get anywhere near the first team. Eatock told Ormond he might have to leave to get first team football and Ormond asked him out for a drink. On the way back, while driving Eatock home, Ormond pushed his hand down his trousers. Eatock couldn’t function through fear, anger, shock. Eventually Ormond removed his hand and they never uttered a word. Eatock remembers having feelings of guilt and shame as tf 44

well as wondering what had just happened. Like many similar victims he started to believe that he was to blame by inadvertently leading Ormond on. He never told anyone about his experience until his wife read a newspaper story about Ormond being convicted. Newcastle United released a statement saying ‘Newcastle United will cooperate fully with the police and relevant authorities and provide every assistance we can when we receive further information about any allegations’. They have subsequently sent a letter to the parents and guardians of every player under 23 on the books assuring them of the club’s vigilance and determination to make sure that such horrific events never happen again. Both Freddie Shepherd and John Hall have denied any knowledge of Ormond’s activities which looks like

they are conveniently laying any blame at Freddie Fletcher’s door as he was Chief Executive at the time. Fletcher died a few years ago but it is easy to see why the club at that time would prefer to ignore such a problem and hope it would go away without hurting ‘the brand’. Newcastle had only recently floated on the stock exchange and bad publicity would impact on the share price, shares overwhelmingly held by the Shepherd and Hall families. Former Chelsea player, Gary Johnson, has alleged that the Premier League club paid him £50,000 and asked him to sign a confidentiality agreement to prevent any talk of his alleged abuse by former scout Eddie Heath.The club have subsequently asked a law firm to carry out an investigation into Heath’s activities in the 1970s and have since waived Johnson’s confidentiality clause. Another ex Chelsea youngster, Paul Collins, has

Both Freddie Shepherd and John Hall have denied any knowledge of Ormond’s activities which looks like they are conveniently laying any blame at Freddie Fletcher’s door as he was Chief Executive at the time.

come out and described the abuse he suffered at the hands of Eddie Heath. You should listen to his emotional interview with Adrian Chiles here. It helps to explain how people such as Heath identify and groom their victims and graphically describes the terrible impact that it has on victims and their families down the years. Even now it seems as if the clubs are more interested in protecting their brand image than the young people to whom the owe and have owed a duty of care. The Football Association appear to have completely abrogated any responsibility as the guardian of the game with the clubs once again dictating the reaction to this scandal. They may say that they didn’t know what was going on but there has been anecdotal evidence that child abuse had already been an issue in other sports such as swimming, tennis and judo. In any situation where

young people are desperate to succeed at their chosen sport and coaches hold such influence it is bound to attract those who will see this as an opportunity to exploit their relationship to abuse children and young people. Damian Collins, the Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has called for the FA to appoint an independent panel to investigate how both it and the clubs handled allegations about paedophile coaches. One particularly disturbing allegation is that the FA actually undertook an investigation into allegations of child abuse at Crewe by Barry Bennell 15 years ago and found that there was ‘no case to answer’. Like the Savile case, the tide is too strong for the clubs and the FA to close their eyes and hope it will all go away. Brave men like Andy Woodward have made sure that won’t happen. The bravery it takes to come

out and say that they have been abused as children and young men (and women) is of a far higher order than anything they ever did on a football pitch. The culture of the sport is still one where it is difficult to admit to anything that might indicate some weakness and, unfortunately, for many involved in the game, that is still how it will be perceived. As I write on Christmas Eve, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said they have identified 429 victims, 98% of whom were male with their ages ranging from four to 20 at the time of the alleged abuse. 155 potential suspects have been identified and 148 clubs ‘impacted’. We need an independent inquiry which will examine the actions of the clubs and the FA and how they could have failed so dismally to protect those young people made vulnerable by their desperation to succeed in the game they love.

Like the Savile case, the tide is too strong for the clubs and the FA to close their eyes and hope it will all go away. Brave men like Andy Woodward have made sure that won’t happen.

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As a southerner with no hint of a Geordie accent I am constantly asked why I support Newcastle United. This is a particularly good question given the fact that for the 20 or so years of my supporting them, there has not been an awful lot to shout about. It has however been one hell of a journey and I would not change a thing.

Daniel Kentfield

Why Newcastle?

I suppose I should start by thanking my old man. It was thanks to him I avoided becoming a Manchester United fan and for that I am forever grateful. At around 7 or 8 years old I started to express a real interest in football and it was time to choose a team. My Dad for most of his life has been a big Man City fan tf 46

and he made it quite clear who was to be avoided; ‘if you support Man U you’re sleeping in the shed son’. After he’d made that quite clear he said that Villa or Coventry were the nearest Premier League club to where we lived – nah you’re alright Dad. It was Euro 96 that piqued my young interest in football and it was shortly

after that tournament that a certain Mr Shearer left Blackburn to join Newcastle United. That was it, decision made. In truth, I was too young to have fully appreciated everything that was going on at the club at the time. I didn’t truly appreciate the magnitude of Shearer’s signing or how close we had come to the title

my favorite early memory was watching highlights of Asprilla’s hat-trick against Barcelona

the year before (and the following season). Over the initial years of support there were however many memorable highlights and one thing was for certain – I was obsessed with the club. I had experienced a fair bit of football, but only in the form of non-league Cheltenham Town. That paled into insignificance in comparison.

sat in awe of the noise coming from the Toon Army in the East Stand – I instantly had the bug. The game had little chances of note that I remember for Newcastle but I do remember Given having a blinder and Shearer twatting Lennon in the face, after which Batty grabbed him and shoved him off the pitch!

I remember vividly the first time my old man took me to watch United, it was at Filbert Street in 1998 and the match eventually ended 0-0. Our tickets were in the home end and Dad was somewhat concerned that I’d donned my Shay Given goalie top so gave me a large coat to cover it. Not to be deterred I rather unsubtly cheered the team on and

Other highlights over my initial years of support included trips to Highfield Road, Selhurst Park (when Wimbledon played there) and again to Filbert Street. Sadly I was still to experience a win but I was loving every minute of it. At the time Newcastle were having to settle for mid table in the league but we were giving the cups a good go and

competing in Europe – my favorite early memory was watching highlights of Asprilla’s hat-trick against Barcelona (incidentally his last goals for the club) and being transfixed by this cartwheeling foreigner. Dad recently reminded me of the day I came home from school in January 1998 and he told me Asprilla had left the club. I cried my eyes out. It would not be until my first visit to St James’ Park in February 2002 that I would experience my first win watching United against Southampton. My Dad had bought the tickets as a surprise and as he didn’t reveal where we tf 47

were going until we were half way there I moaned like an ungrateful little s**t. That soon turned to sheer hysteria once I found out. I truly believe that never a better word was said about supporting a football club than Sir Bobby’s famous ‘What is a club in any case?’ quote. Without meaning to sound cliché that epitomized my first experience of St James’ Park. The minute I walked up those steps with my Dad and looked out onto the pitch and that magnificent stadium, I was in love. The opening goal of the game came in the form of a trademark 30-yard free kick from Laurent Robert. Just before he took it my Dad turned to me and said ‘he’ll never score from there’. Well he bloody did. It would be several years until my next visit to St James’ as understandably my Dad was not keen on making a 9 hour round trip to watch a team that

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wasn’t his own a regular thing. What followed in the 2000’s was a mixture of highs and lows, notable highs being Sir Bobby’s tenure as a whole with my favorite match undoubtedly where we beat Feyenoord away with Bellamy’s late winner. All those Champion League games were fantastic; Benfica, Barcelona, Inter and Juventus. In truth at the time I took it for granted as what was to follow in the years to come was somewhat depressing and would soon bring me back down to reality. I won’t dwell on what followed and the numerous lows (Souness, Allardyce, Kinnear, Pardew and McClaren to name a few) as I have deliberately focused on my early years of support. It was those early years where I fell in love with the club, became obsessed with it. There have been many attempts by people to persuade me to support

another team over the years. I remember one valiant attempt by my uncle who bought me a Man United duvet set and said he’d buy me tickets to Old Trafford. It was not long before Dad disposed of the duvet; in fact I’m almost certain he set fire to it in the garden. There was no deterring me though and I am so happy I have persisted. Fast forward to present day and we have a club to be proud of again with Rafa as our manager and there is nothing I look forward to more than my trips to Newcastle each year. My final thanks are to the people of Newcastle – I don’t think I’ve met a friendlier bunch. I could have picked a different club to support and may well have witnessed more trophies lifted but it sure as hell wouldn’t have been the same. There is no club quite like this, howay the lads!

Fast forward to present day and we have a club to be proud of again with Rafa as our manager and there is nothing I look forward to more than my trips to Newcastle each year.


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Right then, time for a look into the future. Let’s get ahead of ourselves, to the beginning of next season in fact, and let’s assume that we are back in the Premier League (not unreasonable, as 11 games into this season we’ve definitely got one of the best 2 squads in the Championship as well as the best manager).


new gold dream So, back to the future. First game of 2017/18 season, the fixture computer has been unkind, and we are away to the newly-crowned Premier League champions, Manchester City, who have annoyingly strengthened their squad despite already having Golden Boot Winner Sergio Aguero, Player of the Year Kevin De Bruyne, fully fit Vincent Kompany and tax exile Lionel Messi amongst their ranks. Incidentally, during the same season S********d were relegated with a record low number of points, the nadir of their season being when David Moyes was sacked (each of his postings last less than the previous one, have you noticed?) and replaced by their fans’ favourite Sam Allardyce (I know, I know), only for further Telegraph revelations to attract tf 50

the interest of the Constabulary and force Sam to spend a couple more years in the area managing the HMP Northumberland first team (all games played at home, player contracts non-negotiable). Anyway, where were we. Right then, let’s focus our attention on Manchester City away and indeed the 2017/18 season. What sort of team will we be putting out, and why does the prospect scare me. Well, who will still be here? Quite a few if you look at the length of player contracts: every one of the following players has a contract which runs for another 4 or 5 years (how long is it going to take us to get out of this division?) : Aarons, Perez, Mitrovic, Mbemba, Clark, Hanley, Lazaar, Gayle, Ritchie, Hayden, Yedlin and Sels. Now, you could argue that buying Championship standard players is the best way to

take on the Championship, but let’s be honest, how many of the above do you want playing in the Premier League next year if we are to have a decent mid-table season. Or put it another way, how many of the influx this summer had you ever heard of? The top of the PL is beyond us (remember all PL teams get an extra £100m from TV rights, which presumably they reinvest in players), indeed watching Spurs v Man City recently showed the immense gap between the top 6 and the rest, and we will definitely be among the rest. The big question in the summer will be the extent to which we upgrade the squad (and we should be in no doubt we downgraded this summer. Sissoko, Wijnaldum, Janmaat, Krul, Townsend, notwithstanding a few attitude problems, are significantly better players than those currently on

The big question in the summer will be the extent to which we upgrade the squad (and we should be in no doubt we downgraded this summer

the books). How much will Mike Ashley be prepared to throw at the PL, even allowing for the profit he made this summer. Or perhaps more pertinently, how will we attract the best players to SJP as a newly promoted club with no European football to offer. And what about the current long term contracts for players who will (sorry about this) not be good enough for the PL. None of this is to denigrate the current squad or the principle of buying players who will get us promoted. Clearly we could not attract the top players if the PL beckons for them anyway. And I suspect the same questions will be asked by Norwich supporters (in my world, they will be going up with us). The quality I see from us currently, I suspect, is a long way short of what’s required for even mid table‘success’ in the PL. Goodness me, even Stoke look a decent team on a good day. Let’s take a closer look at our prospects. In goal, I’llbe honest, Sels scares me to death, but the clever money seems to be on Woodman being the long term custodian so maybe we fill the breach until then. PL full backs seem more like wingers these days – Dummett and Anita? Centre backs I reckon Lascelles and Mbemba may do the business. Maybe. Middle of the park

is where games are won and lost – Jonjo’s a bit of an enigma, he has struggled in the PL in the past, and Hayden, Ritchie and Diame will be lightweight at the top level. As for Gouffran, found his level this season,but PL? Up front, I’m a fan of Mitro, not sure about PL credentials of Gayle. All round, significant strengthening required, even though I know there will be a cry from some corners to give the players who get us promoted a chance in the PL. Too big a risk for my liking, and as Steve Bruce said, the PL is brutal, and some of our Championship performances would soon be put to the sword in the top flight. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying this season as much as the next man, but I’m not daft enough to think the quality level is anywhere near the same as the PL, or indeed what an even richer PL will look like next season. I actually think that we should be at top table in the PL, given our attendances and status

as a club, but it seems like another country right now. We may have managed it fleetingly in the past but I’m now past retirement age and not holding my breath (if you see what I mean). Rafa may well be able to perform miracles, and Leicester have set a precedent, but it’s going to be a bumpy ride, assuming we get there. I hope this season is the start of an inexorable ride to the top of English football for us, but we won’t get there with this squad. Maybe Atsu, Hayden, Woodman & Armstrong will turn out to be superstars of the future and provide a basis for a period of success that has, in truth, never been ours. We can’t go on getting our kicks by laughing at S********d or Fat Sam and winning at Rotherham. We have to aim high, however, one step at a time. And realistically, the summer could be as interesting as the current season. C’mon!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying this season as much as the next man, but I’m not daft enough to think the quality level is anywhere near the same as the PL, or indeed what an even richer PL will look like next season.

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As a keen purveyor of the more interesting debate amongst our support on social media, I think it’s fair to say that little in recent times has been as divisive as the subject of Newcastle’s current number 45. It’s pretty clear that his supporters, (the very vocal minority) held sway for quite some time. And are now being outnumbered by a once silent majority in keyboard warrior land. My take is that the more ‘switched on’ amongst our ranks appear to have seen enough. Talk of Mitro certainly raises pulses in chatrooms & Taverns alike, but why is this so? The more basic element of Newcastle’s following just adore the kid. People who lurk behind handles such

as ‘Toon 4 lyf’ or (Christian name) NUFC (Surname) won’t have a word said against him. I believe that he encompasses all that the less complicated adore in a centre forward. They know the score. After all, they & him bleed black & white yee knaa. His appearance is one of casual menace. All buzz cut and body art with a burly frame & crooked smile to boot. A guy with his heart on his sleeve who loves nothing more than attempting to lift the crowd like a delinquent

Balkan cousin of Steven ‘Tayls’ Taylor. His lightswitch temperament and penchant for a ridiculous red seem only to endear him ever more amongst his fanbase. What about his talent? This is where it becomes a bit trickier for me. Certainly, he has some pedigree. He has notched in Champions league and is an important member of his country’s strike force. If I cite his first ever goal for Newcastle & his most recent for Serbia. Both were Shearer

The curious case of Aleksandar Mitrović. tf 52

Nick Clark Follow @Clark5Nick

at his best. His finish v Norwich last season got everyone excited & his recent header v Wales was almost impossible to score. When you use the word ‘Shearer’ in any type of comparison to a player you shouldn’t do it lightly & I don’t. However, when you know what he has in his locker it makes it all the more galling, watching him largely lumbering around up top for United. Average, workmanlike Prem & Championship centre backs seem to have his measure and the tears are never far from the surface. He seems unable or unwilling to play the role that is required of him. That of a proper number 9, using strength, determination & guile to hold the ball up and bring his teammates into play. Mitro’s on fire? Well, occasionally. But in general, you’ll see more flame from a Zippo. I have a feeling that the

recent dismal home to defeat to the mighty Blackburn may have been his nadir. I sit quite close to Rafa’s dugout. Mitro was given a rare start but each time Mitro failed to do his job I sensed our manager becoming ever more rigid with frustration. The tall chap with the clipboard who stands next to him, was getting it in the ear & doing a lot of sage nodding. Overall, I’m of the opinion that as it stands, he’s just not what we require. Recent reports about his lethargy in training seem to suggest an exit may be a possibility. In fact, I’d rather see Murphy be given a crack as he has the record at this level & I assume would follow at least follow his manager’s instructions better & therefore prove more of a handful. However, it is with some regret I write this. Mitro could’ve probably got a move away post

relegation & slithered away like Sissoko etc, but he didn’t. I respect him for that. I loved him for his equaliser v Sunderland, his celebration & desperation to continue when clearly dazed and going ‘wibble wibble’ on the touchline. I’d just like to see a lot more of that. That’s one thing, at least I think we can all agree on. I’d dearly love to be proved wrong, but given the evidence so far, I will be very surprised he makes it at Newcastle. I spoke at length with an Anderlecht season ticket holder when we signed him and whilst he thought we’d stolen Mbemba, the money for Mitrovic was a welcome surprise for them. He felt that he’d only ever thrive with two wingers & loads of balls coming in as he’ll probably score from 1 in 3 or 4 decent crosses. If my Belgian friend is correct, he might do ok in an Allardyce team, but the way Rafa sets us up to play, I just can’t see it.

I have a feeling that the recent dismal home to defeat to the mighty Blackburn may have been his nadir. I sit quite close to Rafa’s dugout. Mitro was given a rare start but each time Mitro failed to do his job I sensed our manager becoming ever more rigid with frustration.

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Aldi luzeak, guztia ahaztu is a Basque saying meaning ‘With time,all things are forgotten’. Lest we not discuss Keegan’s swashbuckling side of the mid 90’s facing the cauldron of San Mémes being ousted on away goals in the UEFA Cup by Atletico Bilbao. 2017 sees the 80th anniversary of the Basque national team tour of Europe and Latin America during the Spanish Civil War.

Fergus Dowd Patrick O’Connell Memorial Fund

Where football and politics intertwined as a journey into the abyss began.

Basque Brethren - Euzkadi They Hung out the Flag of War During the Civil War of 1936-1939 in Spain league football was cancelled in the Basque country. In April 1937 a Basque selection was setup known as Euzkadiko selekzioa with the dual goals of raising monies and awareness

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of the Republican plight during the Civil War.

Russia,Norway Denmark.

This was a team of Basque Ambassadors on foreign lands.

The side included Isidro Langara probably one of Spain’s greatest strikers winner of multiple Pichichi awards and the greatest Basque player of all time.

A tour of Europe was organised with games to be played in France,Poland.


The side included Isidro Langara probably one of Spain’s greatest strikers winner of multiple Pichichi awards and the greatest Basque player of all time

On the 26th April 1937 as the Nazi Luftwaffe flew over Guernica causing untold destruction; Euzkadi tipped off against French Champions Racing Paris winning 3-0 in the Parc Des Princes. Matches followed throughout May ‘37 against Olympique Marseille and Séte and two more games against Racing Paris which saw a draw and a loss for the Basques. FIFA had banned all FIFAaffiliated countries and clubs from playing any Spanish teams during the Civil War. Euzkadi had their first run in with FIFA when the Dutch Federation banned them from playing Roterdam following discussions with FIFA. The team played their first nation outside of Spain Czechoslovakia runners up in the 1934 World Cup they beat the Basques 3-2.

On the 19th of June as Franco’s forces captured Bilbao the Basque selection had landed in Moscow,Russia; despatching all in their wake. The team lost only one game as they defeated local club sides Lokomotiv Moscow (1–5), Dynamo Moscow twice (1–2) and (4–7), Dinamo Lenningrad (2–2), Spartak Moscow (6–2), Dynamo Kiev (1–3), Dinamo Tbilisi (0–2), the Georgian football team (1–3), and finally Dinamo Minsk (1–6). The Soviet football federation were so desperate to win the final game to be played in the Soviet Union they invited the best players from different parts of the state to play for Spartak. By August 1937 the team found themselves in Scandinavia playing Norway and Denmark

defeating the Danes 11-1 the biggest victory on the tour. Due to the games played on the tour monies had been raised to help fund a hospital in La Rosarie,France which housed Spanish refugees. Monies were also provided towards the plight of the Basque children who were placed on ships bound for the UK and South America these children were known as ‘War Orphans’ and some never saw their parents or homeland again. Some of the children found refuge at St Vincent’s Roman Catholic Orphanage in Brunel Terrace in Elswick, Newcastle and were looked after by the nuns of St Vincent’s Convent.

Read the Tyne and Wear Museums blog on Basque orphans arriving in the North East here

As the European tour came to an end the Basque selection were faced with a dilemma as their home country had been captured tf 55

by Franco they could not return. Euzkadi were given permission by FIFA to play in Mexico and sailed across the Atlantic to Veracruz where they played nine games in total throughout Mexico. Mexico was then ruled by President Cardenaz a pro Republican and the country as a whole was supportive of the Republican cause;today there is a statue to those Spanish Refugees who landed at Veracruz port during the Civil War.

today there is a statue to those Spanish Refugees who landed at Veracruz port during the Civil War. This followed games in Cuba and one match in Chile as they made their way across the Andes to Argentina FIFA decided enough was enough and banned Euzkadi from playing any more matches. Only through the goodwill of the Argentinian people did the team survive. tf 56

Euzkadi returned to play in Mexico and Cuba following this but the team as a national side wound up due to on going tensions with FIFA. In 1938 prior to the start of the new Mexican league the Basque’s contacted the Mexican football authorities to see if they could enter a league side. The authorities agreed and so Club Deportivo Euzkadi was born in season 1938-39. In the Mexican league they played twelve games, gained fifteen points and finished second. The team disbanded soon after with a final friendly against Paraguyan side Ateltico Corrales their swansong. Euzkadi never played again until the 16th August in 1979theyplayedoncemore under the name ‘Euskadiko

selekzioa’ defeating a League of Ireland team 4-1 in San Mémes during the Great Week of Bilbao. In an era of global football and foreign ownership in England; Atletico Bilbao’s mantra of “con cantera y afición, no hace falta importación” translated to “with home grown talent and local support, you don’t need for imports.” goes against the grain. It’s a long road and the officialisation of the Basque National Football team is sure to see some more twists and turns. An exhibition by Basque Historian Joseba Gotzon and the Patrick O’Connell memorial fund about the tour will take place at the Feile Belfast annual festival in Belfast,Northern Ireland in August 2017.

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One thing we tend to have here at Newcastle United is a fondness for lunatics, and there’s been many over the years, Joey Barton, Tino Asprilla, Temuri Ketsbaia to name a few in my living memory. I’m sure there are many more the older generation could call upon. These players always divide opinion, and non-more so than our present day madman, Aleksandar Mitrovic.


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We signed Mitrovic in July 2015 for £13m and I must admit I didn’t know a thing about the lad, those who said they did had’ ‘seen his best bits on youtube, and he looked class’ apparently. The fact that the powers that be at the time were prepared to gamble on him as our main source of goals says a lot about the start of our sad demise last season, but that cannot be held against Mitrovic. Fast forward to December 2016 and we as a club are in a far healthier state thanks to the still unbelievable fact that Rafa Benitez is the manager of our club, many players have improved vastly under the great man, but where does Mitrovic stand? ‘Mitro’ always enters the pitch at SJP to a hero’s welcome, not that there’s anything wrong with getting behind a player, but why the clamour for the man to be in the starting 11, lets delve deeper. 9 goals and 4 assists in his

first PL season in a terrible side wasn’t a bad return, but several glaring misses, the one at home to Everton with the game poised at 0-0 always springs to mind, meant this tally should have been more. A late equaliser in Rafas first home game against the unwashed always puts someone into the cult hero bracket, and you couldn’t help but laugh as he hurdled then hugged the fan who’d ran on the pitch to celebrate and then fell flat on his arse! This time round he has 5 goals in 6 starts. His impact from the bench against Norwich which was the springboard for United’s 9 wins on the spin in all competitions cannot be underestimated, and who can forget his assassination attempt on Dwight Gayle when celebrating the last minute winner in that very game. Even Rafa was later roped into his celebrations. Great scenes. We’ve seen him dancing on the pitch after the PNE cup game as the whole ground sang

‘Mitros on fire’. There is no doubting the man is a character. There are very few in football these days. To me the reason Mitrovic is held in such high regard amongst many fans is more to do with his character and less to do with his footballing ability. A character he maybe, but what is he really like as a footballer, well I’m not convinced and nor does it seem is Rafa. For one his lack of mobility is a worry, he is the slowest 22 year old I’ve ever seen (ok maybe with the exception of Haris Vuckic!) Mitro very rarely turns teams around by running in behind them as a result of this. At times this makes us easier to play against when he’s in the team, as defending teams can hold a higher line and we can become one dimensional. Fans like to read his comments in the media that he will give everything for the club, but do we see a real work ethic on the pitch from him, making daft reckless

To me the reason Mitrovic is held in such high regard amongst many fans is more to do with his character and less to do with his footballing ability.

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challenges doesn’t count for me, though to his credit he has curtailed this more this season. I want to see him chasing down lost causes, running the channels, working for his team, not just himself, and I certainly don’t want to see him trying to wrestle centre backs when the ball is up in the air to be won, get up and challenge for it! We’ve also seen him needlessly sent off twice in his Newcastle career so far and also challenge designated penalty taker Matt Ritchie to take a penalty at Gallowgate, which the more uneducated in the ground thought was great as chants of ‘Mitro’ rang around the stadium. I hated seeing that. What do these incidents have in common though.....for me, its trust. He cannot be trusted on the pitch, and that’s one thing Benitez will not stand for. He gives players specific instructions which he expects them

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to carry out, and Mitrovic it seems ignores and challenges these. 4-0 up and the team playing well at home to Birmingham he was introduced from the bench with 10 minutes to play plus stoppage time. It was a game where the manager thought there was nothing left to play for, no risk in giving him a run out. Going back to Rafas trust issues with him, the recent game against Wigan was the total opposite in comparison to the Birmingham game. Poised at 1-0 to United, there was everything still to play for. Although we weren’t under too much pressure, but by no means playing well, Rafa opted to replace Gayle with Perez. To me another small indication that he doesn’t trust Mitrovic. In Rafas preferred 4-2-31 formation there is only space for one centre forward, Dwight Gayle always gets the nod, and for me, rightly so. I can’t see Mitro scoring

the poachers goals Gayle has this season, the first goal at Leeds being a prime example. Would he have chased after the seemingly lost cause that Colbacks ‘through ball’ was? There have been calls to switch to a 4-4-2 to accommodate him, which in my albeit questionable opinion is madness given our success so far this season. By now you’re probably thinking I’m not Mitrovic biggest fan, and of course you’d be right. He is someone though who I really want to see do well, a likeable lad, and we do tend to write players too quickly. The big Serb may prove useful to us at times throughout the rest of the season, and I really hope he is, but I also get the impression that if a bid came in as rumours suggest then Rafa wouldn’t lose too much sleep in letting him move on in the summer...

We’ve also seen him needlessly sent off twice in his Newcastle career so far and also challenge designated penalty taker Matt Ritchie to take a penalty at Gallowgate, which the more uneducated in the ground thought was great as chants of ‘Mitro’ rang around the stadium.

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Our Fans: 5 - As flat as the side in the most part. Their Fans: 8 - Good turnout and jubilant by the end. Media View: Rovers ruin record attempt as under-par United slip up’ (Chronicle). In-Form: No-one really – Clark at a push. NEWCASTLE UTD 0 BLACKBURN ROVERS 1 St. James Park, Sat 26th November, 3:00pm, Championship, Att: 52,092. A shock defeat to struggling Rovers after a strangely disjointed display. Rafa rotated, probably with Hull in mind and the new look defence never really gelled with three changes in the back four and Mitrovic lumbering around like a plank up front hardly helped and the game was largely boring, to be completely frank. There was very little in terms of action in the first half – we had a couple of half chances but were very immobile up front, with Perez barely getting involved at all. Gamez was carried off in the second half with a shoulder injury and the game looked to be drifting towards a goalless draw before the visitors got the only goal of the game from a well worked corner that was lashed in at the back post by Mulgrew. Gayle came on for the last few minutes and had a golden chance to equalise at the death when Ritchie pulled a ball back to him but he skied his attempt from eight yards out and although we might not have deserved to lose, there weren’t really any grumbles about the scoreline. Newcastle United: Darlow, Yedlin, Clark, Mbemba (Gayle), Gamez (Dummett), Ritchie, Hayden, Shelvey, Atsu, Perez, Mitrovic.

Out of Form: Mitrovic was dreadful but most were not much better. Rafa Watch: Too many changes all at once in defence unsettled our shape but I agreed with resting folk for a bigger game at Hull on Tuesday.

HULL CITY 1 NEWCASTLE UNITED 1 (AET) (Hull win 3-1 on pens), KCOM Stadium, Tue 29th Nov, 7:45pm, EFL QTR Final, Att: 16,243. We bowed out of the League Cup in the last eight in a largely disappointing and freezing cold night in Hull. I say disappointing, but that was largely because we should have had the game sewn up in the first half but spurned a handful of good opportunities after dominating the match. Diame, Ritchie and Gayle all had decent chances in the first half but after failing to make any count, we were more on the back foot in the second, albeit in a pretty dour game. The 90 minutes were almost up when Hull forward, Mbokani got himself sent off after a tussle with Lascelles. The man advantage showed in the first half of extra time and Lazaar came close when he hit the bar and the keeper was forced into saves from Shelvey and Clark. We finally got the breakthrough when Diame managed to bundle the ball home from the corner. Almost directly from the restart though, Hull got the equaliser when Sels, who was awful, parried an effort from outside the box directly into the path of Henriksen who steered in the rebound. The home side then looked the more likely to win the game in the second period of extra time and only some poor control from tf 63

Snodgrass, clean through on Sels denied them a winner. The penalties were laughable – Shelvey’s was weak as piss, Gayle lashed his against the bar, Atsu scored off the bar and I’d left the ground before Gouffran’s even reached the net...and that was about five minutes after the final whistle. Concentrate on the league etc etc etc. Newcastle United: Sels, Anita (Yedlin), Clark, Lascelles, Lazaar, Ritchie (Atsu), Hayden (Murphy), Shelvey, Gouffran, Diame, Gayle. Our Fans: 8 - Very noisy in the first half. Their Fans: 2 – As well as the poor turnout, we barely heard them all night. Media View: ‘Tigers hold nerve in shoot-out to progress to semi-finals’ (Independent). In-Form: Diame was probably our best player on the night, certainly in the first half. Out of Form: Sels was wretched and with Eliott coming back from injury, that might be the last we see of him. Rafa Watch: This will serve as a bit of a reminder of the work that will need to be done in summer if we go up.

for the referee to ludicrously give a foul against our man. We were then left stunned as the ref awarded another red card, sending Dummett off after Lansbury (again) ‘won’ a penalty – the official being oblivious to the new ruling which stipulates a yellow in this circumstance. Lansbury himself took the kick and Darlow again saved, sparking bedlam in the away end. This all sounds really far-fetched now I know, but we ended the half by actually taking the lead when Ritchie fired home inside their box. I’d be hard pushed to remember a more mental 15 minutes of football. Forest had more possession in the second half but barely created owt – ex-Mackem comedy act, Bendtner toe poked home an equaliser five minutes into the second half but we held on valiantly to the 86th minutes before cruelly conceding to an own goal from ex-Forest lad Lascelles.

N. FOREST 2 NEWCASTLE UNITED 1 City Ground, Fri 2nd December, 7:45pm, Championship, Att: 21,317. Right, Christ, how can you possibly sum a game like this up? OK, let’s give it a try. There wasn’t much going on in the first half hour but the wheels came off in 20 unbelievable minutes as the ref, one Steve Martin simply lost the plot. It started with an absolutely stonewall penalty when Clark was held clearly from a corner when he was poised to head home and degenerated into a farce when the hideous, corn-rowed Lansbury initiated a tangle with Shelvey, who flicked out and saw red as the Forest midfielder rolled around embarrassingly on the floor. From the resulting penalty, Darlow guessed right and saved the spot and we looked to have taken an unlikely lead when Clark managed to get up despite being manhandled at another corner to head home, only tf 64

Get these bastards back up here on the 30th Newcastle United: Darlow, Yedlin, Clark, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie, Hayden, Shelvey, Gouffran (Diame), Perez (Anita), Gayle (Mitrovic). Our Fans: 9 - Delirious when Darlow saved that second penalty. Their Fans: 4 - Shite. A shadow of the support they used to have. Dislikeable with it too. Media View: ‘Referee is utter twat’ (Me). In-Form: Everyone put in a magnificent shift but Darlow was sensational. Out of Form: The nine men on the pitch were fantastic, but Diame and Mitrovic were more a hindrance than a help when they came on. Rafa Watch: I’d very much doubt in all his years in football if he’d ever witnessed owt like that.

NEWCASTLE UNITED 4 BIRMINGHAM CITY 0 St.James Park, Sat 10th December, 3:00pm, Championship, Att: 52,145. Our best performance of the season saw us crush Birmingham, themselves in the play-off places with an utterly dominant display, lit up by another hat-trick from Dwight Gayle. The first came inside 20 minutes after some fine work from Mo Diame after he worked himself some space out wide to whip over an inch perfect cross that Gayle could barely miss. Diame had by far his best half for us in the first period and he was involved in the build up to the second half way through the half when the superb Isaac Hayden was released into the box and his cross was bundled home at the back post.

WIGAN ATHLETIC 0 NEWCASTLE UNITED 2 DW Stadium, Wed 14th Dec, 7:45pm, Championship, Att: 14,562.

We extended our lead just after the break when Shelvey’s ball to Gayle in the box fell kindly to Gouffran and he lashed a shot past the keeper at his near post. We were cruising through the game when Gayle completed his hattrick with quarter of an hour remaining after fine work from Ritchie left him with a virtual tap in straight in front of the goal – perfect hat-trick, head, right, left – beautiful! We looked the business today and the visitors barely had a kick – the perfect response to our wobble of late. Newcastle United: Darlow, Anita, Clark, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie, Hayden (Lazaar), Shelvey, Gouffran (Atsu), Diame, Gayle (Mitrovic).

After countless shit days out and shit performances at Wigan, it was marvellous to turn up, play quite poorly and waltz away with three points in our back pocket. The game was meandering along, with Darlow being called into action once, when Diame put us ahead against his former club just before the half hour mark – taking a pass from Hayden into his stride into the box before slipping the ball past 83 year old keeper, Juusi Jaaskelainen. We didn’t really push on in the rest of the half and the second half was mainly played in the midfield, with very little forward momentum. Darlow had to have his wits about him to save a dipping effort from Kellett on the goalline and we wrapped it up with ten minutes to go, when Gouffran’s pull back found Atsu, who made no mistake with a sharp, rising shot into the roof of the net. 2-0 probably flattered us but Wigan hardly threatened either – there won’t be a DVD of the game hitting the shelves just in time for Christmas but after years of dreadful results here, we’ll definitely take that one.

Our Fans: 8 - Thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Newcastle United: Darlow, Anita, Clark, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie (Atsu), Hayden, Shelvey, Gouffran, Diame, Gayle (Perez).

Their Fans: 6 - Came in good numbers but had very little to shout about.

Our Fans: 8 - Tremendous turnout (again) for a midweek televised game in one of Britain’s dullest away trips.

Media View: ‘Hat trick hero Gayle fires Magpies back to the top’ (Mirror).

Their Fans: 3 - Pathetic.

In-Form: It was a great team display – Gayle obviously gets man of the match for the hat-trick but Anita and Hayden were also outstanding. Out of Form: No-one. Rafa Watch: Called it right in what was a big game for us.

Media View: ‘Newcastle return to top of the Championship with win over Wigan’ (Guardian). In-Form: Diame was better again. Out of Form: I think 8 or 9 of the side were 6/10’s. Rafa Watch: I love the fact he’s made us a side that can grind wins like this out away from home. tf 65

NEWCASTLE UNITED 0 SHEFFIELD WED 1 St. James Park, Boxing Day, 7:45pm, Championship, Att: 52,179.

BURTON ALBION 1 NEWCASTLE UNITED 2 Pirelli Stadium, Sat 17th December, 3:00pm, Championship, Att: 6,665. This was a game that many a travelling Mag had circled as soon as the fixture list came out and aside from the novelty of standing in a geet titchy ground, we were given a game by Burton before prevailing for a precious three points. We opened the scoring on the quarter of an hour – Gayle backheeling home a Ritchie cross in front of the travelling support. We were only ahead for five minutes though, with Dyer equalising for them from a cross to the back post. We were back ahead just after the half hour though with a fine goal from Diame, beating two men before slotting coolly past the keeper Burton came at us more in the second half without ever really creating many chances of note – Darlow recovered from fumbling a shot to hang on to the ball and they had a run of crosses into the box but we held firm and left the field to Local Hero – canny touch from the Brewers that like. It’s wins like this that will see us promoted. Newcastle United: Darlow, Yedlin, Clark, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie (Gouffran), Hayden, Shelvey, Atsu, Diame, Gayle. Our Fans: 8 - Enjoy Burton away they said. We did. Their Fans: 6 - Canny enough Media View: Gayle continues to prove Pardew wrong’ (Chronicle). In-Form: Shelvey pulled all the strings. Out of Form: It wasn’t a vintage performance but no-one was really dreadful. Rafa Watch: Bernebau to Burton – all the same to Rafa. tf 66

There wasn’t much Christmas cheer at SJP as we were deservedly beaten by a, cough, rugged Wednesday side but their gamesmanship shouldn’t detract from the fact that the better side on the night left with the three points. Shelvey left a massive hole in the middle and we looked incapable of directing any sort of forward momentum in the first half and only an inspired display by Darlow saved us a howking. Our best chance of the game came in the first half when Gayle hit the bar but by then Darlow had made a couple of fine stops. He started the second half with probably the save of the game, at close range from Fletcher but he was powerless to stop the only goal of the game on the 53rd minute. He’d already made a save from the corner that led to the goal, but poor defending allowed Wednesday to put it back into the box and Loovens gleefully nodded home from a yard out. Atsu was introduced and he at least added a little bit of a spark, forcing a save from their keeper and Hayden had a chance in the dying seconds but couldn’t connect when played in behind the defence. In all honesty, though, but for Darlow, we’d have been out of sight by then. I’d expect Wednesday to be right up there come the end of the season on this showing mind.

Newcastle United: Darlow, Anita, Clark, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie, Colback (Mitrovic), Hayden, Gouffran (Perez), Diame (Atsu), Gayle. Our Fans: 6 - Eager early on but waned. Their Fans: 9 - Excellent, great turn out especially given the KO time. Media View: ‘Loovens shocks Newcastle in Wednesday bruising’ (Guardian). In-Form: Darlow had a blinder. Out of Form: There were a few poor performances – Diame probably worst of the lot. Rafa Watch: The Shelvey suspension leaves him with a real problem – there’s no-one even vaguely close to being able to fill that gap.

BLACKBURN 1 NEWCASTLE UNITED 0 Ewood Park, Monday 2nd January, 3:00pm, Championship, Att: 18,254.

NEWCASTLE UNITED 3 NOTTM FOREST 1 St. James Park, Friday 30th Dec, 7:45pm, Championship, Att: 52,228. A dose of well deserved fortune after the fiasco at the City Ground saw us exert revenge over Forest and go back to the top of the league. Our first rub of the green came with just four minutes on the clock when a Ritchie free kick from outside the box took a wicked deflection to wrongfoot the keeper and sail into the net. Both crowd and team had their tails up but Forest burst our bubble by equalising on the half hour through Dimitru and to be fair they’d had a couple of chances leading up to the goal. In truth, we were going nowhere fast until we were the grateful recipients of a bit of dubious refereeing that saw Mills sent off for the visitors on the hour – shame eh? He chopped down Perez for a deserved booking but was immediately shown red for shoving the ball into Gayle’s chest. Almost immediately, we benefitted from the advantage of the extra man with the goal of the game as Gayle caught a ball on the volley from the tightest of angles to beat the keeper at the Gallowgate – a mini van-Basten if you will. We wrapped it up with ten minutes to go, when Gayle again was in the right place at the right time to tap (well, scuff) in a delightful pass across the box from Ritchie. Would we have beaten them XI v XI? Who gives a shite, we owed them this one. Newcastle United: Darlow, Yedlin, Clark, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie (Lazaar), Colback (Diame), Hayden, Perez, Atsu, Gayle (Mitrovic). Our Fans: 7 - Enjoyed the revenge. Their Fans: 3 - Poor in both numbers and vocals. Media View: Gayle double fires hosts back to top spot’ (Telegraph). In-Form: Gayle, again and Ritchie was much better than of late. Out of Form: Hayden and Colback aren’t really much of a dynamic duo in the middle. Rafa Watch: Back on top to end the year, job (half) done.

We somehow contrived to allow Blackburn to do the double over us in a game where we could have been 6-0 up before they had their first shot (which in itself was the goal!). We were absolutely all over them in the first half. Diame came nearest when he burst forward and cracked a shot off the bar from fully 25 yards but if that was unlucky, it was profligate finishing that was to blame for us not being out of sight by half time. Gayle had a rare off day and fluffed two gilt edged chances in front of the away end whilst not for the first time, Ciaran Clark was in the thick of the action – appealing twice for a penalty – one with some substance, having a goal correctly disallowed for offside and seeing a couple of efforts saved.

For all our dominance in the first half, we started to run out of ideas in the second, albeit never being at risk of losing the game until Colback, who is absolute fucking cack, unnecessarily tripped a player over in a dangerous position for the 342nd time in a black and white shirt and from the resulting free kick, Mulgrew was for the second time this season the man that sealed it – poor goal as well, a proper daisy cutter. As for Colback man, Jesus – he reminds me of Alan Smith i.e utter gash. Poor result to start the year. Newcastle United: Darlow, Anita (Murphy), Clark, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie, Colback (Perez), Hayden, Gouffran (Atsu), Diame, Gayle. Our Fans: 6 - Fantastic numbers, canny few knackas on board mind. Their Fans: 4 - Shite. Some acknowledgement given to the mess they’re in though. Media View: ‘Benitez baffled after Toon knocked off top spot’ (Star). In-Form: Difficult to say, the defence had next to nowt to do but none of them did much wrong. tf 67

Out of Form: Nowt would happen for Gayle for a change but Colback was fuckin’ minging. Rafa Watch: I’d hope he gets the backing he needs in the transfer window because we are probably one or two short for the rest of the season and miles short of being a reasonable PL team.

BRENTFORD UTD 1 NEWCASTLE UNITED 2 Griffin Park, Saturday 14th January, 3:00pm, Championship, Att: 11,435. After much gnashing of the teeth thanks to fucking Sky, our trip to West London finally took place on the Saturday and we hung on for three valuable points in a game which we barely deserved to win – we’ll still take it mind! The victory came at a cost though, with Gayle, Anita and Hayden – arguably three of our best players this season all leaving the field with injuries. It was Gayle himself that gave us the lead on 20 minutes, galloping on to a Perez pass and lashing home from a tight angle, when a cross to Ritchie seemed the most likely option – another fine goal from a lad whose value this season can’t be overestimated. He was off not long after, to be replaced by Murphy.

BIRMINGHAM CITY 1 NEWCASTLE UNITED 1 St. Andrews, Saturday 7th January, 3:00pm, FA Cup 3rd Round, Att: 13,171. A terrible game played out in front of a stadium only made half full thanks to a healthy contingent of Mags behind the goal saw us end up with the replay that no-one really wanted, although we were slightly fortuitous to be in the draw at all after a laboured display. The opposite looked to be true after we took the lead with a scrappy goal inside five minutes. Lazaar’s corner rebounded back into the box via Hanley and Daryl Murphy was quickest to react to score his first goal for the club – the celebrations tempered by Mitrovic being stretchered off for what thankfully turned out to ‘only’ be a bad gash to the calf. Newcastle United: Sels, Yedlin, Hanley, Lascelles, Haidara (Ritchie), Anita, Colback, Tiote (Hayden), Lazaar, Mitrovic (Gouffran), Murphy. Our Fans: 7 - Tremendous numbers, not much to shout about.

We looked disjointed in the second half and Brentford were level inside ten minutes of the restart from a right scrappy goal. Darlow didn’t deal properly with a corner and the ball bobbled around before Vibe forced it over the line . The same player looked like he’d given them the lead when his effort hit the woodwork and bounced back on the line – replays showed there was a midges knacker in it, but it was the right call and after riding our luck, we nicked it when a sublime cross from Perez was deftly nodded home by Murphy. They battered us in the last ten minutes, could easily have had a penalty if not two and we were indebted to Darlow for a fine stop in added time. After our recent wobble, we needed this one.

Their Fans: 2 - Very poor. Media View: ‘Mitrovic carried off as Birmingham hold stuttering Newcastle’ (Guardian). In-Form: Murphy always looks decent when he gets the chance. Out of Form: Tiote was fucked after about five minutes, get shot. Rafa Watch: Got the balance just about right with the side, performance wasn’t much to write home about. tf 68

Newcastle United: Darlow, Yedlin, Clark, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie, Colback, Hayden (Anita (Hanley)), Gouffran, Perez, Gayle (Murphy). Our Fans: 7 - Relieved. Their Fans: 7 - Canny bunch. Media View: ‘Battered and bruised but United go top again’ (Chronicle). In-Form: Darlow was excellent when we needed him to be. Out of Form: We looked shaky all over, particularly in the full back positions. Rafa Watch: Really important win – he’s got some challenges coming up with the injuries now though.

NEWCASTLE UNITED 3 BIRMINGHAM CITY 1 St.James Park, Wednesday 18th Jan, 7:45pm, FA Cup 3rd Round Replay, Att: 34,896. An inexperienced side did their job to see us progress with a bit to spare to a winnable fourth round tie at Oxford in a pleasing evening at SJP. Rafa brought Findlay, Barlaser and El-Mhanni straight into the first XI from nowhere but each equipped themselves well and any early jitters at the line up were put to bed inside the first ten minutes when Shelvey announced his return with a defence splitting pass which led to Gouffran being hauled down by the keeper. Ritchie hammered the spot kick straight down the middle and we dominated the half against a very poor Blues outfit. Gouffran doubled the lead just after the half hour, neatly flicking up a Shelvey free kick to tee himself up for a half volley past the keeper – canny bit of skill! Ritchie hit the post as well before half time and we were coasting until well inside the second half when Jutklewicz came on for the visitors and started to make a nuisance of himself.

Cotterill got one back for them with twenty minutes to go, beating Sels with the outside of his foot but it would have been very cruel if they’d gone on to equalise, although it took us until almost the final whistle to finally wrap things up. Again, Shelvey was the provider, this time teeing Ritchie up for a tap in from a yard out and for the first time in yonks we’ve managed to progress in the FA Cup – it would be nice to keep it going. Newcastle United: Sels, Yedlin (Hayden), Findlay, Hanley, Lazaar, Ritchie, Tiote (Colback), Shelvey, Barlaser, El-Mhanni (Perez), Gouffran. Our Fans: 7 - Good crowd for this stage, plenty of excited bairns. Their Fans: 5 - Well done to the ones that bothered coming. Media View: ‘Ritchie double and Gouffran cracker seal FA Cup progression’ (Shields Gazette). In-Form: Shelvey was head and shoulders above in the middle. Out of Form: Tiote probably bowed out and I don’t think anyone will miss the 2017 version. Rafa Watch: Took a bit of a gamble with the line up, but it paid off perfectly.

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NEWCASTLE UNITED 4 ROTHERHAM UTD 0 St.James Park, Saturday 21st Jan, 3:00pm, Championship, Att: 52,208. The scoreline was as you’d expect with top against bottom but it wasn’t as plain sailing as it looked as the Millers matched us to the dying moments of the first half until we pulled clear. They could easily have gone in to the break one up against ten men after Darlow lost the ball on the edge of the box as he nearly slid out of his area and clipped the lad who took it off him before recovering for a wonder save, flinging himself the length of the goal. Murphy got our first just before the break with a fine turn and shot in front of the Gallowgate and from there it was plain sailing. Ritchie made it two shortly after the restart with a tap in after the keeper flapped at Gouffran’s effort and Perez got the goal of the game, connecting to a pull back from human greyhound Yedlin who somehow managed to catch a ball that looked way beyond him. Ritchie added his second late on after a perfect through ball from Shelvey and by the

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end, we looked streets ahead of the visitors, which without wanting to sound too arrogant, we should given our respective positions. In reality, it wasn’t always that easy but we are back in a fine position, miles ahead of fourth place and playing with confidence again after our miniature wobble. Normal service and that. Newcastle United: Darlow, Yedlin (Sterry), Clark, Lascelles, Dummett, Ritchie, Hayden, Shelvey, Gouffran (Ameobi), Perez, Murphy (Lazaar). Our Fans: 7 - Great attendance. Again. Their Fans: 7 - Good turnout and decent crack. Media View: ‘Benitez side finish strongly to see off doomed visitors’ (Telegraph). In-Form: Ritchie was probably pick of the bunch. Out of Form: No-one really. Perez still isn’t the player he was. Rafa Watch: Best manager in the league with the best side in the league. Gareth Harrison - Follow Gareth on @truefaith1892

Long standing true faith writer, Tony Higgins who regular readers will recognise from his Real Spain articles has his first book out now. Travel with Tony through the und ergrowt h of Spanish football and life for only ÂŁ4:99. Only in digital format.

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WHY? Lee Oversby

Today somebody asked me “why”? You see, for me, it all began in the 1970’s, around August 1977 to be a little more precise. Richard Dinnis the schoolteacher, managing the likes of Bird and Burns, Craig, Cannell and Cassidy to name but a few. Wide eyed and in sight and awe of the ground, my first and lasting memory was the smell. The bovril, the body odour, pies, farts, beer, tobacco and stale piss. It is that everlasting memory of going through the turnstile that remains with me today, the foul congregation of vapours of it all and how beautiful it was, and still is. tf 72

After the smell, it was the noise and sights, the swarm of the crowd, losing sight of my father and him grabbing my arm pulling me to safety. The stairs, the scarves and the fashionable flares, the rattles, tight knitted jumpers, black and white hats, all swirling visuals, a cacophony of colour and noise, the energy of it, the sheer elation, this was nothing I had ever experienced before, nowhere near. Walking up the stairs I was overwhelmed by the singing, fully grown moustachioed men singing songs with vigour, passion, verve and heart. I had heard nothing like this at school assembly nor on top of the pops, this was different, this was real.

Past the top of the stairs, getting pushed along down the terraces and catching sight of the brilliant sea of green. The pitch, the hallowed turf, this small piece of land where history was made and all the greats had played and will play. St James Park. “Eighteen Hundred and Sixty Two on a summer’s afternoon…..” the team ran out to a chorus of Blaydon Races, cheers and whistles. Butterflies leapt about my stomach, I was grinding my teeth, clenching my fists all in terror and delight as I saw the black and white stripes and the players. What a moment when the whistle blew for kick off, the loudest roar so far and the 90 minutes of football began.

We were playing Leeds United and although I don’t remember too much about the actual game I do remember Burns scoring and Newcastle going on to win 3-2. It was when we scored and I got lifted up a height that I saw everyone’s face of joy and sheer happiness. A sight to behold and one I’ll always carry with me. Of course the days and the weeks followed, I was taken to pretty much all the home games that season. And as the years rolled on, I loved every moment.

It was when we scored and I got lifted up a height that I saw everyone’s face of joy and sheer happiness. A sight to behold and one I’ll always carry with me

1979-1980 Season, I was selling programmes with my father outside the Strawberry, penny a programme and free entry to the match. Not bad. Signing Kevin Keegan and tf 73

watching him play with Waddle, Beardsley and McDermott. 1983 My first season to go alone, but I was safe in knowledge that I would be looked after. Watching a young Gazza, getting promotion, Keegan’s farewell in a helicopter! We’ve got Mirandina, he’s not from Argentina, and a whole host of characters that graced the pitch in that era. Too many to name or write about. Newcastle United have taken me to a plethora of different towns, cities and grounds all over our fair isle. Spending hours, days, weekends and even weeks all over the country following my side over the last 30 odd years. It has introduced me to people I would have never have met. It has taken me out of my comfort zone, lifted me up to be a better person, it has opened my tf 74

eyes to England and all its glory. It has also taken me abroad.

even USA, Australia and beyond. It has taken me around the world.

The stories and memories are endless.. Meeting Ant and Dec in the back streets of Barcelona, singing with Zico Martin in the Catalan Capital and Shola scoring in the Nou Camp. Milan where we were lost in the city and drank far too much wine so ended up staying for a week. Marseilles where I spent 3 days trying to get back to Newcastle via hitchhiking, buses and trains. Benfica, where I brought over my good pal from Mexico into the only Stadium of Light, only for him to end living and married there now . Bilbao where I met a local chef after the game, who has changed my life when it comes to food and drink. Many more countries, many more people, many more stories, many more cities all over Europe and

For all of the lows, the downs, the pain and there have been many, I still follow. And so it goes, that it was at St James Park, in August 1977 that a voice resonated in my head, it spoke with such ache, such comfort and tranquillity that I knew it was to be forever. It said, no turning back, this was it, an eternal relationship of me and loyalty of my city, my stadium, my team and my people.

The stories and memories are endless.. Meeting Ant and Dec in the back streets of Barcelona, singing with Zico Martin in the Catalan Capital and Shola scoring in the Nou Camp

Newcastle United give me memories, comfort, a place to call home, a sense of pride and a belief that I am not alone. I belong, that’s why.

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Back in 2008, when Harry Redknapp turned down the chance to replace Sam Allardyce on Tyneside, and later became the man in charge at White Hart Lane, both us and Spurs were of a similar stature. The sale of Moussa Sissoko on the stroke of this window closing though, brings into sharp contrast the fate of the two clubs concerned since the departure of the current England manager. United had been Premiership mainstays for years without making any meaningful impact on the division; meandering around mid-table, a long way off the relative glory days of the Keegan and Robson eras; Tottenham likewise.

Failing to land Redknapp though, Mike Ashley opted to try and make a good first impression, he himself still the proud new owner, and conjure the return of our old Messiah. That didn’t go so well did it? Harry took the Londoners on to bigger

and better things - steadily up the table, a run in the Champions League and a decent showing in the domestic cups. It seemed to put them on a sound footing as now they are seen as top 4 contenders and were odds on to be

James Brown


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runners up last term, until their capitulation at St James Park to an already condemned Newcastle United that is. Meanwhile, we endured a relegation that saw Kevin Keegan, Chris Hughton, JFK, and Alan Shearer all have a go, and years of being force fed shite - shackled to our loyalties, eyes pinned open like the scene from The Clockwork Orange. Finally, the ship has sunk, and we are back once again in the second tier, seriously in danger of being stuck down there forever. But now we have Rafa and, whilst not wanting to jinx it, he just might possibly be embarking us on a similar path to the one Spurs took under Harry. In his most recent Q&A, the spaniard speaks of the club’s successful ’trading’ in this most recent transfer window, a feat we have been starved of for as long as I can remember. One thing that Tottenham have done to lift their recent fortunes above ours

is, year on year, some good old fashioned wheeling and dealing. They have consistently identified the weak links in the squad and upgraded them with a clear idea on style and direction and every now and then, selling their most fashionable players for stupid money to fund it all. The true miracle that Rafa has performed has been to win the trust of those holding the pursestrings; and what Mr Ashley will like very much is that despite securing 12 new signatures, we concluded business heavily in profit. Yes, Benitez was selling players that he hadn’t bought himself, but the Sissoko that actually won his £30 million price tag in the Euros, did so with the momentum and confidence the arrival of Rafa last season injected. The players that he has targeted seem to be, on first impression at least, well worth the money in a grossly inflated market. Most importantly for the club and for us though, is they also appear a vast

improvement on the last lot! Perhaps not in terms of raw talent; they might not all be able to do a thousand keepie uppies, or spin so fast they forget to take the ball with them sometimes (no names mentioned). In effort, commitment, team spirit and a desire to win though, the new look to the squad already looks leagues above that which came before. There are now a majority of young promising professionals that are hungry to learn, and under Rafa’s tutelage, will make pretty decent Premiership players one day, and at the very least, might make us another cool 30 mill. It is hard to not overdo the praise for this man, but if the club hierarchy continue to allow Benitez to call the shots, we might be waving a salute to Sissoko (and some of the other greedy, lazy toe rags) on our way up in a few years time.

But now we have Rafa and, whilst not wanting to jinx it, he just might possibly be embarking us on a similar path to the one Spurs took under Harry

Eee Aye, Eee Aye, Eee Aye Oh! tf 77

‘Winter is coming’ is a quote by, well, you probably know and if you don’t then you’ve little enough interest in modern popular culture (and brilliant sci-fi literature that isn’t so modern) not to care. However winter is coming (already here at the time of writing, actually) and therefore so is the transfer window. The transfer window in years gone by has brought scorn, fury and dejection. I’ve never felt anything worse than I have after the January window of 2015. United’s form was good up to the departure of Alan Pardew and some winnable games in the second half of the season with a new manager would have seen have seen us have a tilt at Europe with some signings made in Jan. It wasn’t to be as United chased Steve McClaren, who rejected us, and so they turned to John Carver to mastermind a sprint to relegation and build a team around Ryan Taylor in midfield. Things are different these days.

SKETCH FOR WINTER Alex hurst What shall we expect from the transfer window of 2017? Signings, for sure. I don’t believe Rafa Benitez has any intention of not improving his squad. Sitting still would be as criminal as going backwards in the eyes of the best manager in the country. Rafa likes signing players and has often splurged on improving squads whenever he’s been able to. Also expect departures, most likely on loan. As the Premier League beckons the club has so much dead weight on the books plying it’s trade elsewhere that it would be no surprise to see many of those on loan shifted tf 78

permanently for little or no money, if their current clubs will have them. It’s strange to think the likes of Harris Vuckic and Sammy Ameobi had bright futures at the club only two years ago. Neither are assured of places in League One. The club website states that nine players are on loans ending in January. Only the players just mentioned and maybe Sterry could be considered first team, so expect some extensions. It’s the likes of Henri Saivet, Siem De Jong and Flaorian Thavin I’d expect moves to be made permanent. That’s £120,000 at least off next season’s wage bill right there. Crucial space for big

signings ahead. There’s also the issue of players not currently getting near the first team. I may be wrong by Haidara, Gamez, Lazaar, Murphy and Rob Elliot could be nearing the exit door via a loan if new players are brought in. Haidara needs to play football and not get injured so a loan back to France could be in order. There’s a definite player in there but Dummet has made that left back spot his own. Lazaar needs first team experience in this country

so surely one of he and Haidara should leave for minutes. Both have a future at the club potentially. Rob Elliot is third choice goal keeper and hasn’t played football in a year. I don’t rate him anymore highly than Darlow or Sels. A new contract suggests he may have a future, but also suggests the club believe he has a resale value. Gamez only has a two year deal and is effectively third choice right back. His unhappy stay in England could be cut short.

we indeed true due to his inability to remain calm and not get himself sent off. Mitrovic has started 3 league games and scored 3 goals. That’s good. He’s not Dwight Gayle though and won’t be ahead of our main man all season. What does that say about the striker we signed for £14 million to play in the Premier League. A knackered Papisse Cisse was selected last season ahead of him by Rafa. Quite simply Rafa, in my opinion, doesn’t fancy Mitrovic and will try and offload.

Daryl Murphy is an injury or suspension to one of the two strikers to getting game time. The FA Cup and fixture congestion could see him stay regardless but if United were to sign a striker, surely a loan (probably back to Ipswich) would make sense. I hope he gets his chance at United as his hold up play would really help Perez or Diame. On United chasing a striker, this may not go down well to his army of teenage fans but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mitrovic leave the club. The rumours of Rafa trying to offload him in the summer

Before I look at what kind of striker Rafa might look to bring in it’s worth noting that there is only one player arguably that is ‘irreplaceable’ in the side at the moment. JonJo Shelvey isn’t ever rotated or rested, regardless of the competition. When you read this you may already be aware of the impact of any potential absence in the side, but at the time of writing that nasty business is still to be resolved. Colback and Hayden have been excellent this season but our creative spark is Shelvey. I can see Rafa

looking at a player of similar ability and characteristics to Shelvey to safeguard against injury and provide competition for places in the only position none exists. So if a striker and creative midfielder do come in what level will they be? I can’t see Rafa signing anyone in January that can’t play a serious role in the Premier League. I don’t have names for you. However I am of the opinion that players of serious quality will be coming in, directly to the first team. Yohan Goufrann is out of contract at the end of the season. It would be no surprise for a left winger to be brought into the side costing £10m +. United’s financial position is such that we could spend £30m in this transfer window. At the time of writing there’s a 9 point gap over third place. If that’s 18 points by January promotion will be as shirt as 1/100. Premier League players will be looking to sign for United and Rafa will be building a squad looking beyond the bottom half next season.

So if a striker and creative midfielder do come in what level will they be? I can’t see Rafa signing anyone in January that can’t play a serious role in the Premier League

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Postcards F rom The Edge Paully

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We’re on target to reach 96 points which will without doubt guarantee automatic promotion; we were a goalkeeping howler away from reaching the League Cup semi finals and we’re in that weird spherical ball-spewing machine for round four of the F.A Cup. With all of this in mind, you’d expect everything to be rosier in the black and white parish than the cheeks of a man who had dropped a vile stink-bomb from his pongy anus whilst trapped inside of a lift with eight staunch feminists. Bizarrely, it is not. I’m not a twitterer (although you could quite easily label me as a similar word) but some of the reactions to our performances by so-called fans beggars belief. Social media has certainly given the complete and utter helmets of society a platform to spout utter tripe which anyone who I have on Facebook will no doubt agree with. Some fans are even disgr untle d at half time of home matches if we are not 8-0 up and if the fines t blart from

Victoria’s Secret-land have not spent the full duration of the half strutting around the pitch parameter with only their sophisticated bras and knickers on show. Some fans need to take a chill pill and grow a set of bollocks/boobies and let Rafa do his stuff and abandon the hysterical over-reactions. We do now live in an instant world whereby people’s patience levels are literally non-existent. For instance, look at the apps that are now available on mobile phones.You can immediately do anything from booking a holiday to sorting out an animal-sitter for your pet giraffe to even arranging for a fine upstanding lady of the community to pop around to your house and pipe you off (apparently). Freddie Mercury called it right with his “I want it all, and I want it now” patter. He must have been able to see the future inside of his finely-pruned ‘tache. Rafa knows his onions and he has assembled this squad to simply get us up. There will be a huge change of personnel in the summer as several players have

His rec ord in 2016 was the worst in the country which came as no surprise to any Mag. He should have been binned by us long before he decided to leave but back then we did not operate as a football club. It was hilarious seeing lots of Palace fans turn on him after slating us for doing likewise... only been brought in on a short term basis. I’m certainly not smashing any panic button after our current blip and I still firmly believe that we will comfortably get promoted as I have done all season. The theory that officials are supposed to favour the big clubs certainly doesn’t seem to apply in the Championship. We must have denied been double figure stonepenalties wall so far and Stevie Wonder could have churned out a better officiating than display what we had to endure at Forest. That useless buffoon needs to utilise more of his time on fully understanding the laws of the game rather than preparing himself for the

show. Robin Hood’s acts of robbery in Nottingham were not a patch on his shambolic behaviour. These dropped bollocks apparently even themselves out over the course of the season so we’re due a boatload of luck from now until May. Whereas we have had no luck, Brighton are certainly benefiting from several favourable decisions. You can’t deny that they’re on a remarkable run and I would be very pleased if nice man Chris takes the other automatic promotion place alongside us. You won’t hear a Mag say a bad word about him and he was without doubt sacked for nonfootballing reasons which leads me nicely on to his successor at SJP. Pardew’s ridiculously over-inflated ego must be currently smaller than a midget’s penis during a freezing wintery day. His record in 2016 was the worst in the country which came as no surprise to any Mag. He should have been binned by us long before he decided to leave but back then we did not operate as a football club. It was hilarious seeing lots of Palace fans turn on him after slating us for doing likewise. Annoyingly, the media sided with them towards the end of his tenure and stated that Pardew had to go after labelling us as ‘deluded Geordies’ when we raised extreme doubts about his managerial ability when he produced several similar sets of utter horrendous results. I hope that his smug bracket is never seen in a football dugout again and perhaps a stint on Strictly Come Dancing is

on the cards after the shapes he knocked out at the FA Cup Final before his team thankfully went on to blow a 1-0 lead against 10 men. Unlucky, shit-head. The last few matches have proven exactly how valuable Shelvey is. He has been a humongous miss and we look more lost going forward than Mario whenever his kart acquired a flatty. Mind, his so-called best mate of a brother Luigi never used to stop to assist him; the horrible pig. We’ll hopefully address the fact that we do not having a suitable replacement for him in the January window because he is a radge-packet who looks like kicking-off at someone if they glance at his pint in a peculiar manner. I’ve read comments that he needs to completely change his game but for me that is utter bollocks. Some players need to play with an element of edge and it makes them the player that they are. I’m certainly not comparing him to this lot but the likes of Gazza, Tino and Cantona to name some would have been nowhere near as good if the lunacy aspect of their game was completely eroded. His return will kick-start our season and we will go on to shine like the sun as it beams down on to his bonce on a glorious summer’s day. Keep The Faith In Rafa We Trust. tf 81



SEASON Players: Bradley, Chandler, Hudspeth, MacKenzie, Park, Curry, Urwin, Clark Jnr, Cowan, McDonald, Mitchell, Taylor, Spencer, Harris NL, Wilson, Low, Maitland, Loughlin, Gibson, Mooney, Seymour, Hampson,Dowsey,Mordue, (Hughie) Gallacher, Harris J, Crown Division: First Division. United dropped back in the pack this year, after finishing 6th last time out with 48 points, this time out we finished 10th with 42 points from 42 games played. Huddersfield Town won the league for the third time on the bounce, clock-

ing up 57 points, coming in five points ahead of second-placed Arsenal, and nine points ahead of thirdplaced Sunderland.

Manager: It will change one day, I promise you. But for now, the Directors Committee continued their age old tradition of managing the side. Trainer/Coach: Club stalwart James McPherson continued in his role of training & coaching the lads at the club. Highest Attendance: For once, the derby wasn’t the highest attended game at SJP. That honour went to Champions and current rulers of English football, Huddersfield Town. 54,496

flocked in NE1 to see a 0-2 defeat to the dominant side of the country at this time. 51,604 saw a goalless derby draw at Gallowgate in October. LowestAttendance: 7,582 fans were in attendance as we travelled to play a Bury side who would actually finish 4th in the league at the end of the season. A goalless draw was played out in early November. Average Attendance: A nice big jump of around 3,000 on last year’s average gate, clocking in at 29,862. If you chuck in a home game in Round 3 of the F.A. Cup to Aberdare Athletic (a 4-1 win) bumped the average up to 30,252. Highest Win: A massive seven-goal victory over Arsenal was as good as it got for us this season. 3rd October, Arsenal visited Gallowgate, and with the new rule involving off-sides proving difficult for some teams to adapt to, United took full advantage against

Charlie Spencer, Centre-back

Arsenal, with Clark getting a hat-trick and Seymour bagging a brace in a 7-0 win. Worst Defeat: Sadly for United, we were also one of those sides that struggled with the new offside law, and it showed particularly early in the season. Blackburn came to NE1 in early September for our third match of the season and we crumbled to a 7-1 defeat. Also a notably bad performance came on Boxing Day when we travelled to Merseyside and fell to a 6-3 reverse.. Something of Interest: On the field, it was quite a mediocre season for United (next season would be a different matter..) finishing 10th in the league and going out in the fifth round of the F.A. Cup to Clapton Orient. Off the field however, the Black and Whites broke our transfer record by bringing in a 22-year old Scot for

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£6,500. He went by the name of Hughie Gallacher. After joining in December, Gallacher scored 25 goals in just 22 games for United, and 42 for the season as a whole. He was just getting started.. Mentioned in Dispatches: United played a friendly at St. James’ Park on 30 August 1925. The team they played was the mighty Real Madrid. And the score was a sensational 6-1 win for the Magpies. Hughie Gallacher scored two on his debut against Everton following his record move. He also had a big say in the relegation picture this season. Manchester City only needed a point to stay up as they visited the north east on the final day of the season. A Gallacher hat-trick (and a missed Manchester City penalty) led to a 3-2 home win, and sending Manchester City down to the second tier. National Interest: In May, the General Strike took place in the UK. It was an attempt by the TUC to get the government to act to prevent wage reduction and worsening conditions for 1.2 million locked out coal miners. The BBC has to broadcast news bulletins five times a day as no newspapers are published due to the strike. The strike lasts ten days.. The first greyhound track is opened in July of this year, in Manchester. The first British Grand Prix is held at Brooklands in August. The Queen, Elizabeth II, was born in April 1926. Broadcaster

...the Black and Whites broke our transfer record by bringing in a 22-year old Scot for £6,500. He went by the name of Hughie Gallacher. After joining in December, Gallacher scored 25 goals in just 22 games for United, and 42 for the season as a whole. He was just getting started...

David Attenborough was also born this year. Regional Interest: During the ten day General Strike, those supporting the action are alleged to have de-railed the iconic steam engine the Flying Scotsman in Northumberland. In response, thousands of Special Policemen were sent to Newcastle and a ful-

ly-armed military gun-boat put on theTyne at the instruction of the Conservative Government and more specifically the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Winston Churchill. In what might be described as AM-DRAM meets social realism, the Gateshead Progressive Players’ stage The Pitman’s Pay by Ruth Dodds which is based on 1830s Tyneside,

where the leader of a fledging miner’s union finds his efforts being sabotaged by an agent sent by the Government. Timeous. Recommended reading on the subject The 1926 Miners’ Lockout: Meanings of Community in the Durham Coalfield Hester Barron. Chris Laws. Follow @tflawsy1892 tf 83

I’ve been to a few fights over the years, in particular when a local lad was close to making the big time. It’s a terrible night out. Predictably a cock-fest, punctuated by the odd head-turner of a lass.

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Turn your head at your peril though, as you risk a roll around with a psychotic guard dog in an off the hanger pin striped suit - Gal Capone. The boxing crowd will inevitably provide you with some comedy moments – notably over weight piss heads giving instructions to professional fighters like – “knock ‘im aaaaaht!” or more sage advice like – “hit ‘im!” And keep your eyes peeled for edgy bastards walking around like they’re Scarface because they serve up a couple of grams to their mates at the weekend. Most impressively though, I love the way they leave the boxing and start fighting one another like 9 year olds running out the cinema with make believe lightsabers. Boxing is the ultimate individual sport, inevitably some fighters stand out and appeal to different people for different reasons. For me; Mike Tyson, Nigel Benn

and Floyd Mayweather Jnr. I find Tyson’s shyness and vulnerability endearing, loved the way he would pigeon toe his 5ft11 frame over the ring away from some heavyweight monster he’d left sprawled across the canvas. Benn was arguably the best fighter Britain has ever produced, he embraced the gladiatorial nature of the sport and gave the people want they wanted to see – a tear up. Notably when he bravely made the running in his epic battles with Chris Eubank. As for Mayweather, he’s arguably the most underrated sportsman of all time, 49 fights, 49 wins. When we’re talking about individuals though – Muhammad Ali stands alone. This event at the O2 was basically his Louisville museum on tour around the world. You could spend all day in there. It’s a perfectly balanced exhibition with all the photos, video clips, memorabilia and quotes you could wish for. All the

important parts of Ali’s life are included the boxing – the Fight of the Century, the Rumble in the Jungle and the Thrilla in Manilla. The feuds – Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and the US Government. The politics – resisting the draft to Vietnam, boxing commissions revoking his titles and license to fight. And the religion – introduction into the Nation of Islam and the reaction of America that followed. I hadn’t realised Ali came from a middle class family in Louisville, Kentucky. Well, relatively speaking middle class, he wasn’t a gap year sap, but his father had a decently paid job as a sign painter and was a well respected member of the community for the murals he prepared for local parishes. Ali’s great friend of over 25 years and biographer Davis Miller – says that Ali got his mouth

When we’re talking about individuals though – Muhammad Ali stands alone. tf 85

from his father, while his gentleness and ability to nurture others came from his mother, who was of Irish ancestry. Like the southern states pre 1960s, Kentucky was strictly segregated by skin colour. The neighbourhood Ali grew up was exclusively black, as was his school, infact Ali could go for days on end without seeing anyone with white skin. The narrative of Ali’s boxing career is provided by the great Scottish sports journalist – Hugh Mcllvanney – formerly ofThe Observer and The Sunday Times, who expertly walks you through Ali’s fights and feuds in his delightful Sean Connery like tone. Starting

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with the fight against Henry Cooper at Wembley Stadium in 1963. Ali’s first in London, his trainer and cornerman – Angelo Dundee, predicted that the socially conservative British public wouldn’t take to his man initially. He was proved correct, when Ali entered the ring in a purple and gold crown to be greeted with jeers from the crowd who were not impressed with Ali poking fun at British tradition. At the weigh-in he had boasted – “I hear over in Britain you got a Queen, but you need a King. I am the King.” He had also said that Cooper was a bum who would be knocked out in Round 5. Ali did beat him in 5 but not before a scare when

Cooper famously knocked Ali to the canvas. The King proved a lot more popular when he returned to Britain in 1966 as Heavyweight Champion. Ali liked 1960s Britain and on the face of it, our comparatively more progressive approach to cultural integration than the southern states of America. He liked the British people, particularly the women. The birth of Ali the superstar came against Sonny Liston in February 1964, the fight that made Ali the youngest Heavyweight Champion of the World at 22 and in doing so making a mockery of overwhelming public opinion that predicted Ali would pay for his pre fight boastfulness. Indeed at the

weigh-in, the examining doctor pronounced Ali was “emotionally unbalanced and scared to death” of Liston; the ex-convict and then Heavyweight Champion who had obliterated Floyd Patterson in one round. However, Ali’s medical readings were normal and Liston never returned for Round 7. Interestingly, Mcllvanney speculates that Liston is probably the saddest person he had ever met, visibly tired from all the abuse he had suffered during a life of exploitation and links to The Mob. Liston died in suspicious circumstances, possibly murdered in Las Vegas, 1970. Famously, Ali’s biggest rival came in the form of Joe Frazier, whom he met on 3 separate occasions. Firstly at Madison Square Garden in March 1971 for - The Fight of the Century. On

one side Ali, visibly irritated that Frazier was holding the Heavyweight belt that he’d been stripped off for refusing the draft into the US Army. Perhaps this was why Ali repeatedly threw the Uncle Tom term at Frazier, some have suggested Ali saw Frazier as the personification of the unpoliticised African American. In the other corner, Frazier took pot shots at Ali’s middle class upbringing – “he aint stood behind no plough.” Most boxing commentators seem in agreement that by 1971, Ali’s leg speed was reduced due to his time out of the sport. Frazier took advantage and knocked him out in the 15th Round with a devastating left hook. Ali was to get his revenge in the second bout with Frazier at The Garden in January 1974, when a unanimous points decision went in Ali’s favour

and teed him up for a pop at the then World Champ – George Foreman. The third bout between Ali and Frazier in 1975 is the most well known – The Thrilla in Manilla. Remembered for the unforgettable violence and courage of the two fighters. Frazier’s headman refusing to allow “Smokin Joe” to continue, while Ali conceded – “going through that fight was the next thing to dying.” Ali would later cry when he was to find out that Frazier’s kids would regularly return home from school in floods of tears due to the comments that were made about their dad. Once in retirement, pictures emerged of Ali and Frazier embracing and sitting at ringside together, the feeling of warmth plain to see.

The third bout between Ali and Frazier in 1975 is the most well known – The Thrilla in Manilla. Remembered for the unforgettable violence and courage of the two fighters

The highlight of Ali’s boxing career, is arguably the “Rumble in the Jungle,” tf 87

with George Foreman in Zaire, 1974. It was to be the second time that Ali became Heavyweight Champion and at the age of 32. Foreman, 7 years Ali’s junior, was the favourite and expected to retain his belt, his devastating punching power expected to be too much for the ageing contender. However, Ali had a plan for the man he called the bully and told Dundee there was only one way to fight such a man. Hit him early and tire him out – “He’s a mummy! He can’t move. He aint got no stamina!” The Rumble in the Jungle is remembered for Ali’s “Rope-a-Dope” strategy. Ali leaned against the ropes covering up for 6 Rounds, taking Foreman’s devastating blows to his body and arms, while keeping his head out of range and crucially, sapping Foreman’s energy. By the end of Round 6, Ali was

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screaming in the ear of the Heavyweight Champion – “that all you got George!” Round 7 and 8 belonged to Ali. Towards the end of Round 8,Ali caught Foreman with a series of punches, as a visibly exhausted Foreman was spinning around before hitting the canvass Ali could have caught him again and put him to sleep. Asked why he didn’t – “He’d had enough.” The Heavyweight Champion of the World, he’d had enough. I’m not sure if that says more about Ali’s ability or humanity. Foreman comes across well when discussing the fight and Ali in general. “People ask me if Muhammad Ali was the greatest boxer of all time and I feel insulted. He was one of the greatest people of all time, boxing was just something he did.” Ali retained the belt until 1978 when he was beaten on points by the

up and coming Leon Spinks, before becoming the three time champion when he beat Spinks in the rematch. Unfortunately, Ali infamously fought two more times, taking some devastating blows in defeats to Larry Holmes in 1980 and Trevor Berbick the following year. Sadly, it is quite clear looking at the pre fight footage for the bout with Berbick that Ali had already entered the early stages of Parkinson’s. It was however, undiagnosed at the time. His boxing career is like no other, three time Heavy weight Champion and of course, he didn’t even fight for 4 years in his prime. As we know, it was Ali the man that makes him so revered around the globe. The self

sacrifice and standing up for a cause seems alien in comparison to sportsmen today. Most of whom can’t string a sentence together and if they can, inevitable bore you to death like Britain’s Waitrose class Olympians. When Ali resisted the draft to Vietnam he shook America, outraging white America, electrifying black America and gaining millions of admirers worldwide. “Man, I aint got no quarrel with the Vietcong. No Vietcong ever called me nigger.” When he was called to the US Army recruiting station on April 27th 1967, Ali stood in line with other recruits who individually declared their acceptance and honour to serve the US military. Ali waited his turn and declared “No” and then again “No.” The various boxing commissions almost immediately stripped

him of his Heavyweight Champion belt, his boxing license was revoked and he was sentenced to 5 years in prison. He didn’t actually serve any jail time, he was kept out on various appeals, but crucially he wouldn’t step in the ring for 4 years between the ages of 25 and 29. Millions of American’s despised Ali for his stance, they saw him as a traitor and a coward. Some have argued the US Authorities specifically targeted Ali because of his boasts – “I am the greatest.” It’s important to remember the Voting Rights Act granting all black people the vote had only been passed 2 years prior to Ali refusing the draft. There’s a very believable argument that the authorities sought out Ali because they wanted the outspoken, over confident black boy back in line and subservient. “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home

and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?” The American political sportswriter Dave Zirin argues “Ali was important to black civil rights activists for the same reason Bob Dylan was so important to white activists – because Ali seemed to be ahead of the curve.” He was so confident and his foresight so great he gave the impression of someone who had seen and done it before. What is important to stress with regards to Ali – it wasn’t just about the black. Black was

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?” tf 89

often the tool, but it wasn’t the goal. “I just wanted to be free. I made a stand for all people, not just black people, because it wasn’t just black people being drafted. The government had a system where the rich man’s son went to college and the poor man’s son went to war.” Ali’s political beliefs are undeniably intertwined with his spirituality. In the wake of his victory against Sonny Liston in 1964, Ali informed the public that he had joined the Nation of Islam and was to be known as Cassius X. The X marking the unknown and a clear rejection of the slavemasters name given to Ali’s African ancestors. The leader of the Nation, Elijah Muhammad would soon name him Muhammad Ali. Much like today, these“Black Muslims” as they became known in the mainstream were treated with suspicion by white America and viewed as dangerous. As is so often the case, religion

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itself is often blamed and scapegoated for problems caused by events closer to home. The Troubles in Ireland were not caused by the intricate differences of Catholicism and Protestantism. It was caused by British Imperialism but blamed on religion. Islamic Fundamentalism isn’t representative of Muslims at large, it’s an irrational and unjustifiable response to western political, economic and cultural dominance. Comingfromtheperspective of someone with no faith, Ali’s spirituality appears remarkably similar to the Christians I know. “The only religion that matters, is the real religion of love.” Ali’s appeal transcends race, gender, religion, skin colour and nationality primarily because people are just people. When people hear militant black Muslims, they like them. When we rely on the mainstream media to tell us about people we don’t come into contact with, we allow them to dilute our ability to make up our own minds.

The response to Ali’s death in the mainstream media highlights their hypocrisy. The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Telegraph. What didn’t you get? Nationalists, traditionalists, monarchists, conservatives, imperialists, militarists – Muhammad Ali isn’t your hero. He pointed and laughed at you. Your lack of imagination, your feeble minds, lack of courage, subservient nature and ultimately your soullessness. “I’ll tell you how I’d like to be remembered: as a black man who won the Heavyweight title, who was humorous and treated everyone right, as a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him, a man who stood for freedom, justice and equality, and I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.” Of course people are free to remember Ali as they wish, but one thing can’t be denied; Muhammad Ali was right – he shook up the world.

“I just wanted to be free. I made a stand for all people, not just black people, because it wasn’t just black people being drafted. The government had a system where the rich man’s son went to college and the poor man’s son went to war.”

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#ForçaChape JOHN MILTON There’s lots of stories around Brazilian football right now – Palmeiras have won their first championship since 1994, the captain of the 1970 WC winning team, Carlos Alberto, has passed away, and huge club, Internacional of Porto Alegre, are about to be relegated for the first time in their history. Sadly, however, there is only one story that I can write about. tf 92

Ironically, thanks to time zones it was a WhatsApp message from my mate Fog, back in Newcastle, where I got the news. Bleary eyed, I read his message and ran to the TV and there it was, rolling coverage of the crash site: journalists frantically trying to confirm numbers of dead and injured and names of possible survivors. Absolutely horrific. Of course, on hearing of the accident I imagine your mind, like mine, was cast back immediately to Manchester Utd and the Munich Air Disaster but, without wanting to diminish the significance of that accident, this was a much more far-reaching trajedy. Whereas Man Utd lost 8 undoubtedly talented young players and the core of an excellent team, Chapecoense lost pretty much their entire 1st team squad. Of the 77 souls onboard

flight LaMia2933 only 6 survived. 19 1st team players were lost, including Bruno Rangel, the club’s record goalscorer. Just 3 players survived: Alan Ruschel, Hélio Neto and Jakson Follmann. All 13 of the first team coaching and fitness staff died. The manager, Caio Junior and all 9 of the club directors onboard died. 21 journalists were travelling with the squad, many of them with close ties to the club, only 1 survived. Delfim de Pádua Peixoto Filho, Vice President of the CBF was one of the VIPs who died. And we mustn’t forget the 7 flight crew who didn’t make it back to their families, too.

such a huge chunk of not just their team, but their entire club. As Brazilians dwell back on what has happened there is a huge, overriding sense of loss on a sporting level, as well as on the personal stories. A ‘what might have been’ feeling. An entire project, 5 years in the making has been brutally destroyed in the most violent way imaginable. An entire generation of a club gone in the blink of an eye. In that sense the Chapecoense fans have suffered massive losses on two levels. It is utterly heartbreaking to think of.

Of the 77 souls onboard flight LaMia2933 only 6 survived

Right up until the accident Chapecoense was a club on the move. They were on a mightily impressive upward trajectory and it would be churlish to attempt to speculate just where they could have gone in the next few years if they hadn’t lost tf 93

So how did small, provincial club, Chapecoense come to find themselves on a flight to Columbia to take part in the final of South America’s second club competition, the Copa Sudamericana? Well, through hard work, good organisation and a clear sporting strategy that aimed to be the best they could be within their own means. In short, it was a well run sporting institution. Chapecoense was only founded back in 1973 in the southern state of Santa Caterina. There was a whole region of football fanatics to tap into, but with only a few amateur teams having been

established around the state this wasn’t representative of the passion for the game in the region. With the sole, totally honourable, objective of bringing football back to the city of Chapecó, representatives of Independente and Clube Atlético de Chapecó decided to merge: Associação Chapecoense de Futebol was born. Having spent 40-odd years scrubbing around at the bottom of the footballing foodchain, with success only coming through State competitions (and there isn’t much competition in Santa Caterina), things suddenly

clicked in 2009 when they won promotion out of a massively complicated Série D (4th tier). They remained in Série C for 2 seasons before promotion to Série B in 2012. The following season they finished runners up to Palmeiras and were suddenly in the top flight. From the 4th division to the top tier within 5 years – and all done without overspending, without a super-rich benefactor (like RB Leipzig, for example) and without putting the future of the club at risk. The club managed this meteoric rise by signing good, solid players on sensible contracts and without great fanfare or fuss. They just got on with the job of running a sporting club in the way sporting clubs are meant to be run. When Chapecoense initially reached the top flight they were seen as a bit of a joke, a bit out of their depth

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and were patronised quite a bit. But when the season started Chape got on with their job and managed some noticeable victories over the likes of Santos, Grêmio, Cruzeiro and Fluminense. Suddenly they weren’t such a joke after all. It’s fair to say they didn’t light the league up, but neither were they relegated as most of us had assumed they would be. In fact, they ended the season in a very respectable 14th position. Not only that, but their performance in the Copa do Brazil (Brazilian FA Cup) was enough to get them into the Copa Sudamericana. Established in in the top flight, a solid team, great team spirit, a passionate fanbase in their one club city, qualification for a continental club competition, finances stronger than ever. They were competing. An



with an impressive recent history punching above its weight, theirs is one of those romantic sporting stories that was bound to draw comparisons. The coach, Caio Junior, said in September that his team reminded him of Leicester City’s story. Personally, Chapecoense remind me more of Bournemouth. A club from the backwaters of the footballing world doing fantastically well within modest means. Not only that, but they are also completely inoffensive. A really nice little club. Nobody I have spoken to, before or after the crash, has ever had so much as a bad word to say about them. Also, they haven’t won the league yet, so the Leicester comparison does fall somewhat short… Sitting a heady 9th in Série A and with a successful Copa Sudamericana campaign behind them they were gearing up for the biggest couple of weeks in their club’s history – the final of the Copa Sudamericana

and looking at the club’s best ever league finish. To get to the final they had to first beat fellow Brazilian side Cuiabá – a team from Mato Grosso that I have never heard of, who had qualified by winning the Taça Verde, a tournament I have never heard of! Chapecoense came out 3-2 winners on aggregate. Straight into the Round of 16 and more distinguished opponents: Independiente of Argentina. After two 0-0 draws Chape managed to get through on penalties. The Quaterfinals saw Chapecoense move past Junior of Columbia with a 3-1 aggregate win. Next up and it was the Pope’s team, which included a certain Señor Coloccini formerly of NE1 in its ranks, San Lorenzo. In two well fought, even ties it was Verdão (The Big Green) who emerged victorious, but only on away goals. 1-1 in Argentina and 0-0 in Brazil was enough. Chapecoense were on the cusp of history.

The squad, coaching staff, directors, President, journalists and guests and dignitaries were on the second leg of their journey from São Paulo to Medellín, having changed planes at Santa Cruz de la Sierra. They were agonisingly close to their destination when tragedy struck. On their initial approach the control tower requested they hold before descending. The pilot obliged. According to initial reports it looks as though this was a fatal decision as it appears that he had left Santa Cruz with insufficient fuel. Having completed a holding pattern it looks like the plane ran out of fuel and the plane ended up coming down in the mountains 8

miles short of the airport. We will have to wait for the investigation to be concluded to know what exactly happened, but it is very clear that many errors were made. Hopefully the investigation will shed light on where blame lies, though at the moment that is the least of the concern here in Brazil. The nation, and the wider footballing world in general, seem intent on honouring the dead before looking for people to point fingers at. In the immediate aftermath of the accident social media was awash with the #ForçaChape hashtag as people around the world expressed their shock and

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support for the club. As more details and stories emerged, the more obvious it became as to how devastating the accident had been. As the numbers of lost rose, tributes and offers of support increased. First it was Brazilian clubs who offered the free loan of players, this was quickly followed by overseas clubs and even players themselves offering their services. Paraguayan outfit, Club Libertad, offered their entire playing staff to the Brazilian team whike Barcelona have offered a fund-raising friendly at the Camp Nou. Ronaldinho, Juan Roman Riquelme and

Eidur Gudjohnsen have all offered their services free of charge. In a further show of support, the Brazilian top flight clubs have written to the CBF requesting that Chapecoense be immune from relegation for 3 years in order for them to have time to rebuild the hole that was torn out of the heart of the club. I’m waiting to hear the CBF’s decision, I’d imagine that it will come in close season. A decision that the CBF have made, however, has proven to be an unpopular one. The final round of the Brasileirão was postponed for a week as a mark of respect, however, they refused the request

that Chape’s final match against Atlético Mineiro, be cancelled. With both clubs safe from relegation and unable to threaten the top spots (Atlético sit in 4th while Chape are in 9th going into the final round) it was thought abandoning the match would have little effect on the Championship – the CBF don’t agree. Chapecoense have declared that they do not have 11 players to field and so the CBF called a ‘walkover’, the penalty being a 3-0 loss being called against them. In a wonderful show of solidarity Atlético have refused to send a squad to Chapecó to compete. The CBF have therefore called a ‘double walkover’ meaning both teams will be awarded a 3-0 loss. Fair play to Atlético. Perhaps the biggest tribute to be paid to Chapecoense came from the opponents who were due to face them in the final: Atlético Nacional. I had no idea how CONMEBOL were going to

tf 96

resolve the issue of the final – would they declare no winner? Would they offer Chapecoense’s spot in the final to San Lorenzo? Would they declare Internacional champions? In the end they didn’t need to face such a difficult decision. Internacional, in a display of fantastic sportsmanship, requested Chapecoense be named 2016 Copa Sudamericana Champions. With huge support for such a move resonating around the continent CONMEBOL couldn’t refuse. It is fitting also that the continent’s confederation will award Internacional a special ‘Centennial Fair Play Award’ for promoting the spirit of peace, fair play and understanding. Instead of flocking to Internacional’s stadium to watch the first leg of the final, Inter’s fans filled the stadium to pay tribute to the victims of the crash. While their club had asked Chapecoense to be named 2016 champions, the fans

christened them‘The Eternal Champions’. Meanwhile, Chapecoense opened the gates to their own stadium to allow their fans to hold a vigil which was attended by what remained of the squad and the friends and family of those who had perished. Brazil’s unpopular President, Temer, made an appearance and declared 3 days of national mourning. Asthedayspassedharrowing and heartbreaking stories emerged. From the poor wives who had to break the

news to their children that their fathers would not be coming home, to Danilo, the goalkeeper who had initially survived the crash but died later in hospital – I cannot imagine how devastated his family must have been to have received telephone calls with both pieces of news. Midfielder, Thiaguinho, had found out he was to be a father for the first time just a week before the crash. Then there was the manager’s son who missed the flight because he had forgotten

his passport while his father died in the accident. Lives have been devastated, torn apart and maybe even destroyed. A club has been left without so much as the embers needed to attempt a phoenix-like rebirth. There aren’t words, or at least I can’t find the words, to fully express the tragedy that occurred in the hills

above Medellín. The only comfort to be gained from this awful tragedy is in the reaction of the footballing community. There have been too many touching gestures and displays to mention, but each one of them has brought a semblance of comfort to those in Chapecó. #ForçaChape

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Twitter is a weird and wonderful place. You can connect directly with public figures and with your heroes (I once got a ‘cheers mate’ and a knuckle bump off Tino!) and you can find like-minded souls who you would never have interacted with in any other space. You also find a whole lot of lunatics – Flat Earthers, Chem Trailers and NWO conspiracy theorists thrive on the platform. And sometimes, just sometimes, you come across the odd account which blends the wonderful with the insane. A while ago I came across just such an account: @nufcbrasil. That’s right, born and bred Brazilians who (inexplicably) are NUFC fanatics. I followed the account for a while to see how active they were and it turned out they were in fact very active. It became obvious that the lads running the account were proper, bona fide, fanatics of our club. I had to find out more so I dropped them a DM asking if they’d put something together for true faith and I was over the moon when they jumped at the chance. Andrew Sousa and Raphael Felice answered, so here, in their own words, are the reasons why a bunch of (obviously clinically insane) Brazilians love the Magpies:

NUFC BRASIL ANDREW SOUSA & RAPHAEL FELICE (translated by john milton) We love places, things and moments. And in football specifically, we love a club.

ANDREW SOUSA Teams: Corinthians & Newcastle Utd From: Santa Catarina, Brazil Of all the most inexplicable things in life, love may be the greatest of them all. There is no explanation for those first intense glances exchanged at school, in the bar or at a party. There is no explanation for that enormous need to be with that person you like. It simply exists and you accept it. And the love becomes far more than an interpersonal relationship. tf 98

I already had my own great love. I have been a ‘Corinthiano’ since the day I was born and I have always followed my club. Although I live in a different State (Ed: Corinthians are based in São Paulo – the author lives in Santa Catarina) I have never missed a game and always try to get to an away game when they play close to my home. My heart, inexplicably, has always been ‘alvinegro’ (Ed: ‘black and white’). However, in 2011 I exchanged glances with

my new love. Without any explanation whatsoever I sat in front of my TV one Sunday afternoon and started watching the Barclays Premier League. The match had just kicked off and Newcastle were playing at home. I don’t remember who the opponent was, but I don’t need to. That game was enough. It was my first glance. The players, the strip, the atmosphere in St James’ Park – all of these put a spell on me. It was love at first sight. From then on I started watching old games, I researched the club legends and its achievements and I grew

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to like the club more and more. I followed that whole season and, to my luck, we had an excellent campaign under the command of Pardew. After this, however, we didn’t repeat the good work. Bad campaigns, flirting with relegation and, last season, we went down. But this just made me love the club even more. I was chosen by Newcastle and my love grew day by day. The love we have for a club is as inexplicable as Jonas Gutierrez’s journey. Who can explain how someone can beat cancer and then save his team from relegation in such a short space of time? Who can explain all of the goals from impossible angles scored by Papiss Cisse? Who can explain the absurd dribbles by Ben Arfa? Who can explain Newcastle Utd? There is no explanation. Love happens, and it happened to me during that game in 2011.

Many Brazilians believe that we became Toon fans because of the film, ‘Goal!’, and this greatly annoys me, after all, I haven’t seen it and I already hate it, just like many of the fans who have liked our ‘NUFC BR’ Facebook page. Newcastle Utd doesn’t need a film to captivate. It doesn’t need a script or acting or make believe. The reality of the club, even without trophies for so many years, is the passion. It’s enough to watch 90 minutes and to love it day after day. These days it’s difficult to follow the club in the Championship, but we find time. We listen on the radio, follow on Twitter or watch on Periscope if a fan is broadcasting. Whichever way we can, we follow the game. Love is like this. We make every effort to be together with the club, and since 2011 I’ve been walking together with Newcastle every day – with much pleasure.

To be Newcastle is unique, I can’t explain it. Whether in Brazil, or England or in any other place in the World: this club is different. Those who feel it, know.

RAPHAEL FELICE Teams: Flamengo & Newcastle Utd From: Brasília, Brazil We love Brazilian football and we love Brazilians. But there is a certain European club that has grabbed our attention. Barcelona? Bayern Munich? Real Madrid? AC Milan? No. It’s a bigger team than all of these, well, at least it is for me – and for you, too! I’m Newcastle! It wasn’t a choice – it was a calling. Since the first Newcastle game that I saw I felt there was something different: there was something special about the club that most other clubs didn’t have. In 2010, at 15 years of age, on their return to the

The love we have for a club is as inexplicable as Jonas Gutierrez’s journey. Who can explain how someone can beat cancer and then save his team from relegation in such a short space of time? Who can explain all of the goals from impossible angles scored by Papiss Cisse?

tf 99

Premier League I was called up to support The Toon. In the beginning, I wanted to resist. To support another team, even in a different country, was something I had judged to be stupid. Today I am happily stupid, and proud! As the song sung by the most beautiful fans in England: ‘Se você ama o Toon fique de pé!’ (If you love The Toon stand up!), this happened to me various times until I cemented my love. After seeing the film, ‘Goal!’, at the beginning of 2011 the images of the city and the passion and the connection of the fans to the team fascinated me massively. On the 20th August 2011 I watched my first ever TyneWear derby. When the referee scandalously failed to give a penalty after a Sunderland player stopped a Joey Barton goal with his hand I became crazy and was enraged to such a tf 100

point that I scared myself – “It feels like I’m watching Flamengo!” (my Brazilian team), and when Ryan Taylor scored his free kick I was certain that Newcastle would be my love for the rest of my life. As I mentioned, Newcastle chose me – just like it chose everybody who supports this team. The Geordies, and those of us who feel like one even without having seen the city, the fans of this club are different. The way we support the team is reflected in our characters – we fight to the very end for what we want. The easy way is too boring for us. Even when the situation gets difficult we nurture our convictions and we still find joy – despite what the non-believers say! We are optimists and we never abandon the team that we love. This is the profile of the Magpies.

It’s beautiful to see a support that not only fills a stadium, with 20% of the city filling St James’ Park every game, but also supports their team from wherever they are in the world. The way they celebrate when they win and love the team more when they lose, how they idolise their heroes who have honoured the terraces and their city. Finally, for someone who didn’t want to support a European team, I now have 9 Newcastle shirts! I want to have more but shops in Brazil rarely sell Toon shirts and when they do they are really expensive. But when I go to Newcastle, I’m definitely going to buy more shirts, get to know the city and support Newcastle together with you! Howay the lads! I hope to see you soon!

...and when Ryan Taylor scored his free kick I was certain that Newcastle would be my love for the rest of my life.

One more thing! Last season Newcastle Utd upset

it’s fans in various aspects. So much so that even after the arrival of Rafa Benitez the team succumbed to relegation one more time. In the sorry campaign of last season some players left a lot to be desired, not only technically but with their desire, or lack of it, on the pitch. Wijnaldum showed in a team without competition for starting places clear distain for the club’s situation. Janmaat was awful in practically every game and, principally, Moussa Sissoko demonstrated absolutely nothing and during the season posed for photographs with an Arsenal shirt and demonstrated his will to leave Tyneside. Despite the sad end to the season, Rafa staying and, principally his love for Newcastle, stopped the passionate support from becoming apathetic for the following season. But throughout the whole

of the 2015/16 season one player demonstrated a different attitude to the slackers in the team, and he has maintained all of this passion on the field of play. Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Serb is a fan on the pitch. He fights, puts himself about, does sliding tackles and when he scores a goal he celebrates like one of the Toon Army. If you look at the highlights of the Sunderland game and only watched Mitro celebrating his goal with the fan who invaded the pitch to hug him you’d probably assume that they were both just fans. And that is exactly what Mitrovic is, a fan. It was revealed in 2013 how when he was still playing for Partizan Belgrade his dream was to play for Newcastle which is why he rejected a move to Benfica. He was under pressure from his father to play for the Portuguese club, after all, his son would play in the Champions League and

star in one of the biggest shop windows in World Football. A player who is an Alan Shearer fan, who held himself back from confronting the referee who gave a non-existent foul in the derby and straight after scored the equaliser, and who begged his manager to put him back in the game after being knocked out by an opponent’s elbow even though he knew returning to the pitch could have caused him harm. Mitro puts his body on the line for his team. We’re all Alan Shearer fans! We all almost want to kill the referee when he is biased against our team! We’re all passionate! We all dream of playing for Newcastle! We would all give everything for our team! Yes – I’m talking about me, about you, about John Alder, about Liam Sweeney, and about Aleksandar Mitrovic, too – he is one of us after all: A FAN!

The Serb is a fan on the pitch. He fights, puts himself about, does sliding tackles and when he scores a goal he celebrates like one of the Toon Army. tf 101

JOSEPH THOMAS I CAN TELL Well it’s a new year and despite the odd hiccup along the way there are no arguments from me about our performance to date. In an automatic promotion position and our performance in the League Cup demonstrates an about turn in our attitude to the cups. Fingers crossed for the rest of the season. I DON’T MIND Of course our progress would not be possible without the top class work our our manager .The Rafalution indeed! He appears to have been given almost total control at the club both on and off the pitch and the turnaround has been there for all to see. This time last year what we were supporting could not even be classed as a football club in my own tf 102

opinion. Rafa has changed all that and fair play to him! DON’T YOU JUST KNOW IT I have been impressed by the clubs approach to ticket pricing for cup games this season which has helped swell attendances for the League Cup games, 47k for Preston was mightily impressive. They are charging adults £10, kids£3 for the Birmingham cup replay which is to be applauded. I hope they are rewarded with a good attendance. I’M A MAN I see former Mag Aaron Hughes has just signed for Hearts. A consistent player criminally sold by Sourness for next to nowt and a utility player never replaced. Would probably still have been capable for us now as an elder statesman club

stalwart type player who would teach newcomers what the club is all about... if you know what I mean! KEEP IT OUT OF SIGHT I received the Martin Hardy book Touching Distance for Christmas where he examines the 96 season where we finished runners up under Keegan. Speaking at length to players of the time the book is a compelling read and brings back some great memories....and unfortunately some low points. I will never forget the mini bus journey back from Blackburn in total silence.... we all sensed it was over. Overall? Great memories. What a team!

A consistent player criminally sold by Sourness for next to nowt and a utility player never replaced.

GOING BACK HOME I went on a ground tour of SJP with the family before Christmas as part of a Sunday dinner package. It was great to see bits of

the ground you wouldn’t normally see. I was sitting in the dugout trying to imagine what it would be like with a full ground. Quite emotional to be honest especially taking into account the changes I’d witnessed both on and off the field over many years. United’s in the blood! ALL THROUGH THE CITY There has been some outstanding performers on the field of play .Dwight Gayle’s goals return has been unbelievable ,Matt Ritchie has caught the eye, and Shelvey has proved to be a class above. Having said that for me perhaps the surprise of the season have been the performances of Ciaran Clark who has shown a high level of consistency week in week out. A few eyebrows were raised when he signed but he has been top class to date. BACK IN THE NIGHT Despite our season to date I have become frustrated at times by the response from some elements of our fan base to the odd setback. There have been plenty of times where I’ve been taken aback by the attitude of some to the odd defeat on social media, which at times goes into meltdown, and indeed in the ground at times the audible groans in response to misplaced passes and booing when things aren’t going to plan. Whilst I accept everyone is entitled to an opinion we have made massive progress under Rafa under

It’s not just us, look at the recent example of Cardiff v Fulham in the cup, moved to 11:30 am Sunday morning - it’s mental! a short time after years of mismanagement. THEY DO IT RIGHT A word of praise to Gallowgate Flags for their attempts to improve the match-day atmosphere. The Legends Day flags were particularly impressive and the Pav flag on the anniversary of his death was a touching gesture. A fans’ initiative which appears to have gained consistent support throughout our fan base. STUPIDITY I couldn’t resist commenting upon the sacking of Pardew at Crystal Palace. The worst performing team in all four divisions yet he seemed immune to criticism. It almost got to the point where they were in the relegation zone before he was removed. I personally don’t see him returning to the Premier League anytime soon...he’s been sussed! TWENTY YARDS BEHIND I was disappointed to see the Brentford away game

moved at such short notice... it was inevitable that our cup game would go to a replay. Unfortunately it appears that when it comes to fixtures supporters are a bit of an inconvenience to the powers that be.. It happens too often. It’s not just us, look at the recent example of Cardiff v Fulham in the cup, moved to 11:30 am Sunday morning - it’s mental! TALKIN ABOUT YOU The whole safe standing debate seems to have moved on in recent times, particularly following the installation of safe standing at Celtic which seems to have been a success. The SOS group at Liverpool have been debating the matter and are surveying their fans. If they ‘vote in favour’ I can’t help feeling that momentum will really grow! I’m firmly in support of the concept.

ROUTE 66 At the time, of writing we are in the silly season i.e. the transfer window .There’s plenty of speculation out there, with the media randomly throwing names into the hat...the return of Ben Arfa being a recent example. You do wonder if there is any truth behind most of them or whether from a media perspective it’s aimed at selling papers at a time of fall in sales. Trust in Rafa is my view, I’ll leave it to him, and he knows who he needs! AND FINALLY I have to finish by commenting on our following this season. Averaging over 50k for home games and selling out at all away games, the numbers really are phenomenal....and for a Championship team as well. Imagine if we were successful? Under Rafa we have our best chance! Howay the Lads! tf 103

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