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Wembley Memories

Written for "Total Football" website Friday 6th Oct 2000

Media pundits may point at a North-East Wembley hoodoo that has also seen Darlington, Boro and the mackems suffer in a similar manner, but at least we have won underneath the Twin Towers, albeit in front of a handful of the dedciated, and foolish. 

In quite possibly the most bizarre football tournament ever dreamed up, 
we somehow qualified for the 1988 Mercantile Credit competition, a two day festival of football organised to celebrate the centenary of the Football League. Somewhat appropriately, the whole tournament descended into farce and the winning team's manager (a Mr B.Clough of Nottingham) declined to attend on the second day.

The black and whites moment of glory came after a 0-0 draw with Liverpool, when a penalty shootup under instant sudden death rules 
saw Neil Mcdonald shoot home and some scouse geek fail from the spot
to hand us the win. Actually, on reflection it wasn't just the penalties
that were odd, the whole thing was strange, with alteration to the time periods played, number of players and the size of the pitch, all for no obvious reason.

Of course, this being Newcastle United, we promptly followed up our victory over the elite of Merseyside football with a thoroughly deserved 0-2 reverse at the hands of mighty Tranmere, then of the Fourth Division. Of course having bought weekend tickets, most of the toon fans present returned the following day to watch a succession of boring toonless matches. My abiding memories of the whole weekend were the police
and stewards trying to keep around sixteen groups of fans apart both inside and outside the stadium, and some very weird alliances such as
the Newcastle and Leeds fans standing together and singing "there's
only two United's".

One good thing though - there were so few people there that the toilets didn't overflow, there were no queues at the beer stalls and so many empty places that fans weren't forced to sit behind a massive great pillar or next to some gloryseeker from Surrey. The football was still crap though, that never changes. Alan Shearer was right, pull the bloody place down, and dynamite the Dell while you're at it.

The best two North East performances at Wembley since 1955? Brendan Foster winning the pre-match race before the 74 final, and Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits at Live Aid.....


Page last updated 25 June, 2009