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Season 2001-02 
 Match Report 2001-02 - Arsenal (a) 

This match report is brought to you by a 
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Wednesday 18th December 2001, 8.00pm.

Venue: Highbury

Unbelievable. Tear-stained.

Arsenal 1 - 3 Newcastle United


Please note: Those lovely people at the FA sent us yet another snotty letter (we're building up a fair collection now) threatening us with legal proceedings for linking to MPEG clips of the goals. Unfortunately, we have had to remove the links but we spoke to the FA and they are happy for you to shut down your browser, open it again and type the address. (How ridiculous is that...?) 

We would like to fully acknowledge the part played by PremiumTV and/or Newcastle United Football Club in keeping the FA fully informed of possible copyright infringements on, our gratitude knows no bounds. However, can we respectfully suggest that their time would be better served by attending the craphole laughingly called the official site, rather than hounding us....

Andy O'Brien, Alan Shearer and Laurent Robert scored the goals that not only ended the London hoodoo but that put us top of the Premiership.

It was a crazy night at Highbury which had no hint of Geordie glory when a rampant Arsenal took the lead on 20 minutes in a devastating opening half hour. 

20 mins:
 Henry juggled the ball and crossed to Pires who appeared to handle before the ball was squared back to him to tap in from close range. 0-1

(An MPEG clip of the goal may be available at this web address:

But the game turned before half-time when Ray Parlour was sent off for his second yellow card as he challenged Shearer from behind. Al pleaded with referee Graham Poll not to send Parlour off but just when it looked like we were hanging on, a one-man advantage gave us a chance.

Half time: Arsenal 1 Newcastle 0

60 mins:  The sort of goal we simply never seem to score, a near post corner from LuaLua headed home by a jubilant Andy O'Brien in front of the toon fans with the home defence standing motionless. 1-1

Craig Bellamy was then red carded after catching Ashley Cole in the face as he was turning. Bellamy was given a straight red despite an earlier yellow card. TV replays later showed contact to be accidental.

86 mins:  Shearer calmly dispatched his penalty past Taylor with Arsenal still grumbling about a dubious spot kick award resulting from the legal-looking challenge of Campbell on Robert. 2-1

90 mins:  A LuaLua pass let in a galloping Robert who cracked the ball in for the third and confirmed our ascendancy to the summit of the Premiership.  3-1

That goal meant that we climbed above Liverpool on goals scored to lead the Premiership and United's fans celebrated by taunting the locals with "We'll never win in London". Thierry Henry remonstrated with Poll all the way to the tunnel as numerous peacemakers, Shearer being one, failed to calm the Frenchman down who now faces disciplinary action.

Full time: Arsenal 1 Newcastle 3

We Said

Uncle Bobby said:

"It's an amazing feeling, we've done it, we've won in London and we've gone top of the league."

"He (Poll) played his part, but games and even titles are decided on decisions like that and always have been.

"Some people here (at Highbury) do not seem to be able to cope with losing, but you have to cope with losing. I've had to cope with it and my players have had to cope without winning in London for 30 games. I thought Arsenal were mesmeric in the first half and there was a gulf in class between the two teams.

"I think Parlour will regret chasing Alan back and lunging at him as the game changed then and we came back into it.

"I told my players not to do anything stupid to get booked at half-time and then Bellamy gets sent off. He is absolutely distraught in the dressing room, he swears he did not know the defender was there and we will take a look at it before deciding whether to appeal."

Alan Shearer, asked if Newcastle could win the league:


An overjoyed Andy O'Brien told the Chronicle:

"I know my goal against Sunderland which gave us a draw in last season's derby match at the Stadium of Light was a big one.

"But, believe me, this one was even bigger and it made up in no small way for those couple of misses in the Worthington Cup at Chelsea last week.

"To tell the truth I couldn't really miss this one as Lomana Lua Lua got a great ball to me from his corner kick at the near post

"They tell me Nicos Dabizas has been getting into this position for three years and not scoring and he was cheesed off when I did. But really if anyone is as delighted as me to get the equaliser it was Nicos.

"I didn't used to go for corners when I was at Bradford because I was the one who was told to stay back so I have not had that many chances to score in my career and this one is rather special."

"I thought Arsenal and Henry were superb in the first half. He's tall and strong and he has got so much pace and I've got to say he was a real handful."

"Sometimes it's difficult to beat 10 men but we made the extra man count. The substitutions changed the game in our favour because it gave us some added pace up front.Throughout my career all I have ever wanted to do is to get 40 points at Bradford City to avoid relegation.

"Now I'm with a team which is top of the Premiership and it is absolutely brilliant!"

They Said

Arsene Wenger said:

"I'm not here for people to conduct a trial of Thierry Henry. And I've made up my mind not to talk about the referee. Every word I would say would not be very nice."

Wenger, who saw Parlour given the 39th red card of the manager's five-year Highbury reign, added: "I cannot believe we lost like that. There was a mage (sorcerer) at work out there.

"My players were frustrated and I can understand that, but why do you want to speak about what happened after the game? You should just say what happened in it. If Thierry Henry is charged with anything I will stand up for him

Graham Poll defended his actions:

"It was a fair challenge initially on Shearer, but then the second one for me - and I am only five yards at maximum away from it - he has slid in and taken the player instead of the ball.

"That’s a mandatory yellow card and therefore it is one yellow and then a red."

"I felt that Bellamy, from where I was, deliberately slung his arm back and stopped the opponent and that is violent conduct - a straight red card."

When asked about the decision to award Newcastle a penalty, Mr Poll said:

"I see things once. I have not had the benefit of a replay," he added.

"From where I was, I saw Sol Campbell make a genuine attempt to play the ball, but for me he clipped Robert from behind."

Of an incident involving Thierry Henry after the game had finished, Mr Poll commented:

"We had a very unseemly incident as we came off the field of play, which I have reported to the Football Association.

"I thought it was a very, very difficult game to referee. I didn’t think the attitude of the players helped me a great deal and I felt that I did what I had to.

"When you see things, you have to act on them and that’s what I did.

"I am not here to cast judgment on myself or players. I do my best to get the decisions right."

Match Stats

30 games of hurt, never stopped believing, to misquote the Lightning Seeds - as the world and his goldfish know, we've ended our run of 29 winless games in London stretching back to 1997.

Al's penalty was his 1st away goal against the Arsenal for Newcastle and only his 3rd in London for us - Chelsea (a) in Nov 1996, Wimbledon (a) in Apr 1999. Of the current top league teams, only West Ham and Fulham have kept him out at home or far (if you include an FA Cup strike against Charlton).

Nobby Solano celebrated his century of league starts for United.

Two consecutive games that we've turned round a half-time single goal deficit into a victory, meaning that all the goals in the game were again scored in the same end. This was also the 7th time that we've scored 3 goals in one half this season (including the Worthington Cup Bellamy treble in one half of extra time against Brentford).

Now a fantastic 5 away wins and 2 draws in the Premiership from 9 attempts, which compares well to our recent  Premiership returns:

1993/94: 31 points from 21 matches (9 wins, 4 draws, 8 defeats)
1994/95: 24 points from 21 matches (6 wins, 6 draws, 9 defeats)
1995/96: 26 points from 19 matches (7 wins, 5 draws, 7 defeats)
1996/97: 26 points from 19 matches (6 wins, 8 draws, 5 defeats)
1997/98: 15 points from 19 matches (3 wins, 6 draws, 10 defeats)
1998/99: 19 points from 19 matches (4 wins, 7 draws, 8 defeats)
1999/00: 17 points from 19 matches (4 wins, 5 draws, 10 defeats)
2000/01: 17 points from 19 matches (4 wins, 5 draws, 10 defeats)
2001/02: 17 points from  9 matches (5 wins, 2 draws, 2 defeats)***

*** current season - in progress.

A quick reckoning up makes our Premiership away record:

P=165 W=48 D=48 L=69 

With away games at Leeds, Man U, Leicester, Spurs, the mackems, Liverpool, Blackburn, Villa, Derby and Southampton still to come. 

Now just the hoodoos of: cup finals, the mackems at home and Man U / Southampton away to sort out.... 


It's over.

Farewell to four years of inquests, drink-fuelled argument and oblivion, long contemplative journeys home and that empty feeling in the pit of the stomach.

Regardless of ones' persuasion and loyalty to the cause, a watcher from another world, never mind another club would no doubt have concluded that something very special had gone on in the vicinity of the South end of Highbury Stadium last night.

The expressions of sheer relief and outpourings of emotion that greeted the final whistle were probably something close to the sort of scenes that would accompany the presentation of some silverware (not that we'd know much about that...) 

Of course there were numerous interlopers on hand, some filling in for regulars corralled into festive obligations and others dragged into Highbury simply because they'd been at Palace in '97. That they were as enraptured by the events on and off the field as the terminally afflicted among us speaks volumes for the colossal hold that our club has on people. Did Premier Passions awaken a deep love of the mackems in Surrey? I think not....
While we may have been christened "the entertainers" and enjoyed cult status as the favourite "other" team of the nation in the 90's, by 2001 we seemed more to be recipients of the sympathy "teddy bear with one arm" type vote. Non-believers have empathised and in many cases suffered with us, as on visit after visit we've had the proverbial kick in the Douggie Hall's from one end of the metropolis to the other.

Thankfully it's now at an end, at least until we lose at Spurs next month, ha ha.

As that scrawny legal lassie Allie McBeal would no doubt say, like the coal industry we've achieved closure. For that much thanks, but now we've knocked the cockney monkey off our back, where does it leave us?   

At the halfway stage in this season, we can perhaps dare to suggest that this win in London moved us up a level - regardless of whether we went top or not. Most other things have gone our way with the exception of the Fulham and West Ham disasters, so for once we'll adopt the glass half full mentality. We really should prosper from the kick this gives fans and players alike.

It's easy to get as carried away by events as the press, and forget that some stinking games lie ahead of us, but nobody said this would ever be easy. The football purist would purr with delight at some of the first half play from the Gunners in this match , while the statto's will no doubt have fawned over the awesome shots for advantage that the home side enjoyed.

Bottom line is though that like Leeds last weekend against the ragamuffins of Leicester, showboating has it's price. Just as O'Leary's boys threaten to be blown off course by self-inflicted off-field misadventures, so Manchester United show heartening signs of unravelling in Fergie's final fling.

Then when acknowledged feet-of-clay merchants Chelsea and Liverpool go all wobbly, and Arsenal trudge off their own field with a variety of hang-dog and mad-dog expressions having got nowt for their interpretation of the beautiful game against us, you know anything can happen (and already has in a variety of cases.)

Bobby Robson is right to set no targets, as like us he just doesn't know what this team are capable of and this league for once is utterly unpredictable. It's arguable that he's never yet started a game with his preferred XI, but for once it's heartening to see a Newcastle side who can incorporate different talents into it on a match-by-match basis. 

That we have players who can reposition themselves on demand also helps, with Bernard useful down the whole of the left and LuaLua the threat many thought he would be from the wing. The over-riding word to sum up our team though is still potential. Whether that will be realised will only start to become apparent over the coming months. One or two crucial injuries and all hopes and dreams could crumble. Put Barton, Quinn or Bassedas into this team and it's thank you and au revoir to table-climbing.

Looking further into the season, it would be a brave man to suggest that being toppled by Palace in the FA Cup would be a stroke of fortune, but after the trials and tribulations of recent years, I can't say i'd be overly bothered by missing out on a traffic jam across half of South Wales come May. No doubt the ailing funds of Newcastle City Council would also benefit from another year when forced reconstruction of parts of the city centre wasn't a drain on the civic purse..... 

While other clubs at our end of the table have commitments in Europe and domestically, we could find ourselves unencumbered by those sideshows (what would you rather have had, an Arsenal victory for top spot or a win at Chelsea for a two-legged League Cup semi ?) Within these very pages in pre-season we ventured the opinion that an adequate team could flourish given a chronologically-favourable set of fixtures. 

So far that adequate team is us, as we've matched teams for graft more often than skill, relied on little nuggets of good fortune and crucially been able to call on a keeper consistently doing his job in a team where goal scoring is a habit not a rarity. After a sticky set of new year matches, we have what looks at this stage an eminently winnable final clutch of fixtures to end the season with. No cup distractions would certainly help us to maximise our points tally.

However, If by the time we go to Southampton we're scrabbling around with the likes of Peytar's rabble for an intertoto cup place, something will have gone spectacularly and perhaps terminally wrong. All our good work so far will be undone if we're not to add consistency to our package of attributes. 

Winning at Highbury should mean that a buoyant team can play without fear and as Robson says, play a major role in the chase for the league crown and the Euro-money printing licences. To slip back to the mind-numbing averageness of previous seasons would be catastrophic. 

Quite simply, if we don't continue to move forward, we don't stay where we are, we go backwards. The bottomless pit of money is no more at this club and to a certain extent we now go with what we've got and Robson stands or falls by this squad and their young academy pretenders. 

Elland Road this ain't. 

Nights like these (and victories like the 4:3 one over Man Utd) are to be enjoyed, but not as one-offs with no more long-term significance than the infamous victory over us by Hereford had in their history. Unless they form the basis for advancement on the field, they're nowt more than magnificent memories. 

Putting aside logic and theorising though...

We did it, we finally did it 

I felt like the football fan out of Ripping Yarns as I marched down the Holloway Road. 3-1, 3 bloody 1. Marvellous. Thank you.   

PS - is there really anything better than reading and listening to those media apologists and biased blather merchants bellyaching about those northern monkeys who came down to the big city and robbed their treasures? That we were abetted by one of their own from the republic of Hertfordshire only adds further delicious depth to their deranged nonsense.... 

The funniest thing is that the very people who their propaganda is aimed at are in reality now a mix of nationalities, regions and cultures. For every man on the "Clapham omnibus" with his geezer/ boozer mentality there's another on the tube who knows what the toon is like, has geordie mates and is capable of seeing through the one-dimensional rantings of allegedly professional journalists who really should know better. Urban life has moved on, people travel and it's the minority who still think we live in caves. However for many in cockney media land it's still When the Boat comes in, whippets and wifebeating.  

Four long years we've waited to shut these pricks up - so savour it while you may. Anyone remotely familiar with the workings of Newcastle United knows that tragedy and misfortune lies but a footstep away....  

For Alex. RIP.


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Page last updated 18 December, 2011