Newcastle’s Sports Direct Arena: 10 things to like and loathe, Part Two

PAI Newcastle trip 2010(Image: E G Focus)

In our build-up
to the Tyne-Wear derby, Salut! Sunderland has been a model of fairness and brought you:

Dick Keith
* common sense and decency: “1: Sunderland 2: Newcastle United 3: Middlesbrough – could we live with that?” and “Sunderland fan commemorates Newcastle player who caught his eye”

* happy memories: (“When Niall, Shearer and Sorensen broke Newcastle hearts”

Peter Mann at Hillheads, home of Whitley Bay FC, with the FA Vase and Northumberland Senior Cup
* a great “Who are You?” from Peter “Exiled Geordie” Mann: “You beat us 9-1 but we only had nine men!”

* and banter: Pete Sixsmith‘s red-and-white view of a black-and-white home: “Newcastle’s Sports Direct Arena: 10 things to like, 10 to loathe”. That was part one, here’s part two:

Howard Webb’s ridiculous penalty decision in 2009 was most definitely a BAD thing. We were winning comfortably, thanks to Djibril Cisse and never looked worried. Then, with the crowd about to turn big time on Joe F Kinnear, Steven Taylor was poleaxed in the box by that man mountain Steed Malbranque and the self-styled best referee in the world gave a penalty. Taylor grinned all the way back to the halfway line. Still, they were relegated at the end of the season.

Bed sheets and Boycouts are definitely a GOOD thing about the Sports Direct – although now they have taken to writing on the walls. In fact, the 2008-09 season was a good one for Sunderland fans. We beat them at home, drew away, they got relegated and the club appeared to be about to implode. The Boycout sheet was the icing on the cake for many of us. Tee, hee.

With thanks to Canny Folk

Phil Johnson has already contributed with an eloquent comment about the BAD experience in 1964, when the rain came down in stair rods, the pitch was under water, most people turned for home at Central Station as they were told the game was off and a distinctly journeyman centre forward called Ron McGarry won the game for Newcastle, spoiling mine and M Salut’s first derby day at SJP/SDA. He had an ego even bigger than Richard Branson and had cards printed that said “Ron McGarry; Have Goals, Will Travel”, based on a popular TV western series of the time. He travelled to Barrow three years later.

A GOOD thing was winning a League Cup tie on penalties in 1978, our first penalty shoot out. We had been 2 down with not long to go and then Alan Brown rattled in a couple to take it to extra time and penalties. We won it 7-6, with Postman Barry Siddall saving from Jim Pearson to send us through. In those days we were given a decent place to stand, in the paddocks under the main stand and we did not have to face an alpine ascent as we do on Sunday.

Image: K’s Photos
Street art from Cork City
Our one and only visit under Roy Keane was a BAD experience. Losing was bad enough, but to lose to two goals from the ultimate washed up, one time superstar, Michael Owen, was adding insult to injury. Loved then, I gather he is not quite as popular now with the Toon Army.

A much better experience was a GOOD 3-0 win in 1967, the last time we did the double over them. Neil Martin, George Mulhall and John O’Hare scored, while Wyn Davies made his debut for Newcastle. We wore a really smart all red kit with SAFC in big letters on it. I wore a red and white scarf and went on the OK Service bus from Bishop and walked through the city unharmed. Don’t think I will do that on Sunday.

1985 got off to a BAD start, when our hangovers were increased by a Peter Beardsley hat trick. I thought he was a grand player in his days at Liverpool and Everton, but a rubbish one in black and white stripes. Funny how players can change!! The atmosphere was the nastiest I have experienced at a game and Howard Gayle and Gary Bennett were sent off to the accompaniment of monkey chants – alas, all too common in those dark days. It could have been worse as Chris Turner saved a Beardsley penalty. I went home to contemplate a season that was unravelling and ended up in relegation and Lawrie McMenemy.

Five years earlier we had been celebrating a Gary Rowell hat trick as we beat them 4-1, a GOOD day, without a doubt. Prototype Punk Rocker, Wayne Entwistle got the other as we rolled around the terraces in delight. Sadly, we still talk about it. Was good though!!

Last year was a very, very BAD day and I still don’t want to talk about it. Denial can be maintained as long as I want.

The ultimate GOOD day was the Play Off victory in 1990. We had finished 6 points behind them, were still a season away from being a good side, but beat them. So many good things to remember about it; Gatesy putting us one up, a blistering tackle from Gary Owers, McGhee hitting the bar, Marco rolling the ball under Fat Burridge in front of delirious Sunderland fans and the pitch invasion. My favourite memory is of getting home at 12.30, putting the video on and seeing a Newcastle fan run into the centre circle at the end and jump up and down on his black and white scarf. Priceless!!!

hoping a few scarves of the same colour will be trampled into the ground at 2pm on Sunday.

6 thoughts on “Newcastle’s Sports Direct Arena: 10 things to like and loathe, Part Two”

  1. “Hi Ho! Hi Ho! We’re off to Mexico! With Colin Todd and the England squad ……” Except he didn’t go to Mexico did he? THE TW*TS! Bitter? OF COURSE I AM! TODDO! TODDO! TODDO!

  2. Re 1967game. As a boy living in Northumberland but still knowing where my heart was, I was still happy to get lifts to watch Newcastle with my mates Dad who was a season ticket holder. Got there early and queued outside the Leazes, but they shut the gates as it was full so a run round the Main Stand, then the Gallowgate which was also closed. By now about 15 mins gone and groans suggested we had scored. Found one turnstile open, and got in on the big side paddock , reached the top row and was squeezing way in past all the big blokes( I was 12 ) when Mulhall crossed and Neil Martin heaed in . Got carried sort of Mushed down to the front after that. Two memories: as Pete says , a great red shirt and an iconic badge. Plus Colin Todd, only 17 and just immense

  3. Rob Mason’s indispensable “Sunderland: the complete record” has it as 27, 341. The same season we had nearly 57,000 at our place but then it was a promotion season for us.

    • Thanks, it still seems high to me.

      The game at Roker was a night match and (IIRC) Newcastle went into the lead with a goal from Taylor, before we ended up winning 2-1.

      Ashurst’s, equalising, goal was from a free kick (I think) and it was an absolute beauty. He hit it from out beside the left touchline and further out than the edge of the 18 yard box.

      It hit the back of the net, in the Fulwell End, never having been more than a few inches above the turf, without bouncing!

      George Herd then scored, under my nose at the Roker End.

      Happy days!

  4. Yet another good read sir, many thanks.

    Do either you or Monsieur Salut have any recollections of the crowd size in 1964?

    As I said in my comment relating to part one my firm recollection is that it was just over 14,000 but Statcat shows it having been in excess of 29,000.

    At that time, I think, the capacity of SJP was under 60,000 and my memories are of vast areas of terracing that were almost empty, apart from a few groups of hardy souls who were getting, absolutely, drenched.

    For Statcat to be correct it would have had to have been more than half full!

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