Yesterday we heard from Garry Steckles*, much-travelled reggae-loving son of Tyneside, in a re-run of his piece from 2008 (click here to see). Today, from a long way away (home in the UAE if back from holiday in Sri Lanka), he looks back at the St James’ Park debacle, laments the treatment of Chris Hughton and modestly accepts that yes, Newcastle United have a God-given right to glory …
Newcastle 5 Sunderland 1. Few people saw that coming. How taken aback were you?
Very. I thought the teams were pretty evenly matched, and hoped that being at home we’d have an edge, but never expected 5-1.
Were you dynamite that day, or was it just that we were damp squibs?
I only saw the highlights, but suspect our lot had a pretty good day and your lot didn’t – which kind of reflects the season so far, particularly for Newcastle.
What were your minimum and maximum expectations for this season?
The usual. Hoped we could stay up at worst and maybe get into the top four to six at best.
Did you expect – and approve of – Chris Hughton’s sacking?
Diabolical. I guess we could see it coming, but it still stunk. There again, with the notable exception of the Sir John Hall era, the people running Newcastle have usually been fools or villains or both.
What does the Tyne-Wear divide mean to you and have you ever allowed the rivalry to affect a relationship or judgement?
I like to beat Sunderland, but also think that anyone who carries a sporting rivalry beyond that has to be at least partly retarded.
A lot has been made of Newcastle United supporters’ supposed belief in a God-given right to be not only North East top dogs but to succeed at the highest levels and be popular. Have you ever harboured such thoughts?
In one way, yes: I think we’ve got such an amazing fan base that we deserve to be one of the world’s great teams, not just one of the North East’s or the UK’s. Newcastle’s fans deserve a Barcelona.
Which players past or present represent, for you, the true spirit of Newcastle United and which should never have been allowed near the black and white shirt?
Spirit of Newcastle? Jackie (who I had the enormous privilege of meeting a few times), Frank Brennan (ditto). Shearer. Beardsley. At the opposite extreme, I was embarrassed that Gascoigne was a Geordie.
And what would the McKeags, Westwood and Seymours of the past have thought of Mike Ashley?
I think they’d have agreed with me that he should bugger off back to London where he belongs, and they’re welcome to him.
What parts of North-eastern culture attract you most and which ones appal you?
The humour. Warmth. Toughness. I love big northern working-class cities and their people. Next to Newcastle, Liverpool’s my favourite city in England (nowt seems to appal him – ed).
How many years is it now since you lived in the North East? Has keeping or disguising the undiluted accent a conscious ever required a conscious effort?
I left in 1968, and have lived away since then apart from about a year in 1992 when my mother wasn’t well. People tell me I’ve lost a lot of my accent (he hasn’t – ed), which might be true to a point, but that’s only because people tend not to be able to understand me if I speak normally. But I’ve not made any conscious effort. I was brought up in Newcastle, Killingworth and Whitley Bay, and there’s nowhere else in the world I’d sooner be from.
Name this season’s top four in order, and the bottom three. if neither Newcastle nor Sunderland feature in either list, where will each club end up in May?
I’d rather take a pass on the top four, as none of the teams I’d like to see there are going to be there. I fear the bottom three will be Wolves, West Ham and pick one.
It is time to abandon high-minded ideas about cheating – diving, feigning injury, trying to get opponents booked or sent off – and accept it as part of the modern game. If not, how do we stamp it out?
It’s up to the managers. I loved Brian Clough’s approach, and it didn’t stop his teams from winning. If I was a manager I’d tell my players that if I saw them doing any of that stuff they’d be in more trouble than they could imagine.
What about the Fifa decision on World Cup venues. Were you bothered that England lost out and what was your view of Qatar’s success?
Somewhat ambivalent. Qatar was a real curve ball, tiny country, crazy climate. But they’ve got so much money they can do just about anything … although there seems to be some merit to the idea of playing the 2022 World Cup in January, when the climate’s in the Gulf region’s just about perfect.
How will you keep tabs on the game and what will be the score?
Online. (No answer on the score – ed; to the same question before we beat them 2-1 in Oct 2008, he had replied: “I should say Newcastle, but I suppose I’d settle for a draw. These days, mind you, I’d settle for a draw against Whitley Bay Reserves.”
* Garry Steckles on Garry Steckles:
I guess I’ve been a Newcastle supporter for as long as I can remember. My earliest sporting memories were us winning the cup three times in the early Fifties, and while I’ve lived mainly abroad since the late Sixties I’ve always supported The Lads from a distance. But I’m so pissed off over the Hughton business I’m thinking of switching to Barcelona.