Newcastle United and Sunderland: harmless banter or poisoned hatred?

Time soon enough for the talking to end and the real stuff to take over. But after a season without the need for a Newcastle United “Who are You?”, the Toon version of the feature is back as surely as the derby itself Keith Topping*, author (40+ books) and broadcaster, is the man whose dismantling of the Tony Blair/St James’ Park myth (deserved to be true, but there you go – see footnote**) was reluctantly given prominence here a while back. Stand by for an entertaining read from someone who sees through Mike Ashley but may still believe the Mags to be “everyone’s second favourite club”…

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Tony Blair and Newcastle United: when the truth hurts

If it has begun to seem like Be Nice to Toon Week here. be assured normal service will resume once the volcanic cloud lifts. But as a footnote to the questionnaire Alastair Campbell answered for Salut! Sunderland ahead of today’s game against his beloved Burnley, he commented on a certain urban myth – dear to Mackem hearts – concerning his old boss. Colin Randall reports with heavy heart …

Some stories are true, but you wish they weren’t. Some cry out to be true but are false, even if they leave a postscript – read on – that is entertaining and plausible.

Into the second of those categories slots the belief that Tony Bair, while Prime Minister, talked wistfully in an interview of having sat as a lad in the Gallowgate end at St James’ Park, watching Jackie Milburn play for Newcastle United.

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Who are you? We’re Burnley – by the champion of spin


Alastair Campbell is famous or infamous – according to taste – for having been Tony Blair’s blunt, media-savvy communications director. Beyond the many scrapes that role got him into, he is also an accomplished Scottish piper, a novelist, a New Labour chronicler … and a passionate supporter of our next opponents, Burnley. Salut! Sunderland is delighted that he agreed to answer our questions ahead of Saturday’s match, which he will miss because of charity commitments. Here is part one …

Salut! Sunderland:
Loads of football fans, especially of clubs like Sunderland, were chuffed to see Burnley go up, but nearly everyone expected you to go straight down. Did the early home form give you unrealistic hope or can you still claw a way out of the bottom zone?

It was always going to be tough. We have the smallest squad, the lowest wage bill, and we are the smallest town ever to have a Premier League club. The start was fantastic, especially beating Manchester United in our first home game, but we always knew it would be about beating clubs at the other end of the pile and we have lost too many of those. But I am a great believer in the power of hope and commitment and even if it means winning against clubs like Liverpool and Spurs, we have to keep believing.

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