Monsieur Salut writes: on Friday I found myself at a London event sitting next to one of the world’s least likely Newcastle United fans, Marwan J Al Sarkal, chief executive officer of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Sharjah, as every schoolboy should know, being next door to Dubai and one of the the seven emirates of the UAE). That Geordie Nation of theirs clearly knows no bounds. Marwan was good company all the same and smiled, with a hint of envy, when I showed him my ticket for Sunday. I can honestly say I wish he had been there with me to see our resounding (at least by the scoreline) victory.
Pete Sixsmith was still beaming when he headed to Hetton for a big test for the Under 21s. Don’t be too hard on him about the slightly grainy photo of pals at the game (M Salut has only basic enhancement tools) – he insists he was ‘playing with a new phone’ …
Another enjoyable night at Hetton, if with a disappointing outcome, with a larger than usual crowd gathered to watch a competitive and entertaining game between two of the better sides in the FA Under 21 Premier League.
There were wide grins all around as the Hetton Irregulars assembled next to the television gantry that was beaming pictures to all four corners of the world – and Byker – for MUTV. There was an acceptance that Newcastle had had the better part of the first half but, in order to win games, you have to score goals.
There was also an acceptance that the Coloccini affair would rumble on ad infinitum and that the last words on many thousands of future deathbeds would be either “he definitely shoved him in the back” or “It was shoulder to shoulder and Cattermole should have been sent off”.
‘Fair play to the Mackems…. if you can’t stick it in the net you don’t win the games. We may have been unlucky, but we were also not good enough to score, never mind win. Hopeless’ – Nick Donaldson
But a good mood prevailed and a hope that the team would now build on this and begin to establish themselves as a mediocre, middle of the table team.
Vito Mannone and Adam Matthews turned out with the usual suspects. Honeyman has gone to Gateshead on loan and Roberge has disappeared off the face of the earth, but it was a strong looking team that lined up on a crisp autumnal night. United had a crop of younger players, with goalkeeper Sam Johnstone (Jordan Pickford’s predecessor at Preston as well as appearing for Doncaster Rovers, Yeovil Town , Walsall and Scunthorpe United) the only one that non United aficionados would have known much about. There was a crop of United fans standing in front of a banner, directly opposite the TV cameras – dedicated or a touch crazy?
The game should have been wrapped up in the first half as we created and missed several half decent chances. There were some crisp moves and Mikael Mandron impressed as did Charias Mavrias. He looked rejuvenated and maybe had been told that there was a future for him at the club. He has been with us for two and a bit seasons and is on his fourth manager. Charlie Hurley had two in his years at Roker as did Stan Anderson. How times change.
‘None of my grandchildren can remember Newcastle beating Sunderland’ – Terry Pattinson.
But chances created have to be put away as Mandron, Gooch, Agnew, Mavrias and Watmore all missed the target or were stopped by some desperate defending from United. It was a good half but a disappointing one as the players left the field at half time and the events of the previous day were discussed at length.
The second half was a very different affair. United manager, Warren Joyce, a veteran of over 600 league games, told them to push up and stop the flow of balls to Mandron and Watmore and his young charges did exactly that. They squeezed us tight and the midfield of Smith and Agnew was unable to get hold of the game as they had in the first half.
Their goal came after a long kick from Johnstone was missed by both central defenders and the impressive Tyler Reid ran on to poke the ball past Mannone and into the net. Not a great example of beautiful football, but simple and effective.
The crowd trooped home a tad disappointed but warm in the glow of a record sixth successive derby victory the day before. Sometimes life can be good.