The wife texted me yesterday. “Did I want a ticket to see any Macdonald?”
Reasonably enough, I was a little taken aback. At last, finally, after 36 long years, I thought we were actually singing from the same hymn sheet. Having shown almost zero interest in the other great love of my life, she was offering to book an audience with the one and only Malcolm Macdonald, the bandy-legged, lightning fast, toothless but ruthless centre-forward who is probably still giving Colin Waldron nightmares, a mere 43 years after the Burnley defender tried and failed to wrestle Supermac to the floor seconds before he struck the first of his two goals in Newcastle’s triumphant FA Cup semi-final. With his right foot, by the way.
On an unforgettable day at Hillsborough on March 30, 1974.
Check the footage below if you don’t believe “any Macdonald” found the net with his right foot. That’s not the only surprise. Years after the event he tells a television interviewer, in atypical style, how Burnley “absolutely murdered us” in the first half. Supermac had many attributes in his prime but modesty was not among them.
From the day he arrived at St James’ Park in a chauffeured Rolls-Royce in the summer of 1971, aged 21, he seemed destined to hit the heights, even though he had not until then played in the top flight. In geographical terms he was as much a part of the Cockney Mafia as Mike Ashley, though that counted not one jot to the adoring fans. Which proves yet again that Newcastle United supporters are not prejudiced against southerners, they simply hate being taken for a ride. A converted full-back with a left foot capable of firing cannonball-like shots, Macdonald scored memorable goal after memorable goal before departing for a small club in London five years later.
My favourite (and the one he singles out as his finest in black-and-white stripes) was a first-time piledriver that would have broken all but the strongest of onion bags. He struck it from 20-plus yards in a run-of-the-mill league game against Leicester City at the end of a flowing move started on the edge of our box by Alan Kennedy and carried on by Irving Nattrass rampaging down the right wing. Or at least that’s how I recall it. The only minor flaw was that I was watching from the Gallowgate End as United powered towards the Leazes, my usual vantage point. What I would give to have seen the ball rocket towards me.
No television cameras were there that day, so the poor unfortunates unwilling or unable to attend will just have to rely on my unreliable memory. Alternatively, they could ask Supermac, who in his post-match interview said he knew the Leicester keeper was a bit of a novice. How so? Because a young Mark Wallington bothered to dive, Macdonald replied. The implication was that Wallington’s predecessor, a certain Peter Shilton, who eventually played 125 times for England would have more sensibly merely stood and applauded.
Supermac had his critics, mainly because he was considered by some to be a lazy forward who contributed little to the team ethic. But his goals to games record of 138 from 257 silenced those killjoys.
And in the days when most fans just rocked up to pay at the turnstiles, he was worth a few thousand on the gate. Chronicle stalwart John Gibson must have written dozens of “Supermac fitness test” stories on Thursdays and Fridays, keeping alive the faint prospect of our talisman recovering from injury. If he was definitely out, the attendance was definitely down.
Back to the text. Excitement barely contained, I asked Mrs R for details of when and where Supermac would be appearing. Bloody predictive texting. The initial message should have asked: “Did I want a ticket to see Amy Macdonald?”
Not at £49.50 plus booking fee, thanks very much. And don’t bother calling me Mr Rock ‘n’ Roll.
(All contributions from Newcastle fans welcome, send articles (as well as ideas/suggestions) to [email protected])
(Watch below the two Malcolm MacDonald goals that defeated Burnley 43 years ago today. More than that though just soak up the incredible atmosphere from back in the day. If you want to go straight to the goals they are at 16.45 and 24.06 – Enjoy)