Let me take you back…Newcastle United v Bolton Wanderers January 3rd 1983.
I’m 13 years old, season ticket holder with my dad in the West Stand ‘A’ Wing Seats (The Milburn Stand – last block of seats before the Gallowgate corner starts nowadays). Second Division football and a certain Kevin Keegan is the main man on the pitch.
There are 89 minutes on the clock and Newcastle have been trailing 1-0 with ten men for most of the game, after Terry McDermott is sent off early doors. But what’s this, a late equaliser from Chris Waddle to snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat? However, Bolton go straight back down the other end and before you can say, “point gained”, we’re behind 2-1.
“Howay son, that’s it”, says my old man and who am I to argue!! We make our way down the old wooden stairs to where the entrance to the back of the paddocks were and ultimately the exits. Those in the seats and those who chose to stand would use the same turnstiles back then.
As we neared the bottom of the stairs we heard the noise of the crowd build to a crescendo and then for a brief moment silence broke out…followed by an almighty roar!!
I rushed to the entrance at the back of the paddock and people were going crazy. I could just make out the ball nestled in the back of the Boltonnet through the jubilant crowd. ‘Get in there 2-2’ was the initial emotion but tinged with regret that I had not witnessed this live. Mick ‘Zico’ Martin!!
Needless to say I’ve never left the match early again, regardless of the score. My nephew left the epic Arsenal comeback at 4-0 with Arsenal down to 10 men after bumping into a pal on the concourse who persuaded him to go to the pub instead. He left Ewood Park before Cabaye snatched a late equaliser in the Carling Cup this season too. Would you ever forgive yourself?
When I used to sit in the Leazes, there was a bloke who was a ringer for Alan Sugar who would leave with his son about 5 minutes before the end of every game. I’m sure that bairn must have grown up thinking football matches only last 85 minutes. He must have missed a few late goals but maybe that was his way of bringing us some luck? His loss though!!
Admittedly I’ve missed the odd goal due to my bladder being unable to hold out for 45 minutes but that can be credited to being a ‘lucky piss’ as I always return to my seat until the final whistle!!
I can think of countless other last minute dramas that I could have missed. Twice at Anfield I’d rather forget but which make you appreciate the ones that go your way, like the injury time Watto goal against the same opposition in ‘95. Other positive examples include Beardsley’s last minute winners against Spurs away in ’93 and Arsenal at home in ’95, Solano’s 4-3 at Elland Road in 2001, 2-0 down 3-2 up at Derby in 2002, Feyenoord in the Champions League as well as the aforementioned 4-4 against Arsenal – I’m sure you’ll have your own memories.
The moral of the story is that we become exposed to new situations in life as football fans. Whether we choose to modify our behaviour as a result boils down to our own attitudes and beliefs. With hindsight, the lesson learned in 1983 has stood me in good stead since.